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Alex Ross, “Listen to This”

Commenting on my own attempts to write about music, I’ve often observed how hampered I am by my lack of musical knowledge, and the way it pushes me to mostly write about the words rather than the music itself, the notes, the chords, the sound. Alex Ross, critic for The New Yorker, is a model for doing it the other way…

Geeta Dayal reviewing Ross’ Listen to This on bookforum.com:

One of the most intriguing tidbits in Listen to This is Ross’s admission that he listened to nothing but classical music until the age of twenty, when he was introduced to punk rock at Harvard University. It makes sense that Ross’s take on popular music is decidedly different from that of the average rock critic. On the Radiohead song “Airbag,” Ross writes: “Jonny [Greenwood] started off with a melody that snaked along in uneven time—one-two-three-one-two-three-one-two—and swayed between A major and F major.” That analysis might seem, well, a bit square, but Ross’s insights into popular music are refreshing, and often revelatory. Much of the music that Ross has written about over the course of his career has been instrumental; because of this, he rarely falls into the common rock-critic trap of analyzing lyrics at the expense of talking about the music. This becomes especially clear in Ross’s chapter on Bob Dylan. “In the verbal jungle of rock criticism,” Ross writes, “Dylan is seldom talked about in musical terms. His work is analyzed instead as poetry, punditry, or mystification . . . [but] to hear Dylan live is to realize that he is a musician—of an eccentric and mesmerizing kind.” In Ross’s chapter on Radiohead, he conveys a keen musical understanding of how a Radiohead song takes shape, shedding light into an off-kilter compositional process that binds together in the end with “thunderous logic, as if an equation has been solved.”

Filed under: Music

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zerode by nick chapman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Oh - and hello to Jason Isaacs.

The 400 Blows

zerode

is an over-caffeinated and under-employed grad school dropout, aspiring leftwing intellectual and cultural studies academic, cinéaste, and former poet. Raised in San Francisco on classic film, radical politics, burritos and soul music, then set loose upon the world. He spends his time in coffee shops with his laptop and headphones, caffeinating and trying to construct a post-whatever life.

 

What's in a name... The handle "zerode" is a contraction of Zéro de Conduite, the title of Jean Vigo's 1933 movie masterpiece about schoolboy rebellion.

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