The rest is noise

Post-War World

Post-War World

Breaking with the past

The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 left an indelible mark, killing 114,000. This dark vision of destruction by a new technology, combined with the liberation of Nazi concentration camps, showed humanity as fragile and vulnerable to annihilation. Western Europe’s victory was achieved at such great cost that it felt like defeat, and in the absence of a common enemy, nations quickly turned against each other in mutual suspicion.

Thus began the Cold War between the USA and its European allies, and the Soviet Union and its satellites – a period of constant anxiety and vast expense.

The shattered landscape that greeted composers after the war was even bleaker because of the disastrous propagandising use to which music had been put – with the past tainted, there was no option but to start from scratch, with a complete rejection of all that had gone before.

A new generation of composers, led by the fiercely brilliant young Boulez and Stockhausen, set about creating innovative, influential and radically new music out of the fire of post-war impossibility.

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(From 10am - 6pm. Note, passes do NOT include entry to concerts)

A new generation. Innovation. Radicalisation. Electronics.

In the six years of the Second World War, art, music and technology had been used to manipulate and destroy. Composers saw no option but to start from scratch and set about creating radical new music in the aftermath of war.

Buy a weekend or a day pass as we look at the music that came from the ashes of war.  A new, post-atomic world had emerged.

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Events include:


From the War to the Wall: Donald Sassoon from the University of London takes us through the political tensions that led to the building of the wall.

Nuria Schoenberg-Nono, Schoenberg’s daughter, lets us into the world of the Darmstadt Summer School – the hotbed of new music where her husband Luigi Nono lectured.

The battle between the intellectuals and the masses – literary critic John Carey enters the battlefield.

Journalist Frances Stonor Saunders asks ‘Who paid the piper?’ in this history of the covertly CIA-funded Congress for Cultural Freedom.

Le Corbousier thought he could reshape mankind through their houses. Author and broadcaster Jonathan Meades discusses these ideas.

Journalist and critic Nicholas Lezard and author Yvonne Sherrat discuss the (sometimes biting) musical criticism of Theodore Adorno.


15 minutes on each of the need-to-know topics of the era including:

Architect Oscar Niemeyer and his gravity-defying buildings, which had a socialist ideology.

'It is up to you to be Lacanians if you wish. I am a Freudian.’ What was the impact of Jacques Lacan?

Albert Camus – this literary and philosophical great was forced to grapple with his own colonial past.

‘A necessary evil’? We consider the impact of the creation of the Atomic bomb.


Grab a coffee and delve inside the music of The Rest Is Noise festival. Composer and present Fraser Trainer leads a fun and informal workshop on Stockhausen’s Gesang der Jünglinge on Saturday.


Don’t know where to start? Let the Guardian’s Tom Service bring the music of Post-War World to life in these beginner’s guides.


Students from Guildhall School of Music and Drama perform music by Xenakis and Cage.


Including our feature film: Stanley Kubrick’s Cold War classic Dr Strangelove.

Post-War World Saturday Day Pass - Saturday 5 October 2013. Book now

Post-War World Sunday Day Pass - Sunday 6 October 2013. Book now

Post-War World Weekend Pass - Saturday 5 October - Sunday 6 October 2013. Book now


Photos from the weekend



4 October - 23rd October 2013

Separate tickets are required for each event

Stockhausen & Boulez: Modern Masterpieces 5 October 2013. Three classic scores that changed the face of modern music forever. Book now


Russia In The Cold War World 4 October 2013. Music from two composers denounced by Stalin's henchman Zhdanov, Prokofiev and Shostakovich.  Book now

Startling Soundworld: Stockhausen and Messiaen  6 October 2013. As part of our exploration of the post-war world,Tamara Stefanovich plays powerful music from four master composers of the 20th century. Book now

Stockhausen: Gruppen 6 October 2013. The London Sinfonietta & Royal Academy of Music play works by leading exponents of the Darmstadt School, Stockhausen and Nono.  Book now

Shostakovich: anguish and insights 20 October 2013. Some of Shostakovich’s most intimately revealing music, played by the world-renowned Borodin Quartet. Book now

The Sacred & The Satirical 23 October 2013. Poulenc's setting of the poem of mourning and salvation, Stabat mater, his charming Piano Concerto and the mood-pictures of Prokofiev's Seventh Symphony. Book now

For more information and to buy tickets for Post-War World, visit the Southbank Centre ticketing website