Throughout history, the great works of literature (whether well-received or not) have sparked equally great works of literary criticism.Â Alex Ross’ brilliant history of music in the twentieth century has sparked criticism of the highest order – most lately by the great British tenor Ian Bostridge, writing in the Times Literary Supplement (think the English equivalent of The New York Times Review of Books).
Thanks to E. for the tip.
Here’s a taste:
Alex Ross’s The Rest is Noise tells the story of what happened to Western classical music in the twentieth century. We all know that the invention of recorded sound around 1900 made possible an extraordinary dissemination of the riches of the classical repertoire – largely composed for the rich and powerful – to the mass of ordinary people. On the gramophone, the radio, television and, subliminally and hence more powerfully, through the movies, the classical sound in all its variants (even the supposedly rebarbative confections of the Second Viennese School) has insinuated itself into the culture at large. Never before have so many people listened to, or liked, so-called classical music. Yet this extraordinary triumph has culminated in a malaise, a feeling, widespread in the musical profession and elsewhere, that classical music is in crisis and that things have never been so bad. Classical music feels abandoned, left behind as history has moved on, sulking in its tent as the real cultural action happens somewhere else.