From The Rest is Noise: “Sedona Miscellany”

From The Rest is Noise

Alex Ross, by E.H Jan 17th 2013

And a new season begins. Next weekend in NYC brings a Feldman festival entitled Softly, curated by Marilyn Nonken. Alongside familiar landmarks like Triadic Memories and Patterns in a Chromatic Field there will be early piano works, to be announced, and three short Feldman-based films by Zahra Partovi and Chris Villars. For further showings of the latter, see Villars’s site….. Beginning tonight is another edition of the Resonant Bodies Festival, with Paul Pinto, Helga Davis, Lucy Dhegrae, Jen Shyu, Nathalie Joachim, Caroline Shaw, Sarah Maria Sun, Gelsey Bell, and Pamela Z…. Missy Mazzoli’s latest opera, Proving Up, opens the Miller Theatre season on Sept. 26. Zachary Woolfe interviews her for the New York Times…. WasteLAnd has announced its new season, with Katherine Young the featured composer…. The LA Phil has announced details of its Fluxus series, adding yet more allure to its extraordinary centennial season. Yuval Sharon will direct Cage’s Europeras 1 and 2, Yoko Ono will be given a portrait concert, Patricia Kopatchinskaja will perform Fluxus pieces at the Getty, and La Monte Young is scheduled to preside over his Second Dream of The High-Tension Line Stepdown Transformer…. The Pulitzer Arts Foundation and the St. Louis Symphony have announced their 2018-19 concert series, featuring Mazzoli, Shaw, Anna Thorvaldsdottir, and Mary Kouyoumdjian, among others…. In this week’s New Yorker, Rebecca Mead has a wonderful profile of George Benjamin, who speaks revealingly about his long development as a composer and the origins of his recent operatic work.

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The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century is a voyage into the labyrinth of modern music, which remains an obscure world for most people. While paintings of Picasso and Jackson Pollock sell for a hundred million dollars or more, and lines from T. S. Eliot are quoted on the yearbook pages of alienated teenagers across the land, twentieth-century classical music still sends ripples of unease through audiences. At the same time, its influence can be felt everywhere. Atonal chords crop up in jazz. Avant-garde sounds populate the soundtracks of Hollywood thrillers. Minimalism has had a huge effect on rock, pop, and dance music from the Velvet Underground onward.

The Rest Is Noise shows why twentieth-century composers felt compelled to create a famously bewildering variety of sounds, from the purest beauty to the purest noise. It tells of a remarkable array of maverick personalities who resisted the cult of the classical past, struggled against the indifference of a wide public, and defied the will of dictators. Whether they have charmed audiences with sweet sounds or battered them with dissonance, composers have always been exuberantly of the present, defying the stereotype of classical music as a dying art. The narrative goes from Vienna before the First World War to Paris in the twenties, from Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia to downtown New York in the sixties and seventies. We follow the rise of mass culture and mass politics, of dramatic new technologies, of hot and cold wars, of experiments, revolutions, riots, and friendships forged and broken. The end result is not so much a history of twentieth-century music as a history of the twentieth century through its music.

John Schaefer

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