E dward Said’s book [published posthumously, following his death in 2003 of leukemia] is a series of dazzling case studies exploring the idea of ‘lateness’ in a range of composers, writers and artists.”
London Review of Books.
L ateness doesn’t name a single relation to Time but it always brings Time in its wake. It is a way of remembering Time, whether it is missed or met or gone. … The quality of Time alters then, like a change in the light, because the present is so thoroughly shadowed by other seasons: the revived or receding past, the newly unmeasurable future, the unimaginable time beyond Time. The conversion of Time into Space.”Edward Said, literary theorist and Columbia University Professor of Comparative Literature, had not expected to die when he did, in early Autumn, 2003, at age 67. He had had chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) for more than 10 years. It was an acute infection related to CML blast crisis that took him away. His last book, ‘On Late Style: Music & Literature Against the Grain’, was unfinished at the time, and was completed by Michael Wood at Princeton University. There is both irony and poetic beauty in this fact.
Edward Said, ‘On Late Style: Music & Literature Against the Grain’, p. xi.
The intimacy of chamber music genres provides unusually apropos means to express lateness—the irreconcilabilities of it; the private amusements and perplexities of it—perhaps better than other genres. Lateness: the idea that one is not getting out of this alive, that one cannot go beyond the [terminal] idioms and stances to which one has finally arrived.
Edward Said asserts that ‘lateness’ has to do with ‘the sentiment of Being’ and ‘the sentiments of Art’. But there are plenty of specifics beyond such colorful hand-waving. The book was the result not only of his own drafts of material that were intended to become a published book but also lecture-notes and detailed outline materials that he used in his course on Late Style in the Dept of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia. Lateness: inculcating and sustaining the unity and integrity of the self—its dignity and freedom—like Jane Austen and her judgmental stance toward the selves of her characters.
W ith an unexceptionally Arab family name like Said connected to an improbably British first name, I was an uncomfortably anomalous student all through my early years: a Palestinian going to school in Egypt, with an English first name, an American passport and no certain identity at all.”Lateness: embodying the quality of self-sufficiency and, in anticipation of the finiteness of life, a measure of abandon and acceptance of the human condition. Said’s is a visionary normative stance, just as the qualities we refer to as ‘late’ are likewise visionary and normative. Lateness is the reaching of a new and final level of expression—Titian’s late-period discovery of the all-penetrating light that transmutes human flesh to reveal the soul and an alterior unity (Hermann Broch, quoted by Said, OLS, p. 137). It is the arrival at a state of ‘nothing-left-to-prove’ [to others], a renunciation of ambition.
Edward Said, London Review of Books interview, 07-MAY-1998.
A mutation: the process by which the arduous enterprise of sincerity, of being true to one’s self, came to occupy a place of supreme importance in moral life—and the further cultural shift which finds that place now usurped by the darker and still more strenuous modern ideal of authenticity.”Lateness’ is not about impoverishedness or loss or despondency. It is not about resignation or desolation. It may touch upon these, but it is not ‘about’ them. It is instead about parables and testaments. It is about exile and unashamed subjectivity. It is about the acceptance of life’s contradictions and irresolvable and irreconcilable differences. It is about the sadness of Life and the joy of Life all at once, as Elliott Carter has said. The longing and the fervency of expression may be, if anything, greater than ever in one’s ‘late’ period; just less concerned with coherence than before.
Jacket blurb for Lionel Trilling’s book, ‘Sincerity & Authenticity’.
W hat gripped Adorno in Beethoven’s late work is its episodic character: its apparent disregard for its own continuity … seemingly unmotivated rhetorical devices like trills or appoggiaturas whose role in the work seems unintegrated into the structure … the caesuras, the sudden discontinuities … the work still remains ‘process’ but not as ‘development’; rather as a catching-fire between extremes which no longer allow for any secure middle-ground … the vestige of an individual human sorely aware of the wholeness that has eluded it forever.”The notions of poetics and lateness imply at least some self-awareness. And whenever descriptive representation of a feeling or idea is planned and realized (composed; performed), poetics is met by analysis and interpretation. Composers, especially, cannot help projecting themselves and their own poetics into the analysis and interpretation by which their ideas are realized. Pierre Boulez’s analyses of Debussy and Berg are an example, as, too, are Adorno’s analyses of Beethoven and, now, Said’s analyses.
Edward Said, ‘On Late Style: Music & Literature Against the Grain’, p. 10.
T he most meaningful analysis of a symphony is another symphony. [And, at the end of life, there will be no more symphonies, no continuations of re-thinking things, no more replies.] ”What else? We often see an expressive prolixity in earlier compositions, while in ‘late works’ there is expressive economy. Given just enough notes to sustain the idea, ‘late’ pieces are often harmonically or rhythmically sparse and sometimes lapse into monody, then silence. Sometimes a piece is open-ended, simply vanishing. Early exponents of the practice of ending (‘abandoning’) a work in mid-passage include Frederic Chopin, Robert Schumann, and Franz Liszt. But there have been many since, including Elliott Carter—who spoke of this during his interview with Richard Dyer at Tanglewood last week.
An harmonic adventurousness, a radical chromaticism, a tonal ambiguity? Not necessarily. Those sorts of stylistic artifacts can arise at any ageearly, middle, or late. Instead, what’s new in late compositions or late performances is a pervasive ‘worldliness’—not bitterness or cynicism or resignation. The musician has accumulated what business people jokingly call ‘scar tissue’—psychological grit; metaphysical emery. It doesn’t blunt the expressive edge; to the contrary, the lapidary effect sharpens all of the expressive edges.
One of the facets of ‘lateness’ that Said does not address in his book is the age-independent psychological aspect of how a piece comes unexpectedly to be ‘late’ or have qualities that we associate with ‘lateness’. The composer may have bipolar depression from early on in life, for example. Or the early onset of strokes or Alzheimer’s may fundamentally alter the composer’s or the performer’s perspective while not extinguishing the ability to continue. Or serious events happen in a person’s life that situationally yield the mien of advanced age. All of those can creep into the music. All of those can determine what and how much is left, and how ‘late’ the output that does follow is.
For example, in the late 1950s, the Neo-Classicist Finnish composer Einar Englund experienced a personal crisis and stopped composing. Modernism, which he termed “a mockery of the composer as a serious artist,” had irrevocably changed what was getting commissioned and performed. He said that in that milieu he felt he no longer had anything to say; his Neo-Classical idioms were no longer welcome: the ‘river’ had changed course, and he was left ‘high and dry’ on the old riverbank.
In his autobiography (1996), Englund confided another, more serious reason for the crisis: the tragic death of his wife in 1956, when Einar was 40 years old. Englund didn’t resume composing until 1971. His most productive period in terms of sheer musical output was the 1980s—and those of the ‘later’ Englund pieces that I’ve listened to do manifest some of the desultory attitude or ‘scar tissue’ I’m referring to. Englund died at 83, in 1999.
W hat of artistic ‘lateness’ not as harmony and mature resolution, but as intransigence, difficulty, and unresolved contradiction; as anachronism and anomaly; as a special ironic expressiveness well beyond the words and the situation?”Mahler and Schnittke and many other people have had health conditions that conferred a precocious ‘lateness’ early in their lives as composers. Schubert’s last three string quartets, the String Quintet in C (D 956), the last three piano sonatas (Sonata No. 19 in c (D 958); Sonata No. 20 in A (D 959); Sonata No. 21 in B-flat (D 960), and the ‘Schwanengesang’ cycle are yet another species of lateness that Said does not address. That is, lateness and apprehension sometimes impart a tense, hemmed-in-èdness—an amenability to expediency of orchestration and compositional cliché borne partly out of haste: compromises of the Eleventh Hour; contractions from the radical inventiveness that Said’s treatment of lateness dwells on.
Edward Said, ‘On Late Style: Music & Literature Against the Grain’, p. xiii.
If you haven’t previously seen them, have a look at Edward Said’s books, ‘On Late Style’ and ‘Music at the Limits’. They contain valuable insights for all musicians, with regard to age-appropriate style. And they are, inadvertently, eloquent auto-elegies for Said himself. Touching and, maybe, life-changing for the musician-reader.
A s one can see in the early and the late ‘Goldberg Variations’ performances that eerily frame his career—one at the very beginning, the other at the very end—Gould excavated the contrapuntal as well as chaconne structure of the work to announce an ongoing exploration of Bach’s inventiveness through and by way of his own virtuosic realizations … crafted resolutely against the negation and disorder that surround us on all sides. In enacting it on the piano, the performer aligns himself/herself with the composer, not with the consuming public, which is impelled to pay attention not so much to the performance as a passively looked-at and heard presentation, as to a rational and transcendant activity being intellectually, aurally, and visually transmitted to others.”
Edward Said, ‘On Late Style: Music & Literature Against the Grain’, pp. 130-2.
- Adorno T. Current of Music: Elements of a 'Radio' Theory. Polity, 2008.
- Adorno T. Minima Moralia. Verso, 2006.
- Adorno T. Philosophy of New Music. Univ Minnesota, 2006.
- Adorno T. The Jargon of Authenticity. Routledge, 2006.
- Adorno T. Essays on Music. Univ California, 2002.
- Adorno T. Beethoven: The Philosophy of Music. (Tiedemann R, ed.; Jephcott E, tr.) Stanford Univ, 2002.
- Baker J. Larger forms in the late piano works. The Cambridge Companion to Liszt. Hamilton K, ed. Cambridge Univ, 2005. [Ch. 6, pp. 120-151; re: Schafflos! Frage und Antwort; Unstern! Sinastre, Diastro; Nuages gris; Ossa arida; Und wir dachten der Toten ]
- Barenboim D. Remarks at Said’s memorial service, 03-MAR-2004. (paragraph in middle of page)
- Barone A. Hermeneutics of Later Style. PhD Dissertation, School of Music, Columbia Univ, 1996.
- Berio L. Remembering the Future. Harvard Univ, 2006.
- Feldman M. Give My Regards to Eighth Street. Exact Change, 2004.
- Garland A, Knaus, W, et al. Outcomes up to 5 years after severe ARF. Chest 2004; 126:1897-904. (SUPPORT study, APACHE score, statistical prediction)
- Gourgouris S. The late style of Edward Said. Alif: Journal of Compar Poetics (Cairo) 2005 Jul; 25:168.
- Hamel M, et al. Age-related differences in care preferences, treatment decisions, and clinical outcomes of seriously ill hospitalized adults: lessons from SUPPORT. J Am Geriatr Soc 2000; 48:S176-82.
- Hamel M, et al. Older age, aggressiveness of care, and survival for seriously ill, hospitalized adults. SUPPORT Investigators. Study to Understand Prognoses and Preferences for Outcomes and Risks of Treatments. Ann Int Med 1999; 131:721-8.
- Knaus W, et al. The SUPPORT prognostic model. Objective estimates of survival for seriously ill hospitalized adults. Study to understand prognoses and preferences for outcomes and risks of treatments. Ann Int Med 1995; 122:191-203.
- Lee S, Zelen M. Mortality modeling of early-detection programs. Biometrics 2008; 64:386-95.
- Lee S, Go A, Lindquist K, Bertenthal D, Covinsky K. Chronic conditions and mortality among the oldest old. Am J Publ Health 2008; 98:1209-14. (statistical prediction)
- Lynn J, Teno J, Harrel F. Accurate prognostications of death. West J Med 1995; 163:250-7. (SUPPORT study, APACHE score, statistical prediction)
- Lynn J, Adamson D. Living well at the end of life: Adapting health care to serious chronic illness in old age. WP-137, RAND Corp, 2000
- Lynn J, Harrold J. Handbook for Mortals: Guidance for People Facing Serious Illness. Oxford Univ, 2001.
- Maconie R. Other Planets: The Music of Karlheinz Stockhausen. Scarecrow, 2005.
- Moore K. Edward Said obit. Columbia University Record, 10-OCT-2003. [200KB pdf]
- Said E. Music at the Limits. Columbia Univ, 2007.
- Said E. On Late Style: Music and Literature Against the Grain. Bloombsbury, 2006.
- Said E, Barenboim D. Parallels & Paradoxes: Explorations in Music and Society. Vintage, 2004.
- Said E. Musical Elaborations. Columbia Univ, 1991.
- Solomon M. Late Beethoven: Music, Thought, Imagination. Univ California, 2003.
- Steinitz R. Gyorgy Ligeti: Music of the Imagination. Northeastern Univ, 2003.
- Taylor C. Sources of the Self. Harvard Univ, 1992.
- Trilling L. Sincerity & Authenticity. Harvard Univ, 2008.