This earnest volume is the belated issue of two conferences held almost a decade ago. Many of the contributors digest or supplement books they have written on their topics, sometimes recycling previously published material. (I found earlier publications of one essay, slightly revised, and sentences from another, and there may be others; this is not unusual but should have been acknowledged.) And all the essays sing the same tune about the diversity of late styles. In addition to citing themselves and one another, the other two walls off which the echoes bounce are named Theodor Adorno and Edward Said. All but one of the authors cite one or both, always stressing their limitations, with the final essay devoted to a careful study of Adorno. The redundancies make the collection less than the sum of its parts.

Taking Beethoven as his model, Adorno wrote a well-known essay about daring experimentation and...

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