The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: Prize-winning music critic Alex Ross starts a new blog | March 30, 2010

By Jacob Stockinger

A reminder: It’s spring break. Because of staffing for the blog, your comments may take a bit longer to get posted. But don’t despair — they will get there.

Alex Ross (below), who writes about classical music for The New Yorker Magazine, is probably the most prestigious critic in the US right now.

He won a National Book Award and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his recent book, “The Rest Is Noise,” which focused on modern and contemporary music, And that was also the name of his popular blog that was linked to even even at

But now he has phased out that blog in favor of one that he is doing under the aegis of The New Yorker. It is called “Unquiet Thoughts” — a great word-play title, don’t you think? It will be released in September 2010.

Here is a link to his former blog, which has a vast backlog or library of posts, and also the exciting Table of Contents to his new book, “Listen to This”:

And here is a link to the new blog, which lists the appealing table of contents from his new book, and also has lists of other resources including blogs:

And recently Ross (below) gave a speech about when to clap and other matters of concert etiquette — always a touchy subject — in London.

Here is are link to stories about that:

Do you read Alex Ross?

What do you think of his criticism and writings?

What do you think about what he said regarding concert hall etiquette?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music


  1. Lori is right – Alex Ross is a superb writer.
    In her email signature my daughter uses this quotation: “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” -Victor Hugo

    Ross’s ability to articulate both the content and the character of music – about which it is notoriously difficult to write – is truly marvelous. “The Rest Is Noise” is splendid and I recommend it heartily to everyone.

    Comment by Marius — March 31, 2010 @ 9:51 am

  2. I’ve been a rabid fan of Alex Ross since I read this comment six years ago:

    “I don’t identify with the listener who responds to the “Eroica” by saying, “Ah, civilization.” That wasn’t what Beethoven wanted: his intention was to shake the European mind. I don’t listen to music to be civilized; sometimes, I listen precisely to escape the ordered world.”

    Alex Ross is supremely knowledgeable about music of any genre and is able to communicate both the technical and the emotional sides with clarity and eloquence. What delighted me about “The Rest Is Noise” was that he wove comments about pop/rock/jazz/next big thing throughout the ‘straight’ classical fabric; his words helped bridge aural gaps and made me eager to listen to more and more and more.

    As to concert etiquette, perhaps concert presenters should sit down with performers beforehand and ask what they want/expect, and then give the audience a few pointers before the first downbeat. Maybe when the announcement is made to silence the cell phones, we could add “The first movement of the concerto is a real barn-burner, so go ahead and cheer if you want to!”

    Comment by Lori Skelton — March 30, 2010 @ 9:54 am

    • Hi Lori,
      Thanks for reading and taking to the time to comment.
      Your remarks make a lot of sense: I suspect many others share your analysis of Ross’ appeal.
      I also like your idea about music presenters consulting beforehand with performers about the etiquette they prefer. Cell phones, watch alarms, knitting and texting are out, as far as I am concerned — grounds for expulsion from the concert. But then I am just a critic, another listener.
      Applause anytime is generally a good sign and welcome. Pianist Emanuel Ax has written about that on his blog.
      People also forget that some great composers — including Mozart and Beethoven — premiered their music in excerpts and isolated movements.
      We could use more such vitality, spontaneity and informality in the concert hall. And, as you and Alex Ross suggest, we could use a more visceral experience of classical music. That’s part of what made Leonard Bernstein such a force in the arts.
      Thanks again,

      Comment by welltemperedear — March 30, 2010 @ 11:13 am

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