This is a chapter from Alex Ross’s groundbreaking history of twentieth-century classical music, ‘The Rest is Noise’. Further extracts are available as digital shorts, accompanying the London Southbank festival programme.
How can composition in the twentieth century be summarised? Styles of every description — minimalism, post-minimalism, electronic music, laptop music, Internet music, appropriations of rock, pop and hip-hop, experimental folkloristic music in Latin America, the Far East, Africa and the Middle East — jostle against each other, none gaining supremacy. ‘The Rest is Noise’ has been an aerial tour of this ever-changing landscape.
Now a major festival running throughout 2013 at London’s Southbank, The Rest is Noise is an intricate commentary not just on the sounds that defined the century, but on art’s troublesome dance with politics, social and cultural change.
Alex Ross is the New Yorker’s music critic, and the winner of the Guardian First Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award for The Rest is Noise, which was also shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson and Pulitzer prizes for non-fiction.