We turn our attention to music as we continue to mark the publication of the latest issue of The LaTrobe Journal, Queen City of the South: Gay and Lesbian Melbourne. But can music be “gay”? Composers certainly can be, as can performers (not to mention listeners), but what about music itself? An interesting question, just don’t ask me for an answer!
Jean-Baptiste Lully is a personal favourite of mine, having first heard his music in my school days through a recording of his extraordinary Te Deum, a piece which puts the rock into Barock (pardon the dreadful pun!). It’s a fantastically exuberant setting, as you can see and hear on this YouTube clip from the great William Christie and his band Les Arts Florissants, and it seems to encapsulate all of the pomp and gloire of the court of Louis XIV. Lully was “gay” centuries before that word was in use, and lived his life fairly openly (some would say ferociously!), only getting married when the king made it clear that a bit of decorum was in order; the marriage was remarkably successful and two of his sons also became court musicians. He died when his foot became gangrenous after stabbing himself with his conducting cane during a performance of this same Te Deum, which seems horribly apposite! You can find more Lully material by checking our catalogue, and you can also listen to some of his works through the Naxos Music Library, via our eresources page.
This book is indicative of some of the very fine research that has been going on in gay musicology over the last few years. The usual suspects such as Tchaikovsky are of course here, but things start getting really interesting with chapters such as: The “dark saying” of the Enigma : homoeroticism and the Elgarian paradox, and Musicology and sexuality : the example of Edward J. Dent.
Along similar lines is Queering the pitch : the new gay and lesbian musicology, edited by Philip Brett, which includes tantalising chapters such as “On a lesbian relationship with music : a serious effort not to think straight” by Suzanne Cusick and “Was George Frideric Handel Gay?” : on closet questions and cultural politics” by Gary Thomas. Interesting times we live in!
No encyclopaedia can claim to be comprehensive, but this one can at least claim to be entertaining! Everything from Tchaikovsky to Dusty Springfield, drag shows to ballet, pop to classical; names you’d expect to find, and a few surprises! Read on…..
An examination of the impact on gay men of popular music, how they make it and listen to it, and how it in turn responds to them, sometimes positively and sometimes less so. Even some of the chapter headings get you thinking: “Hope I Get Old Before I Die: Pop and AIDS”, “Let’s (Not) Talk About Sex: Sex, Pop and Censorship” and “Preaching to the Perverted: Homocore and Queercore”. There’s certainly much more to pop music than meets the ear.
For those of you looking for something a little more gossipy, Boze Hadleigh can always be relied on; clever title too!
For lots more gay studies material just check the catalogue
(Mind you terminology can be problematic now and then, although I don’t think Ivor Novello would mind!)