With his lively essays, New Yorker music critic Alex Ross provides many of us with the music education we never got. Ross himself is a passionate consumer of serious music of all kinds, and he draws on a wide array of cultural references and extensive historical research to make it more accessible to his readers.

Many of his New Yorker essays are included in the volume The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, which collects his richly detailed accounts of those moments when history and music composition have been most actively and intriguingly in dialogue. He talks to Nextbook about Arnold Schoenberg’s Vienna, Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Hollywood, and the life and work of composer Morton Feldman, who worked by day in the family business: a children’s overcoat factory.