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“Late style” is a longstanding aesthetic category in all the arts. Late-style music is presumed to have certain internal qualities (such as fragmentation, intimacy, nostalgia, or concision) and to be associated with certain external factors (such as the age of the composer, his or her proximity to and foreknowledge of death, lateness within a historical period, or a sense of authorial belatedness with respect to significant predecessors). Upon closer inspection, it appears that many of these external factors are unreliably correlated with a musical style that might be described as late. Late style is often better correlated with the bodily or mental condition of the composer: most composers who write in what is recognized as a late style have shared experiences of non-normative bodily or mental function, that is, of impairment and disability. Composers inscribe their disabilities in their music, and the result is often correlated with what is generally called late style. Close readings of four modernist works serve to illuminate the concept: Stravinsky, Requiem Canticles; Schoenberg, String Trio; Bartók, Third Piano Concerto; and Copland, Night Thoughts. In each case, I contend that the features of these works generally understood as markers of lateness are better understood in relation to the disabled bodies of their composers.

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