Alex Ross Critic's Choice Free Recommended

When: Wed., Oct. 27, 6:30 p.m. 2010

I have a theory about why classical music is perceived to be in decline in America. It's because virtually no one writes anything interesting about it. Whereas a guitar and a record deal practically guarantee a spirited public discussion about a pop musician's sound and meaning, classical music critics tend to focus myopically on specific performances from a repertory they assume you know as well as they do. The big issues get relegated to program or liner notes. Maybe that's why Alex Ross's National Book Critics Circle Award-winning debut, The Rest Is Noise, was a hit despite its subject matter—he approached the arcane world of 20th-century classical music with an expert's ear, an enthusiast's pen, and a determination to tell readers why the music is so awesome. Ross’s new book, Listen to This (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) is an eclectic tour around the great young critic's brain. The title essay is the autobiography of a thoughtfully democratic music fan, and the rest of the book ping-pongs around from Mozart to Björk, recording technology to the history of a bass line. Ross offers a master class in music writing that will likely sell you not only on some music you never thought you’d like but on the importance of criticism to the form. He’ll discuss Listen to This with Chicago-based music critic Andrew Patner. RSVP to rsvp@stopsmilingonline.com. --Whet Moser

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