The Queer Composition of America's Sound

The Queer Composition of America's Sound

Gay Modernists, American Music, and National Identity

Book - 2004
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University of California Press
In this vibrant and pioneering book, Nadine Hubbs shows how a gifted group of Manhattan-based gay composers were pivotal in creating a distinctive "American sound" and in the process served as architects of modern American identity. Focusing on a talented circle that included Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson, Leonard Bernstein, Marc Blitzstein, Paul Bowles, David Diamond, and Ned Rorem, The Queer Composition of America's Sound homes in on the role of these artists' self-identification—especially with tonal music, French culture, and homosexuality—in the creation of a musical idiom that even today signifies "America" in commercials, movies, radio and television, and the concert hall.

"In this remarkable book, Nadine Hubbs demonstrates that our understanding of modernist American culture will remain impoverished so long as we ignore the gay social networks and patronage and distinctly queer sensibilities and idioms that influenced (to varying degrees) the work of the great modernist composers Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson, Samuel Barber, Ned Rorem, and Leonard Bernstein, among others. Deeply learned, theoretically sophisticated, and powerfully argued, this is a landmark study, which is sure to inspire a new generation of work drawing together and advancing the insights of musicology, feminist and queer theory, and American cultural history."--George Chauncey, University of Chicago, author of Gay New York

"What does music have to do with homosexuality, or homosexuality with music? That is the question Hubbs explores through a breathtakingly original history of the mid-twentieth-century gay American composers who produced "America's sound." Hubbs shows how sexual desire, aesthetic practice, and social identity shape one another and define specific forms of human consciousness. Her recovery of the homosexual roots of American musical modernism is ultimately a study in the sexuality of culture itself."--David M. Halperin, author of One Hundred Years of Homosexuality and Saint Foucault

"Nadine Hubbs's courageous and important book seeks both to recover the historical significance of the prewar American modernists and to confront some of the reasons behind the relegation of their work to the closet. Compellingly argued and beautifully written, Queer Composition will no doubt raise controversy, but it will be required reading for musicologists, Americanists, and queer theorists."--Susan McClary, author of Conventional Wisdom: The Content of Musical Form

"Hubbs's graceful, shrewd, and nuanced book is the best account yet of the queer sources of much modern American music--and American culture--and a compelling contribution to music history, gay and lesbian studies, and American studies."--Michael Sherry, History, Northwestern University, author of In the Shadow of War: The United States Since the 1930's

Publisher: Berkeley : University of California Press, c2004
ISBN: 9780520241855
Characteristics: xi, 282 p. : ill. ; 24 cm


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