Listen to This--Alex Ross

The same beautiful writing that graces his previous book, The Rest is Noise, and his New Yorker columns is  present here.  Unfortunately, there is something missing that the previous book has and which causes it to be compelling while this book is not so much so.  There was a unity of theme, a cohesion of thought and purpose that made even the less interesting portions of The Rest is Noise compelling.

There I could wade through the effusive evocations of the work of Karlheinz Stockhausen and other classical composers for whom I have little enough love even if I recognize that there was something innovative there.  Here, when I'm exposed to far too much prose extolling the virtues of Bjork or Radiohead, I know that it isn't going anywhere, that the passages I'm reading about people or groups in whom  I have little to no interest end only at whatever conclusion the article achieves.  There is no further purpose in the writing--there is no clear or coherent picture I am to derive of it of music as a whole or even modern music. For me, this was a serious weakness of the book.

Some of the articles were very fine, my interest in them dictated by my interest in the artist.  Others, such as the article on Radiohead and Bjork made me want to hear what I hadn't really listened to before.  Unfortunately when I queued it up and tried, what I heard suggested that Mr. Ross's enthusiasm was misplaced.

Nevertheless, if you want to read about music, modern and less so, there are few people who write about it with the passion, intensity, and sheer verbal command of Alex Ross.  I can recommend the book to music enthusiasts and those who want to know more about music is small doses, even while I did not get from it the same excitement and understanding that I emerged from his book with.

***1/2

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