Love or hate the New Yorker, whose arch tone is an acquired taste, the venerable magazine does host one of classical music's liveliest critics. Alex Ross, whose immensely readable books include The Rest Is Noise and, more recently, Listen to This, will be giving a talk at the National Arts Centre on February 13.
Ross, who is all of 43 or so, takes the stuffing out of classical music pretensions and lends fresh ears to music for all tastes. (The subject of his talk is a genre-crossing look at descending bass lines and their link to expressions of sadness across nearly 1,000 years of music history.) He is brilliant at explaining the virtues of Radiohead to the blue-rinse set and the pleasures of Stockhausen to the cooler-than-thou rock crowd. In a 2004 manifesto, of sorts, on how classical music can live on, he named the iPod as its unlikely saviour:
On the iPod, music is freed from all fatuous self-definitions and delusions of significance. There are no record jackets depicting bombastic Alpine scenes or celebrity conductors with a family resemblance to Rudolf Hess. Instead, music is music. (Read the full article.)