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Extended Audio Sample The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, by Alex Ross Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (3,788 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Alex Ross Narrator: Grover Gardner Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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The scandal over modern music has not died down. While modern paintings by Picasso and Pollock sell for a hundred million or more, shocking musical works from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring onward still send ripples of unease through audiences; yet the influence of modern sound can be felt everywhere. Alex Ross, music critic for the New Yorker, shows how modern music has pervaded every corner of twentieth-century life.

The Rest Is Noise takes the listener inside the labyrinth of modern sound, from turn-of-the-century Vienna to bohemian Paris, from Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia to downtown New York in the sixties and seventies. We meet the maverick personalities who have defied the classical past, and we follow the rise of mass culture and mass politics on this sweeping tour of twentieth-century history as told through its music.

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Quotes & Awards

  • The Rest Is Noise is a great achievement. Rilke once wrote of how he learned to stand ‘more seeingly’ in front of certain paintings. Ross enables us to listen more hearingly.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Ross is a supremely gifted writer who brings together the political and technological richness of the world inside the magic circle of the concert hall, so that each illuminates the other.”

    Lev Grossman, Time

  • “It would be hard to imagine a better guide to the maelstrom of recent music than Mr. Ross, who worked on this book for a decade. He has an almost uncanny gift for putting music into words.”


  • “[A] brilliant, hugely enjoyable cultural history.”

    Christian Science Monitor

  • The Rest Is Noise is a long and thrilling ride…[Ross] writes about music in vivid language humming with intelligence. He tells great stories about musicians’ lives and illuminates their work with the light of his own experiences.”


  • “The best book on what music is about—really about—that you or I will ever own.”

    LA Weekly

  • “Gripping reading…[A] masterful blend of artistic and biographical insight. Readers new to classical music will quickly seek out the recordings Ross recommends…Even avid fans will find themselves hearing familiar favorites with new ears.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “Twentieth-century classical music can be intimidating and alienating…Neither of these adjectives applies to The Rest Is Noise…This history of the century as seen-or heard-through its music is lucid and unpretentious…Grover Gardner’s delivery is as welcoming as Ross’ writing, and the performance as a whole is a masterwork.”


  • “With his typically lyrical and attentive style, the author presents a lucid, often gripping story of a complex history. A must-read for those who have struggled with understanding modern music and a benchmark book that should eventually become a classic history of the 20th century.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • Winner of the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism
  • A 2007 New York Times Book Review Top 10 Book of the Year
  • A Time Magazine Top 10 Book Time Magazine Top 10 Book for Nonfiction
  • A 2008 Pulitzer Prize Finalist for Nonfiction
  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • A 2007 Washington Post Book World Best Book of the Year for Nonfiction
  • Winner of the 2008 Guardian First Book Award
  • One of the 2007 New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Nonfiction

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Lyn Elliott | 2/13/2014

    " Brilliant on twentieth century music. We listened to an audiobook version which is far and away the best, because it includes excerpts from the music Ross discusses. The hardback book is on the shelf for reference and we dip into it often. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Bill | 2/11/2014

    " I have four pages of music I want to listen to. I enjoyed all of the information about the development of classical music during the 20th century and the rise and fall of the various schools of music. I also enjoyed the authors remarks about the close relationship between classical and popular music. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Nick | 2/10/2014

    " Ross's acclaimed history of twentieth century music deserves every bit of the kudos he has been getting. Reading it, I not only could place favorite works in a fuller context but also got a sense of the connections among the various "names" from Berg to Stravinsky. Ross also inspired me to go back and listen to some of the pieces after many years of neglect and convinced me to listen to work by composers I have been aware of but not previously interested in hearing. Although his focus is on "classical" music, his history is broad enough to include Duke Ellington, Scott Joplin, Bob Dylan and the Beatles, and more. A great read, and an interesting perspective from which to view the Depression, the two World Wars and the Cold War and other events. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by andre | 2/9/2014

    " So far so pretty great. "

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