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Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise

Alex Ross Bell, water, power

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Alex Ross Thought of the day

“The people who are in control, the worst of the worst who are attacking us with anger, brutality, deception, exploitation, suppression, intimidation—all those things that are tools of control—those people, like myself, are old. They’re at the end of their time, too. And it’s almost like the thrashing of Tyrannosaurus rex. Its tail is crushing and wiping and swiping. It’s hitting people and other creatures and hurting them. But it’s dying.”
— Genesis P-Orrdige to Randall Roberts, in the LA Times

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Alex Ross Miscellany

The countless admirers of John Schaefer’s long-running and hugely influential WNYC show New Sounds are reeling in shock from the station’s disastrous decision to cancel the program — or, to quote a grisly locution in an internal e-mail, “sunset” it. Laurie Anderson’s succinct reaction: “Why would they do that?”….  The Polish composer Grażyna Bacewicz, creator of one of the twentieth century’s more formidable string-quartet cycles, is the focus of the third annual Bard Music West festival, an extension of the Bard Music Festival in upstate NY. It runs Oct. 18-19 at Noe Valley Ministry, in San Francisco. The Chronicle’s Joshua Kosman has a preview…. From Oct. 23 to Oct. 26, CUNY Graduate Center and Brooklyn College jointly present Unit Structures, a conference and mini-festival around the magnificent legacy of Cecil Taylor…. The reinvigorated Monday Evening Concerts series in LA has announced an enticing 2019-20 season: Feldman’s For Philip Guston, Xenakis’s Pléïades, Reich’s Drumming, an Éliane Radigue mini-festival, a Davóne Tines recital, an Anne Carson/Beckett evening, recent works by Trevor Bača and Caroline Shaw, and so forth…. A similarly seductive WasteLAnd Music season leads off on Nov. 8 with a Matt Barbier evening of “sludge, debris, virtuosity, and fascination,” as evidenced in works of Timothy McCormack, Michelle Lou, and George Lewis…. In the New York Times, Zachary Woolfe writes about Lena Herzog’s unclassifiable and singularly haunting Last Whispers, which plays at Peak Performances in Montclair, NJ, Oct. 16-20.

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Alex Ross Porgy at the Met, Venables’s Denis

Star-Crossed. The New Yorker, Oct. 14, 2019.

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Alex Ross Essay on Nietzsche

The Eternal Return. The New Yorker, Oct. 14, 2019.

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Alex Ross There was a third book

Last week I turned in the manuscript of my third book, Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music. Having spent nine years writing it, I’m now not entirely sure what to do with myself. To be sure, much work remains: copy-editing, fact-checking, determining the placement of more than a hundred illustrations. But the work on my end is largely done. The publication date is September 2020.
I say in the prelude that working on this book was the great education of my life. It took so long partly because I enjoyed the process of research so deeply. The central topic is Wagner’s impact on non-musical artists, from his own lifetime forward. The list of Wagner-inflected poets, novelists, painters, dancers, architects, theater designers, and filmmakers is almost infinitely long. It begins, roughly, with Baudelaire, encompasses such titanic modernist novelists as Proust, Mann, Joyce, Woolf, and Cather, and continues into the present, with the likes of Terrence Malick and Werner Herzog finding new images for Wagner on film. Add to this the composer’s effect on philosophy, from Nietzsche to Alain Badiou, and, of course, his huge political ramifications, which are not limited to Hitler and the far right. The education consisted in reading, re-reading, viewing, and reconsidering a vast swath of cultural production. I’m not sure how many hundreds of books I read in the process, but I am much the better for it, and I hope that the book reflects a maturation of perspective.
It’s not yet clear how many pages Wagnerism will consume, but it will be longer than The Rest Is Noise, which was not a short book. If it turns out to be anything other than an unreadable monster, Eric Chinski, my heroically patient and exacting editor, should take most of the credit. A great many scholars and critics have helped me along the way; I will do my best to give thanks to all in the Acknowledgments. The book will be dedicated to the memory of my beloved and brilliant friend Andrew Patner, who had many doubts about Wagner but who loved Meistersinger. May it be worthy of him.
Here is the table of contents:
PRELUDE: Death in Venice
1. RHEINGOLD: Wagner, Nietzsche, and the “Ring”
2. TRISTAN CHORD: Baudelaire and the Symbolists
3. SWAN KNIGHT: Victorian England and Gilded-Age America
4. GRAIL TEMPLE: Esoteric, Decadent, and Satanic Wagner
5. HOLY GERMAN ART: The Kaiserreich and Fin-de-Siècle Vienna
6. NIBELHEIM: Jewish and Black Wagner
7. VENUSBERG: Feminist and Gay Wagner
8. BRÜNNHILDE’S ROCK: Willa Cather and the Singer-Novel
9. MAGIC FIRE: Modernism, 1900 to 1914
10. NOTHUNG: The First World War and Hitler’s Youth
11. RING OF POWER: Revolution and Russia
12. FLYING DUTCHMAN: “Ulysses,” “The Waste Land,” “The Waves”
13. SIEGFRIED’S DEATH: Nazi Germany and Thomas Mann
14. RIDE OF THE VALKYRIES: Film from “The Birth of a Nation” to “Apocalypse Now”
15. THE WOUND: Wagnerism after 1945
POSTLUDE

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Alex Ross Jessye Norman in memoriam

A Postscript on the New Yorker website.

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Alex Ross A Nightafternight playlist

New and recent releases of interest.
— Morton Feldman Piano; Philip Thomas (another timbre)
— Feldman, For Bunita Marcus; Aki Takahashi (Mode)
— Bruckner, Symphony No. 9; Manfred Honeck conducting the Pittsburgh Symphony (Reference)
— Julia Wolfe, Fire in my mouth; Jaap van Zweden conducting the New York Philharmonic, The Crossing, Young People’s Chorus of New York City (Decca)
— Andrew Norman, Sustain; Gustavo Dudamel conducting the LA Philharmonic (DG, digital only)
— Hannah Lash, Filigree; JACK Quartet (New Focus)
— Alkan, Etudes, Op. 39; Paul Wee (BIS, Nov. release)
— Scarlatti, Sonatas; Lucas Debargue (Sony)
— Schubert, Schwanengesang, Brahms, Vier ernste Gesänge; Gerald Finley, Julius Drake (Hyperion)

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Alex Ross For Jessye Norman

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