Acclaimed New Yorker music critic Alex Ross will present a portion of his latest book tonight at 8 p.m. in Campbell Hall.
The book, entitled Listen to This, approaches the study of music as something that can be used to understand the world. The presentation will focus on the second chapter, “Chacona, Lamento, Walking Blues: Bass Lines of Music History.”
According to Associate Director of Arts & Lectures Roman Baratiak, Ross translates music into a comprehensible language.
“Alex Ross is the premier music critic in the country,” Baratiak said. “He’s very influential, smart and articulate in terms of writing and talking to a public audience, which is hard to do. He’s able to take music — a more emotional experience — and describe the process of creating music and the feelings it creates through the written word, which is a gift.”
While the chapter Ross will discuss is entirely new, other sections of the book, including its first chapter, incorporate content that has already appeared in the New Yorker.
Ross juxtaposes different genres of music in his book and said he hopes to demonstrate the similarities between different musicians.
“If I had to boil it down, I’d say the lecture is about what Bach’s “Mass in B minor” and Led Zepplin’s “Dazed and Confused” have in common,” Ross said. “How musicians of different centuries and different genres speak the same language.”
Associate music professor Derek Katz said, unlike most critics, Ross is capable of conveying significant ideas without exuding an air of academia.
“He’s very articulate and talks about important issues in a way that isn’t off-putting,” Katz said. “Academics often write about their subject areas in a way that’s too cumbersome, whereas he doesn’t grapple with it. He gets the big questions without making it inaccessible.”
Meghan Henry, Arts & Lectures senior writer and publicist, said Ross will discuss the recurrence of a four-note baseline, which traditionally evokes lament, throughout history.
“It’s said that fashion never really changes, it just recycles the same idea,” Henry said. “That’s not exactly what Ross is saying, but I think it’s similar. He’s talking about how the exact same baseline has been reflected in different types of music throughout history.”
Baratiak said the lecture will be insightful for anyone who’s interested in attending.
“I think all of us love music,” Baratiak said. “The opportunity to get insight into how music is created, and how the various notes effect us personally is a rare conversation to be able to have.”