Music at the Limits

Music at the Limits

by Edward 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 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.

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Product Details

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

About 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.

Table of Contents

Part I: The Eighties
1. The Music Itself: Glenn Gould's Contrapuntal Vision
2. Remembrances of Things Played: Presence and Memory in the Pianist's Art
3. Pomp and Circumstance (on Musical Festivals)
4. On Richard Strauss
5. Die Walkre, Aida, X
6. Music and Feminism
7. Maestro for the Masses (review of Understanding Toscanini)
8. Middle Age and Performers
9. The Vienna Philharmonic: The Complete Beethoven Symphonies and Concertos
10. The Barber of Seville, Don Giovanni
11. Glenn Gould at the Metropolitan Museum
12. Giulio Cesare
13. Bluebeard's Castle, Erwartung
14. Extreme Occasions (on Celibidache)
15. Peter Sellars's Mozart
16. Andras Schiff at Carnegie Hall
Part II: The Nineties
17. Richard Strauss
18. Wagner and the Met's Ring
19. Opera Productions (Der Rosenkavalier, House of the Dead, Doctor Faust)
20. Style and Stylessness (Elektra, Semiramide, Katya Kabanova)
21. Alfred Brendel: Words for Music (review of Alfred Brendel's Music Sounded Out: Essays, Lectures, Interviews, Afterthoughts)
22. Die Tote Stadt, Fidelio, The Death of Klinghoffer
23. Uncertainties of Style (The Ghosts of Versailles, Die Soldaten)
24. Musical Retrospection
25. The Bard Festival
26. The Importance of Being Unfaithful to Wagner
27. Music as Gesture (on Solti)
28. Les Troyens
29.Child's Play (review of Maynard Solomon's Mozart: A Life)
30. 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould
31. Bach's Genius, Schumann's Eccentricity, Chopin's Ruthlessness, Rosen's Gift (review of Charles Rosen's The Romantic Generation)
32. Why Listen to Boulez?
33. Hindemith and Mozart
34. Review of Michael Tanner's Wagner
35. In the Chair (review of Peter Ostwald's Glenn Gould and the Tragedy of Genius)
36. On Fidelio
37. Music and Spectacle (La Cenerentola and The Rake's Progress)
38. Review of Gottfried Wagner's He Who Does Not Howl with the Wolf: The Wagner Legacy—An Autobiography
39. Bach for the Masses
Part III: 2000 and Beyond
40. Daniel Barenboim (Bonding Across Cultural Boundaries)
41. Glenn Gould, the Virtuoso as Intellectual
42. Cosmic Ambition (review of Christoph Wolff's Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician)
43. Barenboim and the Wagner Taboo
44. Untimely Meditations (review of Maynard Solomon's Late Beethoven)
Appendix: Bach/Beethoven

What People are Saying About This

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

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

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

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