Among the many subjects of joint interest to Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said in their published conversations, “musical parallels” was one that allowed them to emphasize the multiple shared concerns of their work while revealing a “limit” creating-impasse between some of their assumptions about relationships between music and language, an impasse that would outlast the duration of the conversations published in Parallels and Paradoxes: Explorations in Music and Society. While some potentially-competing assumptions about relationships between music and language appear at various points throughout the collected conversations, it is during discussion of the possible purposes or “uses” to which musical parallels might be put, including the question of whether or not they could provide access to “meanings” in music, that the impasse becomes most evident to readers. In this article, I examine sometimes-conflicting assumptions about language and meaning Said brought to the conversations in which he encountered from Barenboim a position resembling an instrumental or use perspective on language to which Said at earlier times had been attracted, and I argue that Barenboim offers Said a perspective construable as encouraging Said to return to a position he held firmly at the conclusion of Culture and Imperialism.

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