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arts

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-B  C-E  F-L  M-Z

     
Music: Classical  
 
page: 1  2  3  4  

Perhaps the most experimental of all twentieth-century composers is John Cage (1912-1992), whose lover was the famous choreographer Merce Cunningham (b. 1919). Cage broke all the rules of compositional control with chance (or aleatoric) processes in his music, leading to his famous "silent" piece, 4'33".

Among leading contemporary gay composers and conductors must be counted Pulitzer Prize- and Academy Award-winning composer John Corigliano, who has composed moving music in response to the AIDS crisis, and Michael Tilson Thomas, who as music director of the San Francisco Symphony has commissioned music by openly gay composer David Del Tredici that sets poems about gay life by authors such as Thom Gunn and Allen Ginsberg.

Sponsor Message.

One could expand this list of gay and lesbian figures in classical music considerably. It is by no means exhaustive, but only highlights some of the best known composers of modern classical music. What is not clear is whether there are more gay and lesbian composers today than before or that we can more easily recognize them when they reveal themselves more clearly. In any case, gay men and lesbians have had a sizable impact on the world of classical music and continue to help shape its future.

Mario Champagne

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arts >> Overview:  Conductors

In spite of the presence of many gay, lesbian, and bisexual figures in the field of classical music, it is difficult to identify more than a handful of self-identified, openly gay or lesbian conductors even in the early years of the twenty-first century.

arts >> Overview:  Opera

Opera, an eclectic synthesis of voice, drama, music, costume, visual arts and spectacle, has played an integral role in queer culture since its development in seventeenth century Venice.

arts >> Barber, Samuel

Despite the spectacular failure of his opera Antony and Cleopatra, American composer Samuel Barber made an enduring contribution to the cultural life of the United States and the world.

literature >> Barney, Natalie Clifford

In addition to being the muse and inspiration of other writers, American expatriate Natalie Barney, known as the Amazon, was a poet, memoirist, and epigrammatist in her own right.

arts >> Bernstein, Leonard

For most of his life, the specter of the closet lurked threateningly behind the glamorous and often brash public image of American composer Leonard Bernstein.

arts >> Blitzstein, Marc

American composer Marc Blitzstein, whose homosexuality probably inspired his sympathy for outsiders, attempted to write politically relevant music, and in doing so influenced other composers to blend classical and popular forms.

arts >> Boulanger, Nadia

Perhaps the greatest teacher of musical composition in the twentieth century, Nadia Boulanger greatly influenced modern classical music.

arts >> Britten, Benjamin

The most acclaimed British composer of the twentieth century, Benjamin Britten created many works that were inspired by his long-time personal and professional relationship with his lover, Peter Pears.

arts >> Cage, John

The music of controversial American composer John Cage contains little autobiographical or gay content, but his ironic emphasis on the importance of silence in music may comment on the imposed silence of the closet.

arts >> Cherkassky, Shura

Widely recognized as one of the world's greatest pianists, Shura Cherkassky performed for more than 75 years, enjoying the longest career in the history of classical pianism.

arts >> Copland, Aaron

Despite his outsider status as a Jewish homosexual, Aaron Copland composed a significant number of musical works that embody the idea of American history, struggle, and courage.

arts >> Corelli, Arcangelo

Arcangelo Corelli, who was probably homosexual, was one of the seventeenth century's most widely admired composers and performers.

arts >> Corigliano, John

American composer of symphonies, chamber works, choral settings, operas, and film scores, John Corigliano has created some of the most moving music inspired by the AIDS epidemic.

arts >> Cowell, Henry

American composer Henry Cowell was an important innovator whose brilliant career was severely damaged when he was arrested and imprisoned for having sex with a seventeen-year-old male.

arts >> Cunningham, Merce

One of the twentieth-century's most influential dancers and choreographers, Merce Cunningham avoided political statement and self-expression in his work, but his collaborative model may be said to represent a queering of the creative process.

arts >> Del Tredici, David

Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer and pianist David Del Tredici, known for his famous "Alice" works and neo-Romantic style, has also written music concerned with gay experience.

arts >> Diamond, David

One of the leading American composers of the twentieth century, David Diamond created music that is melodic and lyrical even as it jumps with modern energy.

arts >> Falla (y Matheu), Manuel de

One of the most illustrious of twentieth-century Spanish composers, Manuel de Falla may have emigrated from Spain in reaction to the homophobia of the Franco regime.

literature >> Forster, E. M.

One of the finest English novelists of the twentieth century and a tireless defender of humane values, Forster deserves a special place in the gay and lesbian literary heritage.

literature >> Ginsberg, Allen

The forthrightly gay Allen Ginsberg is probably the best-known American poet to emerge in the post-World War II period.

literature >> Gunn, Thom

The Anglo-American writer Thom Gunn was a major gay poet and a perceptive critic of gay poetry.

arts >> Handel, George Frideric

Around George Frideric Handel, one of the towering figures of Western classical music, was constructed the first biographical closet, of many to come, for a major composer in the West.

arts >> Harrison, Lou

One of America's most original and articulate composers, Lou Harrison is particularly well known for his use of instruments from the East and his melodic and lyrical style.

arts >> Henze, Hans Werner

German composer and conductor Hans Werner Henze was remarkable for his ability to employ a wide range of styles, from those of the avant-garde to opulent neo-Romanticism, especially in his many stage and concert works.

arts >> Hildegard of Bingen

Hildegard of Bingen, a German Benedictine abbess, mystic, scientific and theological writer, dramatist, and composer, formed a strong emotional attachment to a young nun and wrote music that expresses physical and spiritual desire for the Virgin Mary.

arts >> Horowitz, Vladimir

Russian-American pianist Vladimir Horowitz is widely regarded as among the greatest musicians of the twentieth century; his legendary artistry, preserved on recordings, remains a source of inspiration and delight.

arts >> Hough, Stephen

The British concert pianist Stephen Hough is among the most talented and most highly acclaimed classical musicians of his generation.

arts >> Ivory, James (b. 1928), and Ismail Merchant (1936-2005)

Perhaps the most enduring and influential gay partnership in film history, James Ivory and Ismail Merchant are known for their visually sumptuous period pieces based on literary classics.

arts >> Lully, Jean-Baptiste

Seventeenth-century composer Jean Baptiste Lully established the basic principles of French opera, but his career declined as the result of a homosexual scandal.

literature >> McKuen, Rod

The poems and songs of the amazingly prolific Rod McKuen express a bittersweet, aching tenderness that has endeared him to millions of fans.

arts >> Menotti, Gian Carlo

One of the leading classical composers of the twentieth century, Gian Carlo Menotti not only had a distinguished career, but also achieved acclaim at a time when his uncloseted homosexuality could have been a major barrier.

arts >> Mitropoulos, Dimitri

Conductor and composer Dimitri Mitropoulos achieved great success in the world of classical music, but was yet another victim of McCarthy-era homophobia.

arts >> Ottman, John

In addition to scoring over thirty full-length motion pictures, American film composer, editor, and director John Ottman has also created musical compositions for numerous short films, television programs, and commercials.

literature >> Philips, Katherine

Two-thirds of the poems of Katherine Philips, "The Matchless Orinda," concern erotic relationships among women.

arts >> Poulenc, Francis

One of the first openly gay composers, Francis Poulenc became one of the most thoughtful composers of serious music in the twentieth century.

arts >> Rorem, Ned

American composer Ned Rorem is one of the most accomplished and prolific composers of art songs in the world, but his musical and literary endeavors extend far beyond this specialized field.

arts >> Rosenmüller, Johann

Seventeenth-century German composer Johann Rosenm├╝ller survived a homosexual scandal in Leipzig to reconstitute his career in Venice.

arts >> Saint-Saëns, Camille

One of the most highly honored French figures of his day, composer Camille Saint-Saëns reputedly declared--perhaps sardonically--that he was not a homosexual but a pederast.

arts >> Schubert, Franz

The question of the homosexuality of Franz Schubert, among the greatest composers of classical music, is a subject of continuing debate.

arts >> Smyth, Dame Ethel

The most important female composer in early twentieth-century English music, Dame Ethel Smyth enjoyed a class privilege that allowed her to be an unapologetic lesbian.

arts >> Sondheim, Stephen

One of the most innovative talents of the musical theater in the second half of the twentieth century, Stephen Sondheim has only indirectly reflected his homosexuality in his work.

literature >> Stein, Gertrude

In addition to becoming--with Alice B. Toklas--half of an iconic lesbian couple, Gertrude Stein was an important innovator and transformer of the English language.

arts >> Szymanowski, Karol Maciej

Revered as the father of Polish contemporary classical music, Karol Szymanowski unequivocally expresses homoeroticism in his music.

arts >> Tchaikovsky, Pyotr Ilich

One of the greatest composers in the history of music, Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky inspired a cult of gay admirers who detected in his work themes of forbidden love.

arts >> Thomson, Virgil

Critic and composer Virgil Thomson was a pioneer in creating a specifically American form of classical music that is at once "serious" yet whimsically sardonic.

arts >> Wagner, Siegfried

Siegfried Wagner, the son of composer Richard Wagner, was himself a prolific composer and conductor; his bisexuality was the source of both scandal and also of elaborate attempts to erase it from histories of the Wagner family.


    Bibliography
   

Blackmer, Corinne E., and Patricia Juliana Smith, eds. En Travesti: Women, Gender Subversion, Opera. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995.

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

GLSG Newsletter, the Gay & Lesbian Study Group of the American Musicological Society (1991-).

Koestenbaum, Wayne. The Queen's Throat: Opera, Homosexuality, and the Mystery of Desire. New York: Vintage Books, 1993.

Kopelson, Kevin. Beethoven's Kiss: Pianism, Perversion, and the Mastery of Desire. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996.

Kramer, Lawrence, ed. "Schubert: Music, Sexuality, Culture." Nineteenth-Century Music 17.1 (Summer 1993).

Solie, Ruth, ed. Musicology and Difference: Gender and Sexuality in Music Scholarship. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Champagne, Mario  
    Entry Title: Music: Classical  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated September 4, 2006  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/arts/music_classical.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
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    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  
 

 

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