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Music At The Limits: Edward Said's Musical Elaborations

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Chapter Summary

For Edward Said, music was an experience at the limits of thought, social practice and life. While seemingly autonomous from the social world, he emphasized music also as an elaboration of civic society. Said was fascinated by music performance as an extreme occasion, concentrated, rarified, often conspicuously discontinuous with ordinary life, in which the highest standards, utter specialization and complex production processes lead to a single event. Among the musical phenomena that fascinated Said most were polyphony and counterpoint. Polyphony is the result of two interacting shaping activities. One is counterpoint, the other is harmony. The contrapuntal activity refers to the simultaneous difference between the melodic and rhythmic profiles of the participant voices. The effect of sonic interference on voices is to a large extent unpredictable, depending on the performer, the performance space, and the position of the listener.

Keywords: Edward Said; harmony; musical counterpoint; musical polyphony



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