Music at the Limits

Edward Said (Author)


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.

Product Details

Columbia University Press
Publish Date
December 01, 2007
6.34 X 1.12 X 9.28 inches | 1.3 pounds
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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.


[Said] was a thinker of great fervency, and it can make for exciting reading.--Rachel Beckles Willson "Times Higher Education Supplement "
[Said's] pieces will reward rereadings for many years to come.--David Schiff "Nation "
These penetrating discussions of music, performance, culture, and human nature are refreshing, enlightening, and definitely not to be tossed aside as yesterday's journalism.--Booklist
This fine collection by one of the most perceptive music critics of the last half-century is highly recommended.--Library Journal
Engaging in his writing about performances.--Palo Alto Weekly
Entertaining... marked by tremendous enthusiasm and a depth and breadth of insight that is rare among writers on any subject.--Economist