Alex Ross

Alex Ross at Cal Performances

Chaconne * Notes * 
Cal Performances presented a lecture from Alex Ross entitled Chacona, Lamento, Walking Blues: Bass Lines of Music History last Thursday in Berkeley. The talk is based on the second chapter of his new book, Listen to This. We started off with the chaconne, a Spanish dance popular in the early 17th century. The passacaglia was also mentioned, since both have common origins and are often in triple meter. Ross discussed and played snippets of everything from Monteverdi, Pachelbel, Purcell, Bach, and Beethoven to Nina Simone, the Beatles, the Eagles, and Bob Dylan. Some of his musical examples were even recordings of his own piano playing. I particularly enjoyed hearing Andreas Scholl singing John Dowland's "Flow My Tears" and Lorraine Hunt Lieberson in the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra recording of Dido and Aeneas.

* Tattling * 
The audience was not entirely attentive, and there was some electronic noise. The evening was rather warm, and the temperature in Wheeler Hall was terribly comfortable. Perhaps my sailor outfit was not apropos, and Miss LCU may have had the correct idea with her safari wear.

After the performance Ross stayed around for questions. I finally had a chance to introduce Axel Feldheim to M. C—, and we all had the chance to greet Mr. Ross.

The Rest is Noise in Performance

The-rest-is-noise * Notes * 
San Francisco Performances presented a delightful lecture from Alex Ross this morning in San Francisco's Herbst Theatre. The performance included musical examples from pianist Ethan Iverson. We were basically given a tour of 20th century music, Ross would talk about Schoenberg or Stravinsky or Charlie Parker, and then Iverson would play their music for a few minutes. Highlights included Gershwin's first piano prelude and Ross quoting Theodor Adorno on Sibelius in an absolutely ridiculous voice. The 90 minute event covered twelve composers and concluded with the audience suggesting about a dozen keys for Iverson, who took them and improvised a piece for us.

* Tattling * 
The audience seemed quiet and attentive, though a mobile phone rang as Ross was speaking about Bartók. Certain people did have difficulty sitting still for the duration of the lecture, perhaps because it lacked an intermission.

After the performance Ross and Iverson hawked and signed wares in the lobby. Axel Feldheim and I stood awkwardly near their table, and then greeted the Treasurer of WSNC, who was first in line.

Alex Ross at JCCSF

Alex_ross * Notes * 
Alex Ross was interviewed yesterday by San Francisco Chronicle music critic Joshua Kosman as part of the JCCSF's Arts & Ideas series. We heard about how Ross was surprised by a phone call from Chicago one Monday, and his concern it was about the repossession of his cats. Of course, it was the MacArthur Foundation, letting him know he had was one of the 2008 MacArthur Fellows. It was an entertaining conversation, we learned that The New Yorker offices are not filled with doddering alcoholic writers spouting witticisms and that Ross' first draft of The Rest is Noise was 1,200 pages long and took two years to cut down. It certainly was fun to hear about how Ross came to 20th century music as college student, and how he didn't know that one was not supposed to like Stockhausen, Ligeti, Britten, and Vaughan Williams all at the same time. Read a more complete account of what happened over here.

* Tattling * 
Fisher Hall was sold out and the crowd was exceedingly respectful. Ross took questions from the audience, and we were treated to an anecdote about Jackie Kennedy's response to Aaron Copland's Connotations.

I had my copy of The Rest is Noise signed by Mr. Ross, and I was too shy to mention The Opera Tattler to him. Thankfully, the author of Not For Fun Only piped up about it, so I got to be completely abashed, etc. I also had the pleasure of meeting Joshua Kosman, who regaled me with a fine tattle about loud snoring at a recent symphony performance.