Music Queer Musicology
Lloyd Whitesell
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 July 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0277


Queer musicology is a field dedicated to the study of sexual and gender diversity as it relates to music. This may focus on people who identify with a specific minority group, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ). It may explore a sense of fluidity in the face of identity categories or binary thinking. It may seek to understand underlying cultural habits, regulatory systems, or gendered discourses that affect all people in a society. In other words, queer musicology raises a big tent, making room for multiple, even contradictory approaches (identitarian versus anti-identitarian, minoritarian versus universalist). Taking cues from feminist studies and following a critical turn in the 1980s toward the social, personal, and embodied dimensions of music, its original practitioners were motivated by a desire to remedy longstanding heteronormative practices in the discipline. Just as in the wider humanities, where gay and lesbian studies paved the way for queer theory and then transgender studies, there has been a continuous evolution of the field’s burning questions and representative voices. Important intellectual projects include historical reconstruction of suppressed life stories, the study of social groups, hermeneutics, aesthetics, and the theoretical exploration of music’s role in queer forms of knowledge.

General Overviews

Brett and Wood 2001 provides a concise introduction. Three edited collections aim to present overviews of the field: Brett, et al. 1994 at its inception, Peraino and Cusick 2013 and the more sizable Maus and Whiteley 2020 at later points in its evolution. The Queer Music Heritage site constitutes a sprawling archive for a general audience. Peraino 2006 is the sole monograph so far to offer a unified theoretical and interpretive project across a sweeping historical span.

  • Brett, Philip, and Elizabeth Wood. “Lesbian and Gay Music.” GLSG Newsletter for the Gay & Lesbian Study Group of the American Musicological Society 11.1 (2001): 1–20.

    An encapsulation of the emerging field, its major themes and conceptual horizons. A longer version of the article published in the Grove Music reference (as “Gay and Lesbian Music”), with editorial alterations and cuts restored. Includes commentary on the politics of the editorial process.

  • Brett, Philip, Elizabeth Wood, and Gary C. Thomas, eds. Queering the Pitch: The New Gay and Lesbian Musicology. New York: Routledge, 1994.

    The book that launched the field. Thirteen essays demonstrating a range of approaches, including several foundational arguments. Second edition published in 2006.

  • Maus, Fred Everett, and Sheila Whiteley, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Music and Queerness. New York: Oxford University Press, 2020.

    Thirty-two essays representing the state of the field and suggesting new directions. Online version available as of 2018.

  • Peraino, Judith A. Listening to the Sirens: Musical Technologies of Queer Identity from Homer to “Hedwig.” Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2006.

    A major theoretical statement about music as anti-normative, and a generous array of case studies exploring music’s queer purposes and values from Antiquity to the early 21st century.

  • Peraino, Judith A., and Suzanne G. Cusick, conveners. “Colloquy: Music and Sexuality.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 66 (2013): 825–872.

    DOI: 10.1525/jams.2013.66.3.825

    Aiming to give an overview of scholarship on the intersection between music and sexuality, nine contributions identify some guiding principles of queer musicology, reflect on how inquiry has evolved over the years, and highlight recent trends within studies of sexual and gender diversity.

  • Queer Music Heritage: Gay Radio, Lesbian Radio, Transgender Radio. Compiled by JD Doyle.

    Archive of the “Queer Music Heritage” radio show (2000–2015), preserving and exploring the history of LGBT music. 2,000+ pages on diverse topics; 580+ hours of programming.

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