On Edward Said’s Love Of Music And Late Beethoven

Teju Cole at Bookforum:

Edward Said loved music, and I loved his love of music as well as the musicality that characterized everything he did. Because of his writings on late style, I think of him in connection with Beethoven’s String Quartet no. 15, op. 132. This was Beethoven’s thirteenth quartet, but the fifteenth in order of publication. It’s the kind of work that tempts one to agree with the strange notion that there is such a thing as pure music, music better than any possible performance. This is a romantic idea, and it’s probably not true, since music exists in the hearing, not on the page. But listening to Beethoven’s Op. 132, you can see why people think so. Within the written tradition of Western classical music, as in all genres of music, there is music that exhausts superlatives. Late Beethoven emerges coherently out of mature Beethoven, and mature Beethoven is an extension and fulfillment of early Beethoven. These are major shifts and distinct modes of evolution, but they are not radical breaks.

more here.