The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Multimedia Modernism: Alex Ross Speaks At AIC

By Alexander Hough in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 20, 2010 7:00PM

If you're at all interested in modern music or art, go see Alex Ross at the AIC. (Photo from Ross's website)
New Yorker staff writer Alex Ross has made a name for himself by writing about classical music with thoroughness and authority, qualities that nearly won him a Pulitzer for his first (and, until this September 28, only) book, "The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the 20th Century." Ross's command over the technical aspects of music, near omnicience regarding today's scene, and deep understanding of the cultural and historical context make the book essential reading for anyone trying to understand the recent history, and current state, of Western art music.

Composers don't write music in a vacuum, and some of the connections during the birth of modernism described by Ross in "Noise" will be expanded upon during his lecture this Thursday evening at the Art Institute. The mutual influence among artists was particularly crucial during the rapid changes and paradigm shifts at the turn of the 20th century. In music, this is the time when composers expanded or even departed from traditional tonality, rhythm, and forms, opening the doors to the unprecedented array of styles and philosophies that branched out during the past one hundred years. Ross is especially interested in literature's role in these changes - his senior thesis was about James Joyce - and "Noise" discusses the influence that poetry had on the revolutionary work of Claude Debussy and Arnold Schoenberg. Mindful of the setting of his lecture, Ross will also address the roles played by visual artists such as Claude Monet and Vassily Kandinsky.

Ross covered a lot of ground in "Noise" and subsequently not everything could be explored in great detail, so we're looking forward to hearing this subject fleshed out. Ross is a smart cookie and has done his research, but his greatest asset might be communicating music to people with a variety of musical backgrounds, so expect easily digestible schooling.

Thursday, April 22 at Fullerton Hall at the Art Institute, 111 S Michigan, 6 p.m., $12, $7 members and students, get tickets here or by phone at (877) 307-4242