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New Yorker music critic and Pulitzer Prize finalist to speak at ISU, February 18

Head shot image of Alex Ross

Alex Ross will present his lecture, “A Rough Guide to 21st-Century Music" at Illinois State University.

Alex Ross, music critic of The New Yorker and Pulitzer Prize finalist for his book The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, will speak February 18 at 7 p.m. in the Center for Performing Arts Concert Hall, on the campus of Illinois State University. The free lecture is open to the public and will be followed by a students-only question-and-answer session with Ross. High school and college students from all area schools are welcome to attend. Ross’s topic, “A Rough Guide to 21st-Century Music,” continues where his book left off.

“The title I chose for (my first book) project, The Rest Is Noise, played off Hamlet’s last words (“The rest is silence”) and, more widely, the perception that classical composition devolved into noise as the 20th century went on,” said Ross.

Ross will continue his voyage into the labyrinth of modern music, which seems obscure to many people while at the same time recognizing that its influence is everywhere. If 20th-century composers felt compelled to create a famously bewildering variety of sounds, from the purest beauty to the purest noise, what is driving the art music of the 21st century? How does this music that can feel so inaccessible actually intersect with our real, everyday lives?

The visit to Illinois State University is a joint project of the School of Music and the Department of English with generous grants from the Sage Fund and the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology community engagement and culturally responsive learning branches. Such an interdisciplinary effort recognizes Ross’s unique position to speak about not just music and writing, but about avenues of social communication and the ways in which music responds to and sometimes even pushes the social, political, and economic issues of our day.

“We invited Mr. Ross to speak because he addresses—in fascinating, engaging, and relevant ways—the topics that our students are grappling with: Is classical music still important?” Professor of Musicology Allison Alcorn said. “What does classical music have to do with our real lives?” Alcorn said Ross is an entertaining speaker even when the topic is challenging and is a popular guest at universities. “He connects with people and has them laughing at the same time they’re thinking about perplexing issues,” she said.

In addition to writing for The New Yorker, Ross is now at work on Wagnerism: Art in the Shadow of Music. He received an Arts and Letters Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Belmont Prize in Germany, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a MacArthur Fellowship.

For additional information contact Allison Alcorn.

Free performance parking is available in the School Street Parking deck in spots 250 and above, at 400 West Beaufort Street in Normal.

If you need a special accommodation to fully participate in this event, please contact the School of Music at (309) 438-8959. Please allow sufficient time to arrange the accommodation.

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