The task of writing a history of the twentieth century's classical music that can be read and enjoyed by a popular audience is an ambitious one. Lucky for classical music fans that Alex Ross, The New Yorker's music critic, took it upon himself to try. The result is a rewarding and absorbing look back on a century that produced, variously, some of the most complex, baffling, exciting, avant garde, disturbing, beautiful, maddening, and sublime music the world ever heard. It's not just the story of the music, though -- it's the story of the fascinating lives and personalities of the people who created it, of world events that worked to re-shape artistic thought, of legendary performances that resulted in near-riots, and of artistic disagreements that took on (what now seem like) absurdly epic proportions. It's the story, too, of a century ravaged by war on a previously unimaginable scale, and of how composers, caught in the thick of it, responded with new musical vocabularies to articulate the horrors they (and the rest of the world) experienced. For the relatively limited subject it addresses, the book goes in as many different and surprising directions as the twentieth century itself. If I have one complaint, it's that, ideally, The Rest is Noise should have been released with a companion set of CDs, because on almost every page, there's mention of a composition that is begging to be heard. What we get instead, though, is Ross's superb writing; he has the rare gift of writing well about music, so that you can --almost-- hear each work he describes. For adult readers, and available in print and audiobook formats.