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

Introduction

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.

Bibliographies

A single online resource is comprehensive for anglophone scholarship.

Thematic Collections

Blackmer and Smith 1995 and Snorton 2013 are defined by genre, Lee 2018 and Whiteley and Rycenga 2006 by a broader focus on popular music. Fuller and Whitesell 2002 examines a historical period, Moore and Purvis 2018 an aesthetic concept. Establishing Identity focuses on the discipline of music education, Law, et al. 2018 on the intersection of race and LGBTQ studies. Pääkkölä, et al. 2019 has a loose conceptual focus. Many are the first of their kind.

Biography

After decades of heteronormative historiography, the first scholars to point to signs of queer identity in the lives of canonic composers faced fierce resistance. The controversy sparked by Solomon 1989 shook the foundations of the discipline. Thomas 1994 caused outrage in Handel circles. Even with composers whose queer sexuality was widely acknowledged, this aspect of their lives was rarely taken seriously as an object of study. Early exceptions are found in Poznansky 1991, Carpenter 1992, and Pollack 1999. Gamson 2005 and Pyron 2000 treat sexuality as key in the lives of popular performers. The legacy of sexism in music history is reflected in the relative scarcity of research into women’s lives. Wood 1993 explores an iconic female figure from classical music, and Albertson 2003 and Echols 1999 examine iconic figures from popular music. Fuller 2002 under History also addresses women’s biography. One cumulative effect of ongoing biographical research is to illustrate the incredible diversity of queer identities and behaviors and their dependence on local cultural contexts. Freitas 2009 under Transgender and Non-binary Gender explores the life of a castrato.

  • Albertson, Chris. Bessie. Rev. and expanded ed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003.

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    A landmark biography of Bessie Smith, “Empress of the Blues,” treating her bisexuality and participation in queer subculture with remarkable candor. Research involved dozens of interviews with close associates. Original edition published in 1972.

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  • Carpenter, Humphrey. Benjamin Britten: A Biography. London: Faber & Faber, 1992.

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    The first biography of the British composer to treat his sexual identity openly and as significant for understanding his musical achievement. Extensive original research.

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  • Echols, Alice. Scars of Sweet Paradise: The Life and Times of Janis Joplin. New York: Metropolitan Books, 1999.

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    A biography of the rock star that chronicles her pansexuality while analyzing some of the contradictions of 1960s counterculture. Based on extensive interviews.

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  • Gamson, Joshua. The Fabulous Sylvester: The Legend, the Music, the Seventies in San Francisco. New York: Picador, 2005.

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    Vivid, entertaining life story of the gender-fluid singer, performance artist, and disco diva as he negotiated race, celebrity, and sexual liberation.

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  • Pollack, Howard. Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man. New York: Henry Holt, 1999.

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    A meticulously researched biography of the composer integrating candid discussion of his romantic and sexual life and considering the cultural politics of Jewish, homosexual, American identity.

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  • Poznansky, Alexander. Tchaikovsky: The Quest for the Inner Man. New York: Schirmer, 1991.

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    A richly detailed and documented portrait of the Russian composer aimed at understanding his sexual and emotional life in the context of the culture in which he lived, and counteracting decades of stigma and censorship.

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  • Pyron, Darden Asbury. Liberace: An American Boy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226117126.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A detailed biography of the popular entertainer that places his flamboyant public persona and secret sexual life in their historical and cultural context, drawing on queer theory.

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  • Solomon, Maynard. “Franz Schubert and the Peacocks of Benvenuto Cellini.” 19th-Century Music 12 (1989): 193–206.

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    A careful reexamination of cryptic documentary evidence suggesting that the canonic composer participated in homosexual subculture, a conclusion that ignited controversy.

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  • Thomas, Gary C. “‘Was George Frideric Handel Gay?’: On Closet Questions and Cultural Politics.” In Queering the Pitch: The New Gay and Lesbian Musicology. Edited by Philip Brett, Elizabeth Wood, and Gary C. Thomas, 155–203. New York: Routledge, 1994.

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    Investigates the question of the canonic composer’s homosexuality and the discursive mechanisms by which it has been suppressed and explained away. Considers Handel’s extensive connections with homoerotic subcultural milieux, along with broader problematics of reception.

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  • Wood, Elizabeth. “Lesbian Fugue: Ethel Smyth’s Contrapuntal Arts.” In Musicology and Difference: Gender and Sexuality in Music Scholarship. Edited by Ruth A. Solie, 164–183. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993.

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    A reading of the English composer’s music, memoirs, and correspondence according to contrapuntal principles, focusing on a period of intense romantic complications, and reflecting on the unconventionality of lesbian autobiographical narratives.

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History

Fuller 2002, Rodger 2020, Tucker 2002, and Tucker 2008 each offer important reflections on problems of evidence, method, and interpretation specific to LGBTQ history. Three weighty books inquire into musical/sexual queerness as a cultural concept or phenomenon with far-reaching historical consequences. Holsinger 2001, by a literary historian, foregrounds an embodied approach, Levitz 2012 a microhistorical approach. McCracken 2015 considers the social regulation of vocality from a media studies perspective.

  • Fuller, Sophie. “‘Devoted Attention’: Looking for Lesbian Musicians in Fin-de-Siècle Britain.” In Queer Episodes in Music and Modern Identity. Edited by Sophie Fuller and Lloyd Whitesell, 79–101. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002.

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    A study of intense emotional attachments among certain women musicians in Victorian and Edwardian England, which provided an alternative space for self-expression. Reflects on the fragility of evidence regarding sexual matters and the role of speculation in writing history.

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  • Holsinger, Bruce W. Music, Body, and Desire in Medieval Culture: Hildegard of Bingen to Chaucer. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001.

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    A revisionist account of musical thought and experience in 12th- to 15th-century Europe, engaging a wide range of texts and contexts. Examines corporeal conceptions of music and musical representations of desire, pain, and sexual alterity in relation to Hildegard, Leonin, and others.

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  • Levitz, Tamara. Modernist Mysteries: Perséphone. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199730162.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A microhistorical study of a single collaborative production by Igor Stravinsky, André Gide, and Ida Rubinstein. Interprets the conception and performance of the work in light of substantial research into male and female homosexual subcultures in France.

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  • McCracken, Allison. Real Men Don’t Sing: Crooning in American Culture. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015.

    DOI: 10.1215/9780822375326Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A substantial intersectional study of the hugely popular white male crooning voice and how it was subjugated in the early 20th century by restrictive masculine norms. Restores queer entertainers and consumers to the historical record.

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  • Rodger, Gillian M. “Queer in the Field? What Happens When Neither ‘Queer’ Nor ‘The Field’ Is Clearly Defined?” In Queering the Field: Sounding Out Ethnomusicology. Edited by Gregory Barz and William Cheng, 67–90. New York: Oxford University Press, 2020.

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    Personal reflections on methodological difficulties related to pursuing ethnographic work in the past, searching for and interpreting queer archives, based on research into male impersonators on the variety stage.

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  • Tucker, Sherrie. “When Subjects Don’t Come Out.” In Queer Episodes in Music and Modern Identity. Edited by Sophie Fuller and Lloyd Whitesell, 293–310. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002.

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    Reflects on methodological and ethical dilemmas related to cross-cultural and cross-generational ethnographic studies of nontraditional sexualities, based on an oral history of female jazz bands.

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  • Tucker, Sherrie. “When Did Jazz Go Straight? A Queer Question for Jazz Studies.” Critical Studies in Improvisation 4.2 (2008).

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    Argues that queer jazz history consists not only in identifying queer participants, but in analyzing and questioning norms and examining what is at stake in specific instances of “queering” and “straightening.”

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Communities and Networks

This section presents studies of community formation or professional affiliation in which music-making and musical taste intersect with queer identity and social behavior.

Classical Music

Dohoney 2014, Hubbs 2004, and Watson 1998 situate prominent composers within queer-affiliated scenes of artistic production; Hubbs gained significant attention for depicting an elite group of gay men as architects of national culture. Morris 2002 focuses on an audience subculture, as does Koestenbaum 1993 under Queer Theory. Balén 2017 is a study of an amateur choral movement in which the division between classical and popular music is permeable.

  • Balén, Julia “Jules.” A Queerly Joyful Noise: Choral Musicking for Social Justice. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2017.

    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1t89k82Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A study of the LGBTQ choral movement as a means of collective personal transformation and a form of cultural organization for social change.

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  • Dohoney, Ryan W. “John Cage, Julius Eastman, and the Homosexual Ego.” In Tomorrow Is the Question: New Directions in Experimental Music Studies. Edited by Benjamin Piekut, 39–62. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2014.

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    A comparative study of two figures in a network of gay and lesbian experimental musicians. The reconstruction of a 1975 performance illustrates their conflicting approaches to performing gay subjectivity through music.

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  • Hubbs, Nadine. The Queer Composition of America’s Sound: Gay Modernists, American Music, and National Identity. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520241848.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A study of a prominent circle of gay composers (Copland, Thomson, Bernstein, and others) as influential cultural agents. Deciphers the sex-gender codes underlying musical style wars in the mid-20th century and explores the role of a self-identification with tonal music, French culture, and homosexuality in the creation of an Americanist musical idiom.

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  • Morris, Mitchell. “Tristan’s Wounds: On Homosexual Wagnerians at the Fin-de-Siècle.” In Queer Episodes in Music and Modern Identity. Edited by Sophie Fuller and Lloyd Whitesell, 271–292. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002.

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    Examines the cultural and aesthetic determinants of the onetime homosexual cult of Wagner, whose operas dramatize sexual dissidence and express an aesthetic of male suffering.

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  • Watson, Steven. Prepare for Saints: Gertrude Stein, Virgil Thomson, and the Mainstreaming of American Modernism. New York: Random House, 1998.

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    A study of the genesis of the opera Four Saints in Three Acts in the context of the Parisian expatriate community and New York’s bohemian scene, with special appreciation of queer artistic networks.

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Popular Music and Media

Among scholars who study physical spaces as sociocultural sites, Buckland 2002 and Lawrence 2003 explore dance clubs, and Hayes 2010 studies women’s music festivals. Cheng 2014 explores virtual gaming space from a sound studies perspective. Amico 2014 describes subcultural practice in Russian urban centers. Clifford-Napoleone 2015 and Hubbs 2014 each examine an individual genre and its queer fans, while Ortega 1995 focuses on fans of an individual performer.

Aesthetics and Interpretation

This form of inquiry postulates that queer subjectivity as shaped by social experience has profound implications for musical meaning, that queer artists develop distinct creative strategies and participate in subcultural traditions. Moore and Purvis 2018 under Thematic Collections and Levitz 2012 under History also address queer aesthetics.

Classical Music

Studies addressing early music include Borgerding 2002 and Wilbourne 2009, focusing on individual works, and Harris 2001, encompassing a significant portion of one composer’s oeuvre. Jackson 1999 and Kramer 1998 interpret canonic Romantic composers. Brett 2006 and Whitesell 2003 explore the work of Benjamin Britten, a key object of study in queer musicology. Whitesell 2010 focuses on an enigmatic modernist figure. Callahan 2018 and Mockus 2008 address influential experimental composers.

  • Borgerding, Todd M. “Sic ego te dilegebam: Music, Homoeroticism, and the Sacred in Early Modern Europe.” In Gender, Sexuality, and Early Music. Edited by Todd M. Borgerding, 249–263. New York: Routledge, 2002.

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    A close reading of a Josquin motet, its Biblical text on David’s lament for Jonathan, and the cultural context surrounding David, suggesting that the motet participates in a homoerotic discourse common in Renaissance sacred culture.

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  • Brett, Philip. Music and Sexuality in Britten: Selected Essays. Edited by George E. Haggerty. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2006.

    DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520246096.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A collection of Brett’s groundbreaking writing (1977–2001) on the British composer, which opened the door to LGBTQ studies in music. Asks how an artist’s sexual, cultural, and personal identities inform specific musical texts. Considers Britten’s operas as well as his role in the British cultural establishment.

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  • Callahan, Daniel M. “The Gay Divorce of Music and Dance: Choreomusicality and the Early Works of Cage-Cunningham.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 71 (2018): 439–525.

    DOI: 10.1525/jams.2018.71.2.439Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A study of the early collaborations of John Cage and Merce Cunningham, arguing against the dominant anti-intentional approach to their work. Draws on archival materials to make connections between details of their private lives prior to their de facto marriage, the thematic content of the works studied, and the pair’s subsequent rejection of an expressive aesthetic.

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  • Harris, Ellen T. Handel as Orpheus: Voice and Desire in the Chamber Cantatas. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001.

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    A comprehensive study of Handel’s cantatas, composed for private entertainments in aristocratic circles in which same-sex desire was commonplace. Explores gender representation, homoerotic subtexts and traditions, and the role of sexuality in artistic expression.

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  • Jackson, Timothy L. Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 (Pathétique). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

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    A concise study of the Russian composer’s final symphony, its genesis, form, and reception. Explores the piece’s implicit program as an ennobled erotic tragedy motivated by the composer’s love for his nephew. Provocative, sometimes questionable interpretations.

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  • Kramer, Lawrence. Franz Schubert: Sexuality, Subjectivity, Song. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

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    A selective study of Schubert’s songs that brings poetic, musical, and Lacanian analysis to bear on the issue of the composer’s sexual orientation. Argues that his songs project and validate an array of errant subjectivities, expressing sexual desire outside the norm.

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  • Mockus, Martha. Sounding Out: Pauline Oliveros and Lesbian Musicality. New York: Routledge, 2008.

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    Examines the career of the avant-garde composer and accordionist, situating her in a woman-centered network of activists and artists during a crucial moment in feminist and queer cultural history. Analyzes Oliveros’s work as a musical form of feminist activism and argues for the productive role of experimental music in lesbian feminist theory.

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  • Whitesell, Lloyd. “Britten’s Dubious Trysts.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 56 (2003): 637–694.

    DOI: 10.1525/jams.2003.56.3.637Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    An analysis of queer aesthetic strategies in three operas and a requiem by Benjamin Britten. Illustrates common dramatic elements of uncanny meetings with strangers in limbo settings, resulting in parables of deviant perception and psychological reorientation.

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  • Whitesell, Lloyd. “Erotic Ambiguity in Ravel’s Music.” In Ravel Studies. Edited by Deborah Mawer, 74–91. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

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    Considers how Ravel’s nonconformist orientation to heterosexual scripts resonates in a creative posture of ironic aloofness as heard in a song cycle and two piano pieces.

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  • Wilbourne, Emily. “Amor nello specchio (1622): Mirroring, Masturbation, and Same-Sex Love.” Women and Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture 13 (2009): 54–65.

    DOI: 10.1353/wam.0.0027Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A study of a 17th-century play in light of commedia dell’arte conventions. Focuses on the sonic aspect of performance, representations of female sexual agency, and the queer possibilities suggested by the shifting relations between characters.

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Popular Music

Barg 2013 and Fast 2014 focus intensively on a few pieces or recordings. Maus 2001 and Randall 2008 consider the entire career of a single artist or group. Royster 2013 and Stephens 2019 survey several artists within a defined period. Leibetseder 2012 and Hawkins 2015 cover the most ground in the first attempts to map out a systematic approach to queer aesthetics in pop music.

  • Barg, Lisa. “Queer Encounters in the Music of Billy Strayhorn.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 66 (2013): 771–824.

    DOI: 10.1525/jams.2013.66.3.771Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Addresses issues of queer identity and aesthetics through a focus on two works by the jazz composer: a set of pieces for a production of a Lorca play and an adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. Highlights themes and aesthetic practices with queer historical affiliations, and positions Strayhorn within modernist, African American gay cultural production.

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  • Fast, Susan. Michael Jackson’s Dangerous. 33⅓ series. New York: Bloomsbury, 2014.

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    An extended essay that reassesses Jackson’s 1991 album as a mature, nuanced artistic statement with a compelling narrative arc and strong racial-political consciousness. Explores his risky and ambiguous performance of gender and sexuality.

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  • Hawkins, Stan. Queerness in Pop Music: Aesthetics, Gender Norms, and Temporality. New York: Routledge, 2015.

    DOI: 10.4324/9781315743639Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    An investigation of queer strategies in popular music and video, covering a wide range of artists and idioms. Draws on theories of queer performativity, opacity, and temporality as well as music analysis. Abundant ideas, cursorily developed.

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  • Leibetseder, Doris. Queer Tracks: Subversive Strategies in Rock and Pop Music. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2012.

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    Interrogates how feminist and queer theories might manifest themselves within rock and pop. Discusses eight prominent subversive strategies (irony, parody, camp, masquerade, mimicry, cyborg, trans, dildo), illustrated by numerous case studies. Originally published in German.

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  • Maus, Fred Everett. “Glamour and Evasion: The Fabulous Ambivalence of the Pet Shop Boys.” Popular Music 20 (2001): 379–393.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0261143001001568Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A study of the 1980s pop duo interpreting their style as articulating an alternative masculinity and manifesting the dilemma of the closet (competing desires to express and withhold), conveyed through double-voiced lyrics, harmonic ambiguity, and other sonic polarities. Considers the role of sexuality in fan reception.

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  • Randall, Annie J. Dusty! Queen of the Postmods. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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    An evaluation of 1960s singer Dusty Springfield’s career and the surrounding discourse, addressing racial cross-identification, sexual identity, and camp sensibility.

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  • Royster, Francesca T. Sounding Like a No-No: Queer Sounds and Eccentric Acts in the Post-Soul Era. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2013.

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    A set of case studies treating popular music as a form of black corporeality and political engagement, with a focus on eccentric performance styles that convey transgressive and utopian sensibilities.

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  • Stephens, Vincent L. Rocking the Closet: How Little Richard, Johnny Ray, Liberace, and Johnny Mathis Queered Pop Music. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2019.

    DOI: 10.5406/j.ctvswx82rSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A study of gender and race in the careers of four performers from the mid-20th-century mainstream who presented nonconformist masculinities and sexualities. Calls for greater nuance in evaluating strategies of queer elusiveness beyond the disparaging metaphor of the closet.

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Musical Theater and Film

The major treatises Miller 1998 and Wolf 2002 focus on the stage musical, and Cohan 2005 analyzes the film musical. Few musical details are discussed, as all three works come from disciplines outside musicology. Dubowsky 2016 offers narrative and musical analysis of dramatic films.

Queer Theory

Original theoretical arguments with broad implications for musical culture and queer forms of knowledge. Brett 1994, Cusick 1994, and Wood 1994 are foundational essays. Koestenbaum 1993 is a stylistically daring treatise by a literary scholar. Attinello 1995, Cheng 2016, Gould 2012, Hankins 2014, Jarman-Ivens 2011, and Maus 2013 each explore unique aspects of affect, epistemology, subjectivity, ethics, or embodiment.

  • Attinello, Paul. “Performance and/or Shame: A Mosaic of Gay (and Other) Perceptions.” repercussions 4.2 (1995): 97–130.

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    Loosely connected personal and theoretical reflections on gay male subjectivity and the musical performance situation, with a focus on vulnerability and negative affect.

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  • Brett, Philip. “Musicality, Essentialism, and the Closet.” In Queering the Pitch: The New Gay and Lesbian Musicology. Edited by Philip Brett, Elizabeth Wood, and Gary C. Thomas, 9–26. New York: Routledge, 1994.

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    Argues that musicality has been assigned a deviant social role throughout Western history and that educational and cultural institutions have developed disciplinary mechanisms to contain music’s inherent danger, ensnaring musicians in repressive dynamics. Draws on a universalizing view of stigma to advocate for change.

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  • Cheng, William. Just Vibrations: The Purpose of Sounding Good. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2016.

    DOI: 10.3998/mpub.9293551Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Personal, informal ruminations on the ethics of care in academic life and acoustic culture, registering queer and disabled perspectives, and advocating reparative attitudes toward music and musicology.

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  • Cusick, Suzanne G. “On a Lesbian Relationship with Music: A Serious Effort Not to Think Straight.” In Queering the Pitch: The New Gay and Lesbian Musicology. Edited by Philip Brett, Elizabeth Wood, and Gary C. Thomas, 67–83. New York: Routledge, 1994.

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    Lyrical notes toward a theory of lesbian musicality, understanding both sex and musicking in terms of embodied intimacy, pleasure, and power, and lesbian subjectivity as changing the rules of the game.

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  • Gould, Elizabeth. “Homosexual Subject(ivitie)s in Music (Education): Deconstructions of the Disappeared.” Philosophy of Music Education Review 20 (2012): 45–62.

    DOI: 10.2979/philmusieducrevi.20.1.45Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A Derridean exploration of the ontological erasure of homosexual subject positions and potentialities of creating lives worth living in the world of music and music education.

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  • Hankins, Sarah. “Queer Relationships with Music and an Experiential Hermeneutics for Musical Meaning.” Women and Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture 18 (2014): 83–104.

    DOI: 10.1353/wam.2014.0004Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Theorizes queer relationships with music as embodied, aroused, and situated, illustrating these fundamentals with reference to fieldwork in Boston-area gender performance spaces. Reflects on the ethical implications of aroused ethnography in a sexualized context.

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  • Jarman-Ivens, Freya. Queer Voices: Technologies, Vocalities, and the Musical Flaw. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230119550Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A set of case studies examining the queer potential of the singing voice as it engages with material technologies and technologies of power, and in relation to ideas of perfection and failure.

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  • Koestenbaum, Wayne. The Queen’s Throat: Opera, Homosexuality and the Mystery of Desire. New York: Poseidon Press, 1993.

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    Poetic reflections on the exaggerated emotional attachments of opera fandom as a source of nurture for the gay male subject, transforming stigma into vicarious majesty.

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  • Maus, Fred Everett. “Classical Concert Music and Queer Listening.” Transposition 3 (2013).

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    A study of listening conventions in classical concerts, with a focus on private, eroticized experience. Builds on earlier studies linking music and sexual subjectivity (including Cusick 1994) to explore a greater diversity of subject positions, such as “bottom” and “femme.”

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  • Wood, Elizabeth. “Sapphonics.” In Queering the Pitch: The New Gay and Lesbian Musicology. Edited by Philip Brett, Elizabeth Wood, and Gary C. Thomas, 27–66. New York: Routledge, 1994.

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    Introduces the concept of a Sapphonic (boundary-crossing, risk-taking) voice to describe a space of lesbian possibility, in a range of erotic and emotional relationships among women who sing and women who listen. Illustrated by reference to historical singers, literary characters, and the works of Ethel Smyth.

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Ethnomusicology

Anthropological approaches to musical culture, gender, and sexuality in its diversity. Barz and Cheng 2020, Robertson 1993, and Wong 2015 offer important reflections on the discipline and its methods. The rest are case studies from different parts of the world: Hutchinson 2016, Morad 2015, and Sunardi 2015 are book-length, Madrid 2018 and Roy 2015 article-length. Maus and Whiteley 2020 under General Overviews includes five ethnomusicological essays. Many of the Popular Music and Media studies under Communities and Networks use ethnomusicological approaches.

  • Barz, Gregory, and William Cheng, eds. Queering the Field: Sounding Out Ethnomusicology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2020.

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    Twenty essays in a landmark collection addressing the normativities at play in musical ethnography and charting new directions for the study of queer music and identity.

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  • Hutchinson, Sydney. Tigers of a Different Stripe: Performing Gender in Dominican Music. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226405636.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A study of gender complexity in merengue típico and other genres of the Dominican Republic, illustrating how traditional musics offer greater leeway for the performance of subversive or atypical gender identities.

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  • Madrid, Alejandro L. “Secreto a voces: Excess, Performance, and Jotería in Juan Gabriel’s Vocality.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 24 (2018): 85–111.

    DOI: 10.1215/10642684-4254513Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A study of the commercially successful Mexican singer, songwriter, and producer, focusing on stylistic excess in relation to mainstream ideas about masculinity. Theorizes the notion of jotería as a libidinal economy of excess that exposes the contradictions of Mexican and Latin American heteronormative fantasies.

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  • Morad, Moshe. Fiesta de diez pesos: Music and Gay Identity in Special Period Cuba. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2015.

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    A study of Havana’s clandestine gay scene in the 1990s and 2000s. Argues that music plays a central role in providing the physical and conceptual spaces which constitute this scene, in the formation of a new hybrid gay identity, and in offering escape from scarcity, oppression, and despair.

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  • Robertson, Carol E. “The Ethnomusicologist as Midwife.” In Musicology and Difference: Gender and Sexuality in Music Scholarship. Edited by Ruth A. Solie, 107–124. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993.

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    A call for awareness of gender diversity in human experience, with reference to people of “mixed gender” in Mapuche and Hawaiian culture. Reflections on disciplinary marginalization.

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  • Roy, Jeff. “The ‘Dancing Queens’: Negotiating Hijra Pehchān from India’s Streets onto the Global Stage.” Ethnomusicology Review 20 (2015): 69–91.

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    A study of newly emerging transgender ensembles among Indian hijras (a casteless queer minority), as an adaptive strategy for updating hijra difference based on the LGBTQ discourse of pehchān (self-acknowledgement), empowering hijras through a global transgender lexicon while renewing preexisting performance repertoires.

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  • Sunardi, Christina. Stunning Males and Powerful Females: Gender and Tradition in East Javanese Dance. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2015.

    DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252038952.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A study of east Javanese dance traditions in which males embody femininity, females embody masculinity, and performers transform traditions to renegotiate the boundaries of gender and sex. Explores the spiritual power associated with female bodies and feminine behavior, and the ways women, men, and waria (male-to-female transvestites) access that power.

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  • Wong, Deborah. “Ethnomusicology without Erotics.” Women and Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture 19 (2015): 178–185.

    DOI: 10.1353/wam.2015.0014Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A critique of ethnographic habits perpetuating silence on matters of sexuality, sex, and heterosexism, and a manifesto for ethnomusicological erotics.

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Transgender and Non-binary Gender

In a recent development, scholars and activists have established trans* studies as a field with distinct concerns and critical perspectives. Baitz 2018 and Pennington 2018a propose general conceptual frameworks. A more practical approach is taken by Constansis 2013. Goldin-Perschbacher 2015, Krell 2013, Pennington 2018b, and Välimäki 2017 provide case studies in different genres. Freitas 2009 brings critical gender perspectives to bear on historical study of the castrato. For transgender research with a global reach, see Ethnomusicology.

  • Baitz, Dana. “Toward a Trans* Method in Musicology.” InThe Oxford Handbook of Music and Queerness. Edited by Fred Everett Maus and Sheila Whiteley. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018.

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    Argues that methods used to approach queer musical subjects cannot adequately account for transsexual ones. Considers a variety of trans artists and calls for a multimodal approach integrating both performative and materialist epistemologies, to make trans subjects more accessible to musicologists.

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  • Constansis, Alexandros N. “The Female-to-Male (FTM) Singing Voice and Its Interaction with Queer Theory: Roles and Interdependency.” Transposition: Musique et Sciences Sociales 3 (2013).

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    Critiques medical warnings to transmale singers about dramatic effects in their vocal personae, and critically examines general attitudes toward transvocality. Discusses vocal health information and considers two case studies based on four participants, providing knowledge valuable to singers, composers, and music coaches.

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  • Freitas, Roger. Portrait of a Castrato: Politics, Patronage, and Music in the Life of Atto Melani. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

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    A biography that reconstructs 17th-century attitudes toward castrati as occupying an eroticized middle ground on a gender continuum, with discussion of their sexual lives.

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  • Goldin-Perschbacher, Shana. “TransAmericana: Gender, Genre, and Journey.” New Literary History 46 (2015): 775–803.

    DOI: 10.1353/nlh.2015.0041Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Describes the phenomenon of transgender and queerly gendered musicians choosing American roots genres as their expressive material. Argues that assumptions of normative identity in Americana music allow these artists to play with identifications around genre as well as expectations of the transgender narrative.

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  • Krell, Elías. “Contours through Covers: Voice and Affect in the Music of Lucas Silveira.” Journal of Popular Music Studies 25 (2013): 476–503.

    DOI: 10.1111/jpms.12047Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A study of the frontman of the band The Cliks, treating voice as a sonic lens for the physical and psychological experiences of transitioning gender. Analyzes Silveira’s practice of singing cover songs both pre- and post-medical transition, suggesting that cover songs evince a dynamic relationship to gender, sex, identity, and embodiment.

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  • Pennington, Stephan. “Transgender Passing Guides and the Vocal Performance of Gender and Sexuality.” In The Oxford Handbook of Music and Queerness. Edited by Fred Everett Maus and Sheila Whiteley. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018a.

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    Draws on transgender passing guides, feminist sociolinguistics, and vocal pedagogy literature to develop tools to analyze normative gender vocal performance. Analyzes the musical performances of cisgender artists trying to pass as their own or a different gender, or queerly twisting vocal norms.

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  • Pennington, Stephan. “Willmer Broadnax, Midcentury Gospel, and Black Trans/Masculinities.” Women and Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture 22 (2018b): 117–125.

    DOI: 10.1353/wam.2018.0012Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A study of Broadnax, a gospel quartet singer and stealth trans man of color, whose vocal stylings expressed solidarity with women performers.

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  • Välimäki, Susanna. “Confronting the Gender Trouble for Real: Mina Caputo, Metal Truth and Transgender Power.” In The Routledge Research Companion to Popular Music and Gender. Edited by Stan Hawkins, 326–346. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2017.

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    A study of the vocalist for the alternative metal band Life of Agony, discussing how Caputo communicates gender variance to a heavy metal audience and how transgender subjectivity finds space even under heteronormative strictures.

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