Late Styles

Scott Burnham

in Rethinking Schumann

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780195393859
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199894406 | DOI:
Late Styles

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The title and content of this chapter are by way of tribute to John Daverio's striking sense of Robert Schumann's various “late styles,” but should function also as an invitation to consider the phenomenon of artistic lateness as a broad plurality rather than a marked singularity. And yet, following Edward Said's last thoughts on late style, the chapter situates the myriad ways we construct late works within the penumbra of the “untimely.” Aesthetic symptoms of the untimely include overt negotiations with death, aging, and loss; withdrawal from the present (entailing fascination with the past or with some other culture); preoccupation with abstraction; paring down of material; mixing of genres; a distancing emphasis on convention; and the deployment of paratactic structures. After a survey of some of these notions through examples from a range of creative artists and media (including Beethoven, Hölderlin, J. W. M. Turner, Rilke, and even some contemporary figures), Schumann is placed into the mosaic. The theme of death and renewal is traced through several of the composer's late styles, including passages in his late vocal music that make overt reference to death and the opening movement of the Gesänge der Frühe for piano, listening in this latter case for the untimely way Schumann conjures a sunrise with a sunset sensibility. The chapter closes with brief speculation on the nature of our investment in late styles.

Keywords: late style; musical style; music aesthetics; Gesänge der Frühe; Edward Said; Beethoven; Hölderlin; parataxis; untimely; death

Chapter.  7657 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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