Orientalism within Piano Pedagogy

  • Kat Taxidou MMus Musicology Graduate, The University of Edinburgh


When learning a piece of music, we are often given a performance direction to better understand the mood or style of the piece. In Kevin Wooding’s piece, “The Egyptian Level,” featured in the 2019-2020 ABRSM Piano Exam Syllabus, the performance direction given is “Egyptically.” This poses an important question: how do we play “Egyptically?” The various styles and musical cultures that a student is exposed to in their instrumental lesson, and the language surrounding it, can be seen to affect their overall view of what is the “serious” music to learn, and what can be viewed as a joke. Edward Said’s work on orientalism is referenced in order to fully comprehend the distinctions created between the West and the “other.” In addition, using recent research from Dr Erin Johnson-Williams, we can fully understand the ABRSM’s colonial past, and if there have been any changes in how they operate today.