The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross Harper Perennial HK$214 History can be studied in different ways; Alex Ross does it through music. In The Rest is Noise, the New Yorker critic opens readers' ears to the sounds of the 20th century, specifically classical composition, which to many, Ross acknowledges, 'sounds like noise' and is considered 'an art of the dead'. Using interesting anecdotes and a wealth of knowledge, the author shows how classical sounds considered alien can be heard everywhere, with atonal chords finding a home in jazz and minimalism finding a groove in pop via Lou Reed and Brian Eno. This hefty work, which took Ross 10 years to write, looks at not only musicians but their satellites, including fans, patrons, politicians and dictators: we can thank Hitler for the spread of dissonant works in the 1950s as musicians sought to find alternatives to the classical catalogue that engaged the Fuhrer. Apart from Nazi Germany, the two world wars, the cold war, 1920s Paris and Stalin's Russia set the tone for the musical scores dissected. The free audio companion is available at therestisnoise.com/audio. A useful 'suggested listening and reading' section is also included.