Saturday, February 9, 2008

After "The Rest is Noise"

I have finished Alex Ross' monumental book and can't recommend it enough. Now, not everything I'm going to say is glowing, but I still think everyone should read this both scholarly and enjoyable books. The opening 75% is a perfect balance between incredibly well researcehd and all-encompassing perspectives. It is really wonderful with just the right amount of antecdotes, flowery descriptions, and unbiased facts. I have to admit that I was a little disappointed with the close. I feel like the energy that Ross had twitters out near the end, he becomes much less observant of detail. What I'm talking about is the section when he comes to post-serialist America. He follows the thread of one reaction to the overwhelming influence of pop-culture in society very well. The is from Terry Riley to Reich to Glass and finally to Adams. That is all well and good, but he seems to almost completely disregard another reaction to the same phenomenon, a reaction that responded not so much to the accessibility and populist nature of pop-music, but rather to the multicolored angularity of it. I'm speaking about composers like Christopher Rouse, and most importantly John Corigliano. These composers get, I think, only one sentence while Ross ends his book basically with "Nixon in China". Yes, "Nixon" is an important work, but it certainly isn't the last word which is more on the post-modern (a term he tries to deny, but I don't think does so convincingly) swing of things for the moment. For instance scores such as the Corigliano first symphony or "The Ghost of Versailles". I think one is not being fair to relegate a composer like Corigliano to a status not quite as prominent as Adams, it really isn't an acurate picture. Also, I was disappointed that there wasn't more mention of George Crumb. Now, on this account I am unsure whether it is a fault of Ross', or my bias. I think Crumb is one of the most important American composers in the second half of the twentieth-century. I was sad to see him get only one mention. His music is unlike any other in the way it responded to modernist culture and bridge the university world and the populist world. It is also very influencial. EVERYONE SHOULD FIND A RECORDING OF CRUMB (ANCIENT VOICES FOR CHILDREN, APPARITION, LITTLE SUITE FOR CHRISTMAS AD 1979, OR IF YOU ARE REALLY ADVENTUROUS BLACK ANGELS) AND LISTEN UNTIL YOU GET IT. IT IS SOME OF THE MOST SPIRTUAL AND DEEPLY MOVING MUSIC WRITTEN IN OUR TIME. My favorite is "Echoes of Time and the River" for which he won a Pulitzer. This used to be hard to find, but now I think it is released on CD. Honestly, with no exaggeration, it is a piece that changed my life. Also I'm from West Virginia too...

All that said...a FANTASTIC read, a real accomplishment. You should all get a copy today.

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