Phil Gyford

Writing

Thursday 9 September 2004

PreviousIndexNext Morning News interview with Alex Ross

There’s a great interview with Alex Ross, music critic of the New Yorker over at The Morning News. I’d normally just whack a link in the link blog but there’s so much good stuff here worth quoting. It’s hard to pick the best paragraph, but this one about how to get into classical music from popular tastes is a good one, given I wish I knew more about classical:

Alex Ross: I marched into pop by the difficult Arctic route. I went from avant-garde compositions by Ligeti and Xenakis to Cecil Taylor’s free jazz, and onward to the post-punk noise rock of Pere Ubu and Sonic Youth. One obvious crossover is in the opposite direction. If you like the white-noisy end of rock, then you’ll almost certainly get off on Xenakis’ Metastasis or Ligeti’s Atmospheres and Requiem. Then you could move backward in time to Schoenberg’s Five Pieces for Orchestra and the Rite of Spring. Then keep going back to Mahler and Strauss, the semi-dissonant late-Romantics. People who are deep into electronic, DJ, and experimental music, Warp and Rephlex Records stuff, the Eno seventies classics, etc., are already aware of Steve Reich, who kind of invented that whole thing. Music for Eighteen Musicians will take your breath away if you’ve never heard it. Stockhausen’s Gesang der Jünglinge, Cage’s Williams Mix, the pioneering electronic works are the next step. The OHM electronic compilation is an excellent introduction. From there you can climb on the same Ligeti-Schoenberg-Mahler bus as the Sonic Youth brigade, though if you fall in love with Reich you might also immediately understand the rapid hypnotic patterning of Vivaldi and Bach, or Dufay and Machaut. If you live for U2, Led Zeppelin, one of the grander rock bands, you could easily acquire a taste for Mahler, who once imagined his music being played in stadiums. The Resurrection Symphony is many people’s starting point. Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra is in the same ballpark, and, of course, Wagner, the original hammer of the gods. Emo listeners might find a kindred spirit in, I don’t know, Schubert’s gorgeously self-pitying Die sch