NY critic, musician

Tonight I went to a roundtable discussion involving John Rockwell, former New York Times music critic; Alex Ross, current New Yorker classical music critic; and Linda Ronstadt, who needs no introduction. The mean age of the audience was at least 40. It was like "Inside the Actors Studio," but for music, and marginally less patronizing.

All three commentators were enlightening, but I went to see Ross. Recently, he's become my main writing influence. Most of my work in the past two months is an obvious and pale shadow of his. His clarity, economy, and insight will always be touchstones for me.

Yesterday, Ross' new book, The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, came out. I bought a copy and did the "fanboy queueing for an autograph" thing. Actually, I was the queue, as everyone else lined up for Ronstadt. There's nothing like droves of elderly people earnestly and slowly buying Linda Ronstadt CD's.

Astoundingly, and unprovoked, Ross signed my book with "Bring the noise!" During the whole discussion, I had been struck by how much Ross resembled Anthrax' Scott Ian (and, to a lesser extent, another Ian, MacKaye of Fugazi). Hence, the above sounds.

Two Ross must-reads: (1) his column this week on classical music and the Internet. It has a fascinating discussion of the Naxos label and its MP3 shop, which ties into my recent digital distribution rant; (2) this wonderful column exploring what "classical" means. I found many (unintended) parallels between classical music and heavy metal, and our experiences writing about our respective genres:

The music attracts the reticent fraction of the population. It is an art of grand gestures and vast dimensions that plays to mobs of the quiet and the shy.

If you know enough metalheads, this rings resoundingly true.