Music or noise? A look at 20th century sound

We’ve all done it…turned on the radio, started a CD, clicked on an online sample, even in a concert hall.  The music starts and we think, “what the heck is THAT?!”

Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph is said to have asked, “Is music such a serious business?” after a performance of new music in 19th-century Vienna. “I always thought it was meant to make people happy.”

Classical music composed in the 20th century has a reputation for being thorny. Jude Kelly, artistic director of London’s Southbank Centre, is hoping to give music lovers a different attitude toward 20th century compositions with a year-long festival called The Rest is Noise, inspired by Alex Ross’ book of the same name.  

Over the course of the next year, 18 orchestras will perform as part of the festival.  The London Symphony has dedicated it’s entire season to music written in the 1900s.

A recent study in Britain showed those under the age of 25 were just as interested in learning about classical music as those over 55 years of age.  Kelly is hoping this festival will convince them, along with the rest of us, that 20th century music was more than just noise.

Read Notes and Noise (The Economist)

  • Bob

    Good question – music or noise – I always am skeptical of anyone saying “I like all music.” Not to be discouraged though, I think there is a lot of MUSIC constantly coming out there, the John Adams excerpt is to me an excellent illustration. I always am able to “get into” his work – seemes fresh and most always brings a smile, and leaves me wanting to hear more of it  Bob Nichols.  

  • Boyce Lancaster

    I agree, Bob.  John Adams seems to really understand how to communicate musically with an audience and speak in a language they want to hear.