Music at the Limits

Music at the Limits

by Edward W. Said
     
 

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Music at the Limits is the first book to bring together three decades of Edward W. Said's essays and articles on music. Addressing the work of a variety of composers, musicians, and performers, Said carefully draws out music's social, political, and cultural contexts and, as a classically trained pianist, provides rich and often surprising assessments of

Overview

Music at the Limits is the first book to bring together three decades of Edward W. Said's essays and articles on music. Addressing the work of a variety of composers, musicians, and performers, Said carefully draws out music's social, political, and cultural contexts and, as a classically trained pianist, provides rich and often surprising assessments of classical music and opera.

Music at the Limits offers both a fresh perspective on canonical pieces and a celebration of neglected works by contemporary composers. Said faults the Metropolitan Opera in New York for being too conservative and laments the way in which opera superstars like Pavarotti have "reduced opera performance to a minimum of intelligence and a maximum of overproduced noise." He also reflects on the censorship of Wagner in Israel; the worrisome trend of proliferating music festivals; an opera based on the life of Malcolm X; the relationship between music and feminism; the pianist Glenn Gould; and the works of Mozart, Bach, Richard Strauss, and others.

Said wrote his incisive critiques as both an insider and an authority. He saw music as a reflection of his ideas on literature and history and paid close attention to its composition and creative possibilities. Eloquent and surprising, Music at the Limits preserves an important dimension of Said's brilliant intellectual work and cements his reputation as one of the most influential and groundbreaking scholars of the twentieth century.

Editorial Reviews

Booklist
These penetrating discussions of music, performance, culture, and human nature are refreshing, enlightening, and definitely not to be tossed aside as yesterday's journalism.

Palo Alto Weekly
Engaging in his writing about performances.

Times Higher Education Supplement
[Said] was a thinker of great fervency, and it can make for exciting reading.

— Rachel Beckles Willson

Nation
[Said's] pieces will reward rereadings for many years to come.

— David Schiff

Economist
Entertaining... marked by tremendous enthusiasm and a depth and breadth of insight that is rare among writers on any subject.

Times Higher Education Supplement - Rachel Beckles Willson
[Said] was a thinker of great fervency, and it can make for exciting reading.

Nation - David Schiff
[Said's] pieces will reward rereadings for many years to come.

Publishers Weekly

Though best known for his political writings (Orientalism), Said was also, from 1986 until his death in 2003, the music critic for the Nation, and this collection draws together reviews from that publication and other magazines. Said had very firm opinions and lashed out against New York City's classical music scene in the 1980s and early '90s for producing "safe but grimly uninteresting performances and repertories." Instead of simply blaming "the intellectual cowardice of most contemporary musicians," however, he was able to provide detailed technical critiques of a conductor's handling of a Beethoven symphony or a singer's inadequacies in a Wagnerian role. Glenn Gould's intellectualized style of playing was a source of fascination to the critic, and new biographies or films about the pianist would inevitably draw his attention. Said also writes about his friendship with Daniel Barenboim (who contributes an introduction), which leads to one of the few discussions of Middle Eastern politics; a review of the controversial opera The Death of Klinghoffersparks another. For the most part, however, his attention is strictly on the music, and he proves himself to have been astute and passionately engaged. (Nov.)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231139373
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
05/18/2009
Pages:
344
Sales rank:
1,333,920
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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What People are saying about this

Herbert Lindenberger

In their gutsiness, flair, and sheer intellectual power these writings remind the reader of George Bernard Shaw's work as a music critic. Covering twenty years of Edward W. Said's life, this book embodies a coherent and compelling view of both performance and music history.

Herbert Lindenberger, Stanford University

Maynard Solomon

In this brilliant collection, Edward W. Said focuses the power of his intellect and refined musical sensibilities upon an abundant range of topics, which became the broad reflections of an engaged and passionate critic on the state of music at the dawn of the twenty-first century. The sheer eloquence of Said's writings reminds us that with his untimely death we have lost one of our most distinguished music critics.

Maynard Solomon, The Juilliard School

Lydia Goehr

This book offers extraordinary insight into the development of Edward W. Said as a music critic. It shows the breadth of his musical knowledge and the strength of his musical and political convictions. Provocative and witty, learned yet often despairing, Said's writings construct a fascinating but critical picture of the music and the musicians of our times.

Lydia Goehr, Columbia University, coeditor of The Don Giovanni Moment: Essays on the Legacy of an Opera

Radu Lupu

Here is the ardent voice of Edward W. Said, turning his versatile spirit to music, of which he has a profound understanding. Wherever appropriate in his virtuoso intellectual performance, he weaves around his main subject of discussion supporting threads of social, historical, literary, philosophical, and political considerations, creating a grand, unified, visionary whole. Throughout the book, Said's clear, passionate prose resonates with energy and vitality, qualities very much characteristic of this wonderful man who left us too soon.

Radu Lupu, Grammy Award-winning concert pianist

Linda Hutcheon

Haunted by the late Glenn Gould, these are the dazzling encounters of a consummate musician and cultural theorist with everyone musical from Wagner to Boulez, Brendel to Barenboim, Mozart to Strauss. Reading and listening with open eyes and ears and with a deep musical knowledge, Edward W. Said engages provocatively with music in all its forms—live, recorded, talked and written about—and makes brilliant bridges to the other arts but also to the political and the ethical dimensions of life that concerned him so deeply.

Linda Hutcheon, University Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of Toronto

Meet the Author

Edward W. Said (1935-2003) was University Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He was the music critic for the Nation and the author of numerous books, including Out of Place, Culture and Imperialism, and Orientalism. His books with Columbia University Press include Joseph Conrad and the Fiction of Autobiography, Humanism and Democratic Criticism, Beginnings: Intention and Method, and Musical Elaborations.

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