chapter  8
20 Pages

Edward Said and the Interplay of Music, History and Ideology


In the last twenty years of his life Said wrote frequently about music. Musicologists remain, in general, unfamiliar with much of that work, since it appeared mainly in reviews and nonmusicology journals. As a consequence, the best known of his musical writings are his book Musical Elaborations (1991), and the essay on Verdi’s Aida in Culture and Imperialism (1993). Said’s impact on the cultural history and sociology of music, however, has been considerable, and has come about largely by applying his ideas to an understanding of the way musicians have contributed to Orientalism, which Said defi ned, in his ground-breaking book of that title, as ‘a Western style for dominating, restructuring and having authority over the Orient’.1 In doing so, it has been necessary to examine the role of stereotypes in domination, the role of invention in restructuring and the role of silencing or marginalizing in exercising authority. Said’s analysis of the ways in which philology and colonialist discourse embraced the ideological values he termed ‘Orientalist’ has also been reworked as an analysis of the ideological values embedded within the musical stylistic conventions for representing the East that developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In this chapter, I explore the extent to which musicologists writing on these issues have been indebted to Said, and I also examine what it was that made critics either love or hate what he had to say.