In 2004, Alex Ross, the New Yorker's music critic, wrote "Listen To This": an 8,000 word essay that sought to reconcile his equal loves of classical and popular music. Indeed, Alex's article was one of the first, high-profile attempts to argue that there is, in fact, no value difference between classical and popular music: they each stand on their own merits, and one is certainly no "better" than the other. (You can read "Listen To This" on The New Yorker website (subscription req'd.))
For me, "Listen To This" was an immediate validation of everything I ever thought and felt about music, and was, in many ways (in addition to Alex's blog The Rest is Noise), the inspiration for this website.
"Listen to This" was expanded into a full book of the same name last year, combining New Yorker essays from the past 13 years with some new and revised material. At the 92Y Tribeca on Thursday, Alex gave a lunchtime lecture to celebrate the paperback release of Listen To This, taking a room filled with about 30 people through his chapter on the persistence of the descending musical figure throughout history: from the Rennaissance chacona, to the bass line of the blues, to Led Zepplin's "Dazed and Confused." For all his erudition and knowledge, Alex has always been a master at breaking down complex musical concepts, using imagery that even non-musicians can relate to:
"Note the descending six-note figure here," he said before playing an excerpt from Purcell's Dido and Aeneas. "You can tell something bad is about to happen."
Afterward, I asked Alex to sign a copy of Listen To This for me, which he did. "What are you seeing this week?" he asked. "I'm sure we'll bump into each other at some point."
Suffice to say, I consider myself fortunate anytime I get to share the aisle with Alex. And, so should you.