With the snow blowing outside, blanketing all of London, it was a great weekend to take in The Rest is Noise, a conference at South Bank based on Alex Ross’ opus book.
This weekend featured the political, social, scientific and musical events that shaped the beginnings of the 20th Century. The event was kicked off by Shirley Williams, one of the founders of the Social Democratic party and an anti- nuclear activist. She proclaimed the century as the Age of Violence and demonstrated her thesis through video, pictures and poetry.
Alex Ross who wrote the book and reviews music for the New Yorker gave a wonderful lecture with various music selections and the implications of each. Ross spoke about the significance of Salome, and how Strauss’ opera broke down the barriers of classical music and opened the door for the moderns like Schoenberg.
Over the two days, the afternoons were filled with talks and interviews. The BITES were 15 minute talks by different people with different backgrounds on different topics. So l learned more about the cultural, artistic and political milieu of Vienna with insights into architect Otto Wagner, Klimt’s muse, the fashion designer Emilie Floge,and heard a wonderful performance of Rilke’s Duono Elegies.
I had started to do some research earlier in the week on the race between Scott and Amundsen to the Antarctic so it was enlightening to hear a song about one of Scott’s men. The folk singer, Jake Wilson is set sing his ballads in Robert Scott’s tent in March and had a graphite guitar crafted in order to ensure the instrument would survive in those temperatures. He’s still working out the gloves he will use to play.
The Rest of Noise continues all year with the next one in the series on The Rise of Nationalism at the beginning of February.