19 Jan 2013 - 14 Dec 2013

What do two world wars, votes for women and a moon landing sound like? We looked for answers in The Rest Is Noise

Taking place throughout 2013, the programme included 100 concerts, 150 talks, film screenings, debates and exhibitions, and involved 18 orchestras including the London Philharmonic, London Sinfonietta, BBC Scottish Symphony, Berlin Philharmonic, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, The Hallé, Northern Sinfonia, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.


The Rest is Noise - The Soundtrack to the 20th Century - long trailer

Our voyage took us from the post-war world of the 1950s through to the turn of a new century.

We provided a map for audiences that included talks, films, debates and concerts to help explain the relationship between classical music and the social and political changes of the last century. This approach, inspired by Alex Ross’ book The Rest Is Noise, allowed us to see the music of that period ‘in the round’ – bringing in the history of science, technology, philosophical and political movements.

The first half, which began in January 2013, covered the period from 1900, when the world was on the brink of imploding into the First World War, and through to the end of the Second World War, just as America’s star was on the rise and the Iron Curtain drew an impenetrable barrier across a shattered Europe.

From September that year we looked at the greatest British composer of the century, Benjamin Britten, and how he emerged as a composer in a nation recovering from war. This investigation of the post-war world continued when we turned our attention to Europe and the generation of avant-garde composers who wanted to make a clean break from history. In the autumn, we explored the social revolution of the 1960s and the distinctly spiritual music that flowered alongside Cold War tensions in the 1970s. And finally, as we moved closer to the year end, we focused on America again – the rise of Hollywood, musical theatre and Minimalism. We concluded with the new world order at the end of the century – globalisation, the rise of the internet and the end of the ‘isms’.

This year-long festival was made possible by our partnerships with our resident orchestras: in particular our principal orchestra partner, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, plus significant contributions from one of our other resident orchestras, the London Sinfonietta. However, orchestras from right across the UK were also involved in addition to many international orchestras, music colleges, youth ensembles and school programmes, all of which helped to create this huge and rich repertoire, plus the BBC, the Open University and many writers, conductors, lecturers and film curators.

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