Download The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century Audiobook

The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century Audiobook, by Alex Ross Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Alex Ross Narrator: Grover Gardner Publisher: Blackstone Publishing Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: December 2007 ISBN: 9781483075624
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)
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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 Reviews

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  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lyn | 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 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 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 andre | 2/9/2014

    " So far so pretty great. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Bryar | 2/2/2014

    " This book is AMAZING. It was the text for two of my classes in University and I read it cover to cover both times (although not all of the chapters were readings for the course). My favorite part is when he talks about Stravinsky being at a Charlie Parker performance in New York. Parker quoted one of his compositions (I think FIrebird) and Stravinsky "spilled his scotch in ecstasy" "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Samee | 1/23/2014

    " I only managed to get about 150 pages in before I had to return this book to the library, but I fully intend to go back in three days and check it out again. It is that awesome. While it is certainly an excellent read for anyone who's into 20th century and contemporary music, what makes it stand out from other well-written books of musical criticism is its ability to tell the story of the 20th century through music. World War One is fought and re-fought by the Second Viennese School and Les Six; the emergence and growing madness of the German state are played out, literally, in concert halls and clubs; and the first tentative notes of possible national and ethnic harmony are heard amidst the wreckage of the first half of the 20th century. I haven't made my way past the Roaring 20s and le jazz, but stay tuned for updates. Coming up: Red China and Mozart! Sonic Youth and Bjork! That crazy John Cage guy! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kathryn | 1/19/2014

    " A bit like my second year Music degree classes on the 20th Century but instead of stopping in about 1960 it goes right to the end. So much is included it sometimes reads like a list but the later chapters where connections between classical, pop and jazz are developed are interesting. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Afshin | 1/16/2014

    " Overall this is a good book, but is very thorough which can get tedious at times... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alex | 1/8/2014

    " Fascinating and an amazing resource - if you can plough through it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Hubert | 12/29/2013

    " Again, clearly and interestingly contextualizes musical works in the time and place they were written. Biggest weakness of the book: no accompanying CD or list of CDs to demonstrate music. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Gilles | 12/17/2013

    " This is a book for serious music lovers but it is written in a refreshing and lively style and is often illuminating. It sets the music in its social context and covers the whole century. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 David | 2/19/2013

    " Currently one of my favourite reads. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Steven | 7/7/2012

    " Superb history of twentieth century music and musical innovation. Largely classical, but touches on rock, jazz, hip-hop and other musical innovations that occurred feeding off of the innovations in Classical music. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mike | 2/2/2012

    " This may well change the way I listen to music forever! Definitely one to revisit as musical moods dictate. I believe the audio-book is very good as it contains the soundtrack... might have to seek this one out at some point. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 David | 11/10/2011

    " Oustanding: beautifully written, with a deft biographical touch. Has expanded my music library considerably. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cory | 6/7/2011

    " There are few better broad-view histories of Twentieth Century art music available. Masterful. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lucian | 5/27/2011

    " An epic read, in every sense. Particularly in how long it took me to read, but the vast ambition of the book and its sense of adventure make it worth it. At last hear the conversation that's been going on in the other room for the last hundred years. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Joshua | 5/20/2011

    " Without a doubt, the best non-fiction book I've read these last 5 year. It opened my eyes to a whole new world of unexplored music and I keep re-reading it and getting more out of it every time. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Deb | 4/30/2011

    " This book inspired me to listen to a vast range of music I would never otherwise have been exposed to. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Curtis | 4/17/2011

    " This is an excellent treatment of the developments in 20th century music. Alex Ross links musical developments to social and political ones. Well written; well researched' well done! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Alexandra | 4/3/2011

    " I found this book very helpful in understanding the twentieth century music. Also, easy to read and a good balance between presenting the composers' life and the main works. Not only this, but the explanations brought are easy to follow and revealing. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Drucifer | 3/8/2011

    " extremely compelling and well-written history of 20th century classical music. yes, the author has his biases and favorites, but his overall picture of the various composers and their surrounding political situations is thorough and illuminating. highly recommended. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 James | 3/6/2011

    " Wonderful - I really enjoyed this survey of 20 century music. I read it in 3 days and feel inspired to seek out works from each chapter. Highly recommended. "

About the Author

Alex Ross, music critic for the New Yorker, is the recipient of numerous awards for his work, including two ASCAP Deems Taylor Awards for music criticism. In 2008 he was a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation fellowship, given for achievements in creativity and potential for making important future cultural contributions.

About the Narrator

Grover Gardner (a.k.a. Tom Parker) is an award-winning narrator with over a thousand titles to his credit. Named one of the “Best Voices of the Century” and a Golden Voice by AudioFile magazine, he has won three prestigious Audie Awards, was chosen Narrator of the Year for 2005 by Publishers Weekly, and has earned more than thirty Earphones Awards.