DAYS 2019

On Counterpoint

© Akinbode Akinbiyi

On Counterpoint


Most people are principally aware of one culture,

one setting, one home; exiles are aware of at least two, and this plurality of vision gives rise to an awareness of simultaneous dimensions, an awareness that—to borrow a phrase from music—is contrapuntal.

Edward W. Said, Reflections on Exile

Edward W. Said saw music as a way of embracing the contradictions of everyday life. It was central to his work as a scholar, and he used it as a way to describe the non-musical. For him, counterpoint—the combination of two or more musical voices that are harmonically interdependent, yet melodically and rhythmically independent—was a fundamental metaphor for describing life’s complexities. Join the Barenboim-Said Akademie in its yearly celebration of Said’s life and work: an interwoven exploration of counterpoint through lecture, concert, and discussion, curated by the Dean of the Akademie, Prof. Dr. Mena Mark Hanna.

With the Edward W. Said Days, the Barenboim-Said Akademie and the Pierre Boulez Saal honor the late Palestinian literary scholar who died in 2003 and together with Daniel Barenboim created the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. Said, who was also a critic, musician, and political activist, is considered one of the founders of the academic field of postcolonial studies. 



Prof. Dr. Mena Mark Hanna, Dean of the Barenboim-Said Akademie, introduces the 2019 edition of the Edward W. Said Days.



Reflections on Exile

Inspired by his own experiences, Edward W. Said throughout his life reflected on the challenges of critical thought and humanist action faced by exiles. For an introduction into Said’s world of thought, read his essay Reflections on Exile and the preface to the eponymous anthology here:


To live in a place where you can never truly feel like you belong – that painful experience is the focal point of the first day of this year’s Edward Said Days. Mahdi Fleifel’s documentary film “A World Not Ours” examines a family’s permanently provisional existence in a refugee camp. In his lecture, Michael Wood focuses on the many oppositions and moments of harmony in literature and music. Finally, the sacred vocal music performed by The Tallis Scholars during their evening concert is suffused by the fervent hope of finding a secure place within the world.


The second day of the Edward Said Days 2019 will revolve around the idea of “home” as something that can never be had but can only ever be lost. In his exhibition, photographer Akinbode Akinbiyi focuses on the strains and internal rifts of a life in exile. Sa’ed Atshan’s lecture will explore the perpetually conflicted situation of the Palestinian intellectual. In the evening, a concert by The Tallis Scholars and Christoph Grund will make unlikely neighbors out of a famous Renaissance musician and a contemporary Palestinian-Israeli composer.


On the last of the 2019 Edward W. Said Days, the focus will be on those disorienting moments when the seemingly familiar suddenly becomes strange and uncertain. In her lecture, writer Adania Shibli will examine how moving between different languages can uncover the inner tensions within the ostensibly adorable, while the concluding concert featuring students from the Barenboim-Said Akademie will reveal counterpoint to be a formal matrix through which different forms of musical expression can communicate with one another – from chamber music and opera in Verdi’s string quartet to folk music and Neoclassicism in Bartók.