This is a chapter taken from Alex Ross’s groundbreaking history of twentieth-century classical music, The Rest is Noise.
With some of Europe’s greatest composers fleeing persecution under Stalin and Hitler, the USA in the 1940s became a place of refuge and of fresh creativity, both native and immigrant. At the same time, a newly democratic spirit meant that what had once been the preserve of the elite increasingly came within reach of the masses.
Now a major festival running throughout 2013 at London’s Southbank, The Rest is Noise is an intricate commentary not just on the sounds that defined the century, but on art’s troublesome dance with politics, social and cultural change.
Alex Ross is the New Yorker’s music critic, and the winner of the Guardian First Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award for The Rest is Noise, which was also shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson and Pulitzer prizes for non-fiction.