Listen to ThisBook |
Entertains while it edifies.
It's a rare talent that can take a big topic—say, the standards of perfection created by recording technology and their impact on the way live music is both played and perceived—and flesh it out in the space of an essay without cutting corners or avoiding ambiguity in order to neatly make a point. Alex Ross, a music critic for The New Yorker, has been doing just that since 1996 and his latest collection of essays, Listen to This, is the proof. Whether he's examining China's struggles to forge a musical identity that's expressive of its vast history and not simply an extension of Western classical music's traditions, witnessing the day-to-day struggles of an "almost famous" string quartet, or parsing the endlessly byzantine meanings of Bob Dylan's lyrics, Ross shows that he's as adventurous as he is thoughtful with page after page of lucid, insightful prose. An avowed classical music head, Ross is also more than happy to step out of his comfort zone, all in an effort to expand his definitions and understanding of what constitutes "good" music. But he's not simply name-checking Björk or Radiohead in an effort to be cool. He digs into their music, bringing the same intensity and focus to bear on their work that he does to Verdi's operas or the ineffable sorrows of Brahms. Aptly titled, Listen to This is an invitation well worth taking.