Barenboim and Said: 'Parallels and Paradoxes'

A Unique Intellectual Collaboration Between Scholar, Musician

Edward Said

Edward Said Columbia University hide caption

itoggle caption Columbia University
Daniel Barenboim

Daniel Barenboim Chicago Symphony Orchestra hide caption

itoggle caption Chicago Symphony Orchestra

At first glance, Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said would seem to have little in common. But the two men share a passion: their love of music.

Barenboim, descended from Russian Jews who emigrated to Buenos Aires, is musical director for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Berlin State Opera. He moved with his family to Israel as a child, and has lived in Europe for most of his life.

Said was born in Jerusalem to a Christian Arab family. He spent his childhood in Cairo, and as a teen left to study in the United States.

Now a Columbia University professor of English and comparative literature and a cultural studies scholar, he is a highly respected commentator on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Said is an accomplished pianist as well, and says it was music that drew the two men together following their first meeting in the early 1990s.

Over the past several years the two men have carried on a series of conversations about topics ranging from music to events in the Middle East.

Those conversations, drawn from both public lectures and private encounters caught on tape, are now collected in a new book, Parallels and Paradoxes: Explorations in Music and Society.

NPR's Scott Simon talks with the two men about their intellectual relationship and the role of music in everyday life.

They also talk about a pivotal event in 1999, when Barenboim and Said invited a group of young Arab and Israeli musicians to a workshop in Weimar, Germany.

At that gathering, the young musicians focused on learning and performing the music of Beethoven — an experience, Said and Barenboim say, that enabled the musicians to transcend their national identities — and be, first and foremost, musicians.

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