ISO First Monday Music Club; Hilbert Circle Theatre; Dec. 3
New Yorker Magazine music critic Alex Ross began his live WFYI radio gig from the Wood Room at Hilbert Circle Theatre with a confession: “I’m endlessly fascinated by the collisions of artists with society.” One hour later, the same sentiment could probably be extrapolated to the 150 in the audience and the thousands listening to The Classical Connection with Michael Toulouse. Ross is as absorbing a speaker as he is a writer. In resetting into a public lecture his newly published 624-page book, The Rest is Noise (published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $30, therestisnoise.com), Ross hit the highlights of musical action that has made the 20th century not only fascinating, but equally noisy and profound. He sets the 20th century music clock at the moment the curtain went up for the May 16, 1906, premiere of Richard Strauss’ Salome in Graz, Austria. The wakeup alarm rang with Salome’s curtain-opening clarinet run where “not just two notes but two key-areas, two opposing harmonic spheres, are juxtaposed, and opposites meet.” In big-bang theory, a new form of life emerges.