The rest is noise
July 5, 2004 6:51 PM   Subscribe

The Rest is Noise : New Yorker music critic Alex Ross' blog.
Also: A C Douglas. Jessica Duchen. Greg Sandow. Michael Brooke. The Rambler.
posted by cbrody (8 comments total)
That should be: Greg Sandow.
posted by cbrody at 6:53 PM on July 5, 2004

I don't like classical music, but I like Alex Ross.
posted by Tlogmer at 11:07 PM on July 5, 2004

I've never heard of this guy before, and I am by no means a fan of classical music - but I really like his writing and his attitude towards the music. Now I need to see if he has RSS...
posted by pascal at 12:18 AM on July 6, 2004

Good post! This article from Alex Ross' site is a really good read. One particular passage made me laugh out loud:

Only in college did my musical fortress finally crumble. I spent most of my days and nights at the campus radio station, where I had a show and helped organize the classical contingent. I fanatically patrolled the boundaries of the classical broadcasting day, refusing to surrender even fifteen minutes of “Chamber Music Masterworks” and the like. At 10 p.m., the schedule switched from classical to punk, and only punk of the most recondite kind. Once a record sold more than a few hundred copies, it was kicked off the playlist. The d.j.s liked to start their sets with the shrillest, crudest songs in order to scandalize the classical crowd. I tried to one-up them by ending my show with squalls of Xenakis. They hit back with Sinatra singing “Only the Lonely.” Once, they followed up my heartfelt tribute to Herbert von Karajan with Skrewdriver’s rousing neo-Nazi anthem “Prisoner of Peace”: “Free Rudolf Hess / How long can they keep him there? We can only guess.” Touché.

The thing about these cerebral punk rockers is that they were easily the most interesting people I’d ever met. Between painstakingly researched tributes to Mission of Burma and the Butthole Surfers, they composed undergraduate theses on fourth-century Roman fortifications and the liberal thought of Lionel Trilling. I began hanging around in the studio after my show was over, suppressing an instinctive fear of their sticker-covered leather jackets and multicolored hair. I informed them, as Mr. Barnes would have done, that Schoenberg had anticipated all of this.

I was one of those cliquish 10PM punk rock DJs, although I graduated before Ross showed up. We hated the classical music guys for their smug air of musical superiority, which threatened our own smug superiority. I wish I had been open-minded enough back then to actually listen to the stuff instead of dismissing it. Of course, as he explains so well, a lot of that had to do with the horrible way that classical music fans talk about it, justifying themselves with every possible argument except a love of music.
posted by fuzz at 2:41 AM on July 6, 2004

Another one, courtesy of Tom 'mySociety' Steinberg: twang twang twang.
posted by cbrody at 9:40 AM on July 6, 2004

fuzz, I was one of those smug college-radio classical djs. But somehow I ended up interviewing Jello Biafra live on air one evening after the whole "popular" music contingent at the station took the night off to hear the Dead Kennedys at a local venue. I was playing top 40 garbage (free record company promo discs: I had no clue what I was doing) when he was dragged into the studio by the station boss, still in concert gear and makeup.

I had no fucking clue what to ask him. I'd heard the DKs (my roomate was a keen fan) but the idea of taking them seriously as artists had never occurred to me. Changed my outlook, that's for sure. Nothing like being lost for words live on air -- he started off the interview by attacking my musical taste. He was right of course.

I still know very little about any music outside the classical sphere but that was a revelatory moment for me, in realising that pop stars can also be artists in their own right. Well, a few of them anyway ;)

[Of course no one (apart from a classical musican) would ever call Biafra a pop star, but so-called classical music is often seen from the other side as a single impenetrable edifice. I mean, tlogmer, which out of Machaut, Palestrina, Vivaldi, Handel, Mozart, Schubert, Rachmaninoff, Stravinksy, Bartok or Stockhausen do you hate most?]
posted by cbrody at 10:17 AM on July 6, 2004

Heh, good point. (Though I don't dislike absolutely all classical music, I just wanted something pithy to say.) To answer the question: I haven't heard of Machat or Palestrina, and don't remember much of what Bartok or Stockhausen are like; of the rest, I'd have to say I hate Handel or Mozart the most. Or, I don't know, maybe Schubert.
posted by Tlogmer at 2:50 PM on July 6, 2004

I've never heard of anyone hating Schubert before. But I can understand hating punk rock quite easily!
posted by cbrody at 3:01 PM on July 6, 2004

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