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Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise

Alex Ross Among the oldest trees

The Bristlecones Speak. The New Yorker, Jan. 20, 2020.
When I wrote about Death Valley in 2016, I became mesmerized by the sight of Great Basin bristlecone pines clinging to the upper reaches of Telescope Peak, the highest mountain in the area. I soon made my way to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, in the White Mountains, northwest of Death Valley. I made several visits there in recent months, talking to scientists about these extraordinary trees, the world’s oldest. The piece above is the result. I obviously owe a huge debt of gratitude to Andy Bunn, Matt Salzer, Brian Smithers, Connie Millar, and Tim Forsell, who served as my guides. I also received excellent counsel from Jared Farmer, who is writing a book about the bristlecones and about the mystique of ancient trees.

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Alex Ross Kentridge’s Wozzeck

Mind Storms. The New Yorker, Jan. 13, 2020.

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Alex Ross Abrahamsen, Czernowin, Neuwirth

Queens of the Night. The New Yorker, Jan. 6, 2020.

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Alex Ross Apex 2019

“Aus LICHT” at the Holland Festival.
At the New Yorker website may be found my list of Notable Performances and Recordings of 2019, which also mentions highlights of the decade now ending.
The Rest Is Noise Person of the Year is Lara St. John.
Some notable music books of 2019: Andrew Patner’s A Portrait in Four Movements (University of Chicago Press), Arní Heimir Ingólfsson’s Jón Leifs and the Musical Invention of Iceland, Mark Stryker’s Jazz from Detroit (University of Michigan Press), Nicole Grimes’s Brahms’s Elegies (Cambridge UP), Susan McClary’s The Passions of Peter Sellars (University of Michigan Press), Mark Berry’s Arnold Schoenberg (University of Chicago Press), Damon Krukowski’s Ways of Hearing (MIT Press), Oliver Soden’s Michael Tippett: The Biography (Weidenfeld & Nicolson).
Outside of music, I read with great enjoyment Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism (Public Affairs), Susan Neiman’s Learning from the Germans: Race and the Memory of Evil (FSG), Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror, Patrick Keefe’s Say Nothing, Andrew Marantz’s Antisocial, and Amy Waldman’s A Door in the Earth, among others.

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Alex Ross Leaves of Leifs

Ten years ago, I excitedly greeted Arní Heimir Ingólfsson’s biography of Jón Leifs, even though it was in Icelandic and I understood nary a word. It took a little while, but Jón Leifs and the Musical Invention of Iceland, Arní’s English-language adaptation of his book, is now available from Indiana University Press. It’s a thoroughly absorbing study of a formidable and sometimes troubling figure who possessed one of the more original musical voices of the twentieth century. None other than Björk supplies a blurb: “He pioneered in notating glaciers and orchestrating eruptions, sometimes masterpieces (sometimes not), but he had the courage to embrace the cliché and show us the way.”

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Alex Ross Video of the day: Fuck Wagner

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Alex Ross Nightafternight playlist

Facce d’Amore: Arias of Cavalli, Handel, Boretti; Jakub Józef Orliński, with Maxim Emelyanychev and Il Pomo D’oro (Erato)
Olga Neuwirth, …miramondo multiplo…, Remnants of Songs, Masaot / Clocks without Hands; Ingo Metzmacher conducting the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra, with Håkan Hardenberger; Susanna Mälkki conducting the ORF Radio Symphony, with Antoine Tamestit; Daniel Harding conducting the Vienna Philharmonic (Kairos)
Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, For Violin and Orchestra, A. G. Madsen, “Nachtmusik”; Ryan Bancroft and Nicholas Collon conducting the Danish National Symphony, with Christine Åstrand and Per Salo (Da Capo)
Zosha Di Castri, Tachitipo and other works; Ekmeles, ICE, JACK Quartet, Talea Ensemble, Yarn/Wire, Julia Den Boer (New Focus)
Ockeghem, Complete Songs, vol. 1; Blue Heron (BHCD)
Avet Terterian, Symphonies Nos. 3 and 4; Kirill Karabits conducting Bournemouth Symphony (Chandos)
Scott Cazan, Dyads (a wave press)
Ravel, Miroirs, La Valse, Stravinsky, Petrushka, The Firebird; Beatrice Rana (Warner)

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Alex Ross Preliminary end-of-year list

Early selections for my list of Notable Recordings of 2019.
— Bruckner, Symphony No. 9; Manfred Honeck conducting the Pittsburgh Symphony (Reference)
— Weinberg, Symphonies Nos. 2 and 21; Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducting the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, with the Kremerata Baltica and Gidon Kremer (DG)
— Beethoven, Complete Piano Sonatas; Igor Levit (Sony)
— Prism II: Bach, Fugue in B Minor, Beethoven, Quartet Opus 130; Schnittke, Third Quartet; Danish Quartet (ECM)
— Andrew Norman, Sustain; Gustavo Dudamel conducting the LA Philharmonic (DG, digital only)
— Speak, Be Silent: works of Chaya Czernowin, Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Mirela Ivičević, Liza Lim, and Rebecca Saunders; Riot Ensemble (Huddersfield Contemporary Records)
— Morton Feldman Piano; Philip Thomas (another timbre)
— George Benjamin, Lessons in Love and Violence; Stéphane Degout, Barbara Hannigan, Gyula Orendt, Peter Hoare, Samuel Boden, Benjamin conducting the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House (Nimbus)

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Alex Ross Bell, water, power

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