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Listen to This Paperback – October 25, 2011


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Listen to This + The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (October 25, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312610688
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312610685
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #177,518 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this brilliant collection, music critic Ross (The Rest Is Noise) utilizes a wide musical scale--classical music in China; opera as popular art; sketches of Schubert, Bjork, Kiki and Herb--as a way of understanding the world. Featuring mostly revised essays published in the span of his 12-year career at the New Yorker, Ross offers timeless portraits that probe the ways that the powerful personalities of composers and musicians stamp an inherently abstract medium so that certain notes, songs, or choruses become instantly recognizable as the work of a certain artist. The virtuoso performance comes in the one previously unpublished essay, Chacona, Lamento, Walking Blues, where Ross isolates three different bass lines as they wind through music history from the 16th-century chacona, a dance that promised the upending of the social order, through the laments of Bach, opera, and finally the blues. Ross nimbly finds the common ground on which 16th-century Spanish musicians, Bach, players from Ellington' s 1940 band and Led Zeppelin' s bassist John Paul Jones can stand, at least momentarily.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Full of surprises and sharp observations, this “absorbing, illuminating, exciting collection” (San Francisco Chronicle) gives equal billing to pop stars and classical composers, crossing musical margins with remarkable fluidity. Though they bear the New Yorker’s signature style, most critics upheld Ross’s writing as eloquent and thoughtful, in language accessible to both laypersons and connoisseurs (although aficionados may have an easier time with the details). The Washington Post complained that the essays lacked excitement and literary “zing,” but others praised Ross for the sense of adventure that imbues each piece. Readers may find it difficult to resist Ross’s enthusiasm, and Listen To This will no doubt take an honored place on many a bookshelf. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Alex Ross has been the music critic of The New Yorker since 1996. His first book, The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, won a National Book Critics Circle Award, the Guardian First Book Award, the Premio Napoli, and the Grand Prix des Muses, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Ross has received an Arts and Letters Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and honorary doctorates from the New England Conservatory and the Manhattan School of Music. In 2008, he was named a MacArthur Fellow. His second book, Listen to This, appeared in 2010. He is now working on a book entitled Wagnerism.

Customer Reviews

Alex Ross is a fine writer on all areas of serious music and it's performance.
Rob E.
As enjoyably and thought-provokingly as Ross writes, I would've liked to have seen him tie the problem of modern music to this simple rule.
P. J. Owen
There is little structural linkage between one article and another, and it probably doesn't matter much if you read them out of order.
Anne Mills

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Costabile on November 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
From the first chapter of his second book, LISTEN TO THIS, in which he recounts how Beethoven's "Eroica" symphony inspired a lifelong love of music in him - to the last in which he details the pathos lingering throughout the work of Johannes Brahms - Alex Ross cements his reputation as perhaps the most dynamic writer on music today. His first outing, THE REST IS NOISE, has become an international bestseller and established itself as THE premiere survey on twentieth century classical music - an obtuse subject effortlessly broken down and made accessible by Ross's seamless prose and clear narrative structure.

LISTEN TO THIS proves to be far more episodic than THE REST IS NOISE. In contrast to that book's linear chronology, LISTEN TO THIS is simply a collection of essays on various musical subjects, most of which have already been published in Ross's primary meal ticket, THE NEW YORKER magazine. But LISTEN TO THIS is no less riveting, as Ross's engaging writing is by turns emotional (the sentimental chapter on Lorraine Hunt Lieberson), intelligent (he chronicles the entire musical history of a particular walking bass line in chapter two) and funny (the many on-campus scenes he depicts involving Marlboro College in "The Music Mountain"). Also, since it includes chapters on a wide variety of musicians, from Mozart to Dylan to Bjork to contemporary Chinese classical composers, LISTEN TO THIS truly does have "something for everyone," and reading through all of the essays is a great way to expose yourself to new music in which you may not have had any prior interest.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By P. J. Owen on January 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Fans of his work know that Alex Ross writes mainly about classical music, and Listen To This highlights some of his best writing on the genre in the last decade, including fantastic essays on Mozart, Schubert, and late-period Brahms. But he also has something for contemporary music fans, with almost equally enlightening essays on Bob Dylan, Radiohead and Bjork. His knowledge of music is deep--he grew up listening to classical instead of popular music, and took music lessons as a teenager-- and he applies the same critical musical eye to Kid A and Medulla as he does the Eroica. Indeed, Ross shows us that some of our best pop composers pay just as much attention to textures, rhythm, harmony, and melody as a composer of orchestral music would, and I saw these artists from a new angle.

In fact, this conjunction of music, crossing the border from classical to pop as he calls it, is precisely the book's strength, and possibly its greatest potential benefit. Though these essays are primarily about classical music, he writes with such a contagious zeal, with such an obvious love of music, that he shades the restrictive boundaries we've created to categorize music. He does this well in the above-mentioned pieces. But nowhere is this idea better put than in his essay, "Chacona, Lamento, Walking Blues", where he ties the basso lamento of the middle ages through the centuries all the way to Led Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused". Ross gets it. He gets that music is music and any genre of it has the ability to touch anyone.

Still, his first love is classical, and nothing seems to concern him as much as the forms lack of popularity, especially the greatly underappreciated works of the twentieth century. This concern informs many of the essays.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Martin on January 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This selection of Essays, most of them already published in the New Yorker, doesn't provide the same thrill as "The Rest Is Noise", which felt like a long and exciting adventure trip, but is nevertheless highly interesting and entertaining.

I liked most the first chapter and the one about Lorraine Hunt, probably also the chapters with the most personal involvement. And, even being a pure classical guy, I especially liked the chapters about the non-classical subjects since they told stories completely new to me. Friends who know more about this music were less impressed though.

Vice versa I was not so impressed by the hardcore classical chapters on Mozart, Schubert and Brahms. They are very interesting and intelligent but seemed to me more a summary of the latest scholary opinions than giving a real personal view.

I, as a German, also sensed much more in this book than in "The Rest Is Noise" that Americans have a different approach to classical music. Not that we don't have similar discussions about the near dead of classical music, the problems with the reception of contemporary classical music and the classification in "high culture" and "pop culture". But what's different is that Europeans consider classical music much more as part of their cultural identity, in a way that probably Americans feel about Hollywood as part of their identity no matter if they are especially interested in movies or not. For Americans classical music, even it also has a own long history by now, stays at the very bottom foreign and exotic, just as something not grown from own roots.

I believe that Alex Ross can enjoy and appreciate the sadness of the late Brahms' music.
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