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Alex Ross (music critic)

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Alex Ross
Born (1968-01-12) January 12, 1968 (age 56)
Alma materHarvard University (BA)
Known forThe Rest Is Noise (2007)
Listen to This (2011)
Wagnerism (2020)
Notable credits
AwardsMacArthur Fellowship
Belmont Prize
Full list

Alex Ross (born January 12, 1968) is an American music critic and author who specializes in classical music. Ross has been a staff member of The New Yorker magazine since 1996. His extensive writings include performance and record reviews, industry updates, cultural commentary, and historical narratives in the realm of classical music.[1] He has written three well-received books: The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century (2007), Listen to This (2011), and Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music (2020).

A graduate of Harvard University and student of composer Peter Lieberson, from 1992 to 1996 Ross was a critic for The New York Times. He has received wide acclaim for his publications; The Rest Is Noise was a finalist for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, and his other awards and honors include a MacArthur Fellowship and the Belmont Prize. He maintains a popular classical music blog, The Rest is Noise.[2]

Life and career[edit]

Alex Ross was born on January 12, 1968, in Washington, D.C.[3] He attended the Potomac School in McLean, Virginia and St. Albans School in Washington, DC, graduating in 1986.[4][5][n 1] He was a 1990 graduate of Harvard University, where he studied under composer Peter Lieberson and was a DJ on the classical and underground rock departments of the college radio station, WHRB.[6] During his time at Harvard he first began music criticism, writing reviews for Fanfare, a classical music magazine.[6]

From 1992 to 1996 Ross was a music critic at The New York Times. He also wrote for The New Republic, Slate, the London Review of Books, Lingua Franca, Fanfare and Feed. He first contributed to The New Yorker in 1993 and became a staff writer in 1996, succeeding Paul Griffiths.[6] As of 2021, Ross and Justin Davidson at New York are the only classical music critics who write regularly for a general-interest American magazine.[7]

The music critic Edward Rothstein has said that Ross tries "to restore critical vigour by loosening the boundaries isolating the classical tradition from the world of politics and popular culture".[8] Ross maintains a popular classical music blog, The Rest is Noise,[2] which the musicologist Lars Helgert called "among the most highly regarded web resources for classical music criticism".[1]

His first book, The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, a cultural history of music since 1900, was released in the U.S. in 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux and in the U.K. in 2008. The book received widespread critical praise in the U.S., garnering a National Book Critics Circle Award, a spot on The New York Times list of the ten best books of 2007, and a finalist citation for the Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction. It was also shortlisted for the 2008 Samuel Johnson Prize for nonfiction.[9][10] His second book, Listen to This, was released in the U.S. in September 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux and was published in the U.K. in November 2010. In September 2020, his third book, Wagnerism, came out.[11][12]

Ross married director Jonathan Lisecki in Canada in 2006.[13] He is now based in New York City,[14] living in Chelsea, Manhattan.[13]

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Ross, Alex (2007). The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
  • —— (2010). Listen to This. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
  • —— (2020). Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Awards and honors[edit]

Ross has received a MacArthur Fellowship (2008),[15] three ASCAP Deems Taylor Awards for music writing, and a Holtzbrinck fellowship at the American Academy in Berlin.[14] In 2012 he received the Belmont Prize for Contemporary Music at the pèlerinages Art Festival in Weimar.[16] In 2016, he was awarded the Champion of New Music award by the American Composers Forum.[17]



  1. ^ Ross names various teachers at St. Albans School as particularly impactful on his education: Paul Piazza, Paul Barrett, Ted Eagles, Sandy Larson, Don Brown, Vaughn Keith, and Jack McCune.[5]


  1. ^ a b Helgert 2013, §5. "Since 1960".
  2. ^ a b Tommasini, Anthony (November 4, 2016). "Just Why Does New Music Need Champions?". The New York Times. Retrieved February 19, 2022.
  3. ^ Bohlman, Andrea F. (2013). "Ross, Alex". Grove Music Online. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.A2289326. ISBN 978-1-56159-263-0. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  4. ^ "Alex Ross '83: Music That Speaks on Every Level". Potomac School. Retrieved November 7, 2021.
  5. ^ a b Express (November 19, 2007). "Express 5: Alex Ross on Classical Music". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 7, 2021.
  6. ^ a b c Shafrir, Doree (October 9, 2007). "The Best Listener in America". The New York Observer. Archived from the original on October 14, 2007. Retrieved February 27, 2010.
  7. ^ Woolfe & Ross 2021, § "The View from a Magazine Alex Ross".
  8. ^ Rothstein 2001, §4. "Since 1980".
  9. ^ "BBC Four – 2008 Shortlist for Samuel Johnson Prize".
  10. ^ Swafford, Jan (September 23, 2008). "The Big Rewind: How The Rest Is Noise changes our understanding of 20th-century music". Slate. Retrieved November 7, 2021.
  11. ^ Dirda, Michael (November 3, 2020). "If ever there was a moment for Richard Wagner, it is 2020". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 10, 2020.
  12. ^ de Barros, Paul (September 25, 2020). "Talking art, politics and 'Wagnerism' with New Yorker music critic Alex Ross". The Seattle Times. Retrieved November 7, 2021.
  13. ^ a b Bonanos, Christopher (November 7, 2007). "You'll happily be taken along for the ride". The Guardian. Retrieved August 12, 2008.
  14. ^ a b "Alex Ross - American Academy". The American Academy in Berlin. Retrieved November 7, 2021.
  15. ^ Kelly, David (September 23, 2008). "MacArthurs, Parked". The New York Times (blog). Papercuts. Archived from the original on April 23, 2009. Retrieved March 24, 2009.
  16. ^ Koeritz, Tim (January 2, 2012). "'New Yorker' music critic wins Belmont prize". DW News. Retrieved November 24, 2021.
  17. ^ "Champion of New Music Award". American Composers Forum. Retrieved November 24, 2021.


External links[edit]

Preceded by Music Critic of The New Yorker
Succeeded by