The Rest Is Noise by music writer Alex Ross and wanted to do my weekend post about it. The book covers the last century of classical music, more or less, through a series of essays about periods or composers. I discovered a number of composers I now love, like Lou Harrison and it also explains why I find so much of 20th century classical music too difficult to enjoy. Ross links the abandonment of melody and tonal music to responses to fascism and a rejection of ideologies, basically music and the kind of music you wrote or listened to became very political. I found this fascinating because the same kind of thing happened in visual art at the same time. I'd love to read a book that links these trends in culture and explores it more broadly. To reduce the idea, Beethoven was loved by the Nazis and linked to that regime by Hitler so the music became toxic to many. In the case of Wagner it was even worse because Wagner had so many horrible ideological ideas. There's a lot more to it than that but this is an important aspect. There was also the excitement in new ways to write music that made people want to distance themselves from the old.
It was also fascinating to read about the slow road back to tonality and melody and how stigma slowly fell away from music.
An amazing book and highly recommended. After I was finished I ran out to the library and grabbed a pile of books examining 20th century music.
Above are drawings of Igor Stravinsky and Steve Reich, two very important figures in the last century of music.