Listen to This, By Alex Ross

 

From John Dowland to Led Zeppelin, JS Bach to Robert Johnson, critic Alex Ross spans many octaves without any sign of strain.

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The vision of music as a single realm forcibly divided into sects drove Ross's superb study of 20th-century sounds, The Rest Is Noise. Here, he selects essays from the New Yorker. His trumpet-blast manifesto blazes with impatience over the fate of "classical" music, "an ageless diva on a nonstop farewell tour".

Lavish on-the-road profiles illuminate favourites such as Radiohead, Dylan and Björk. Stylish overviews of Mozart, Verdi and Brahms bring older heroes to new fans. And Ross hopes for a time when punks will encounter Beethoven's Eroica and discover, as he did, the shock of the new in its 200-year-old chords.

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