The paradox of the canon: Edward W. Said and musical transgression

Colin Symes*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    6 Citations (Scopus)


    Said's chief claim to fame as a scholar is the contribution he made to understanding the power and knowledge behind European colonialism. Less well known is his contribution to music, specifically classical music, which formed a prominent focus of his intellectual energies during the latter years of his life. For Said, who was a proficient pianist who had trained at Julliard, music formed an important backdrop to his overall intellectual project, providing methodological insights such as a "contrapuntal reading" of literature and history. Yet, this aspect of Said's work has not received the critical attention it deserves, something this paper endeavours to redress. It provides a genealogy of Said's musical interests from his days in Cairo through to his collaborations with the conductor Daniel Barenboim and argues that music, more than any of the other cultural phenomena in which Said took an avid interest, was paradigmatic, providing a model political universe, at once utopian and revolutionary.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)309-324
    Number of pages16
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2006


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