Gay composers

September 9, 2019, 6:54 AM · Hello. I've been thinking of playing a charity concert next year for an LGBT charity in the UK, and thought it would be quite fitting to have pieces composed by said community. Does anyone know any that composed things for violin/viola and piano?

Thanks in advance!

Replies (121)

September 9, 2019, 7:30 AM · Britten wrote a violin concerto and a Suite for Violin and Piano - though I have never heard any of them performed!
September 9, 2019, 8:16 AM · Poulenc has a gorgeous violin sonata, and Corigliano of course has stuff for violin.. There's the Barber violin concerto, although not sure if you'd want to be doing concertos. An arrangement of something by Bernstein - say, pieces from West Side Story - would probably be pretty easy to find and a crowd-pleaser.
September 9, 2019, 8:26 AM · Schubert, Tchaikovsky, Saint-Saens, Barber, Evan Fein, Copland, Menotti, Rorem...
Edited: September 9, 2019, 9:06 AM · I am puzzled why the composer had to be gay? The whole idea of tolerant and inclusive society has gone too far, imho. Music is music and it is a sad day when you choose to play Tchaikovsky because he was alegedly homosexual. If you want to rise above pick a movement labeled as gay and laugh
September 9, 2019, 9:07 AM · "The whole idea of tolerant and inclusive society has gone too far, imho."

Rocky, I think your attitude is a perfect example of why it's important to highlight and celebrate contributions from / accomplishments by minority groups. Would you have the same ugly response if Jake wanted to find pieces by Scottish composers to play for a Scottish cultural heritage group?

Edited: September 9, 2019, 10:52 AM · Irene, I had 2 gay friends back in my country when it was quite dangerous to do so. I walk the walk before I talk the talk. Can you say the same and still see when a culturaly appropriate attitude borders with hipocrisy? Why is it that whoever rises a common sense question is instantly labeled as the opposite? This will not help the gay cause or just any minority issue.
Edited: September 9, 2019, 12:04 PM · Ned Rorem wrote a beautiful set of movements for violin and piano called Night Music. I played a selection of movements on my senior recital at Oberlin.

Editing to add that you'll need a good pianist for these, though.

Edited: September 9, 2019, 12:01 PM · I think Irene is spot-on. It's an LGBT event, so spotlighting LGBT composers seems entirely appropriate. If you were playing at a luncheon for the Women's Club, you might very well choose to highlight women composers. If you're playing for the Estonian Heritage Club, you'd almost certainly try to pick an Estonian composer or two.

Rocky's response reminds me of all the people who say, "But I have a black friend!" (My mother gets it in the form of, "Those Chinese people are X-awful-thing! Well, I don't mean YOU. You're my friend.")

Edited: September 9, 2019, 12:10 PM · I will abstain from more comments on this since my point is completely misinterpreted and miss understood and missused.
September 9, 2019, 2:17 PM · I’m surprised by the lack of reading comprehension or mendacity some people can show. Rocky didn’t say at all what some users intend to make him say.
Edited: September 9, 2019, 2:35 PM · Also consider Charles Tomlinson Griffes, whose music was suppressed by his sister after his death because she discovered through his diaries that he was gay. Though he did not write anything for violin/viola and piano, his Poem for flute and orchestra (which is still performed with some frequency) has been published in an arrangement for violin and piano.
Edited: September 9, 2019, 2:54 PM · Some recent scholarly research I’ve read suggests G.F. Handel was also gay. Any of the 6 wonderful violin sonatas by Handel you could play with either piano or harpsichord.
September 9, 2019, 2:51 PM · Miguel, please enlighten us, O Brilliant One, as to what Rocky meant to say.

Quote: "The whole idea of tolerant and inclusive society has gone too far, imho. Music is music and it is a sad day when you choose to play Tchaikovsky because he was alegedly homosexual." seems awfully straightforward to interpret.

September 9, 2019, 2:52 PM · Szymanowski as well.

I think I understood what Rocky was saying to not be pejorative. It's sort of an interesting exercise to build a program out of the personal lives of composers, when really there is some pretty shady stuff you can run into. Take Britten - He may have been homosexual, but there are also quite a few (seemingly credible) accusations that he was really more of a pedophile by orientation.

So if you take looks into building programs based on the personal lives of composers, you have to contend with stuff like that, Wagner's (and many other's) anti-semitism and racism, how many cheated on their wives, or a million other things. Then there's the aspect of speculating on things that were sometimes hearsay. Or one wonders what someone living in a different time and culture would make of the lgbt community.

But on the other hand, that's a lot of pontificating, and I think it's quite a reasonable idea to build a program around a theme like gay composers. It's all part of history, and these names are undoubtedly important to people now as being connected to their sense of themselves as part of a marginalized group.

Edited: September 9, 2019, 2:54 PM · Recently Beethoven scholarship also suggests that he might have been gay. (LINK)

On the topic of thematic topic-building: You could probably build an interesting program out of music written about/for a composer's mistress rather than for his wife. :-)

September 9, 2019, 2:55 PM · Starts to sound as if they were all gay ;)

[Rocky - I do get what you are saying but the fact is society is so far from parity that its too early for your step. Just look what is happening south of the border - if there was parity that would be unthinkable.]

September 9, 2019, 3:01 PM · @Lydia, I had that same idea as well
Edited: September 9, 2019, 3:34 PM · I don't think Rocky's idea was meant to be in any way disparaging towards being gay although the phrasing unfortunately is negatively suggestive and the idea of inclusivity and tolerance going too far is a trope used by right wing factions and even misguided liberals (as a racial parallel, the notion of colour blindness).

But in essence, I understand his point that music is beyond the circumscription of a composers sexuality and therefore irrelevant to it. But, on the other hand, highlighting the contributions of historically oppressed faction of people is a way of socially and politically empowering them and educating the rest. In an équitable world, this would be irrelevant and needless..but this world is far from being one.

On the other other hand, I don't know to what extent identity politics can be a bit too self segregating

Edited: September 9, 2019, 3:39 PM · Lydia: I think what Rocky really intended to say is that the whole idea of of tolerant and inclusive society has gone too far in his honest opinion. That music is music and that it is a sad day when you choose to play Tchaikovsky because he was allegedly homosexual. I hope this helps you shed some light on the matter.
September 9, 2019, 3:56 PM · You just repeated what he wrote, Miguel. The way that many of us are reading that literal statement is that it is, as Irene put it, "an ugly response".

Thematic programs, especially when one is playing in front of an interest group, are very appropriate. Would we say "music is music" and, at a Russian embassy program, not deliberately choose music by Russian composers?

Composers are influenced by their cultural backgrounds and their personal lives. This is particularly relevant in the case of Tchaikovsky, whose disastrous marriage was significant to, for instance, the composition of his violin concerto.

September 9, 2019, 4:09 PM · Lydia, I don't think that music is informed by sexuality the way it is informed by its cultural and national context. We can clearly see a grouping of music composed by Russian musicians that displays Russian vernacular musical roots: folk, religious, etc.... But I don't think one can say that there is 'gay music' as such that informs music language per I'm not sure of that analogy.
Edited: September 9, 2019, 4:24 PM · I had no idea that most of those composers were gay. So according to what is written in this topic Britten was gay. If that is the case you can play his Elegy for solo viola. A beautiful piece. You can hear it on YouTube. There are quite a few YouTube videos with different violists playing it.

It seems as if also Schubert was gay according to this thread. Then there is the Arpeggione Sonata by Schubert. Originally written for arpeggione and piano. Transcribed both to viola and piano as well as cello and piano. Some places need to be played in a different octave compared with the original edition. There are differnt viola editions out there, some editions have a different octave in some places compared with other editions. Anyway it is a great piece and works very well for viola and piano.

Also this piece can be found on YouTube both the viola and cello versions. There is also a YouTube video with the original instrumentation arpeggione and piano. So even that arpeggione is a very rare instrument it does exist and there is someone playing it. It was a new instrument when Schubert lived and he composed his piece for this new instrument.

September 9, 2019, 5:26 PM · But performing music isn't about performing "the greatest" music all the time. All musical performances exist within a social and cultural context. When you're playing at a LGBT event, it makes sense to play something by a gay composer.

As for the lack of "gay music" in terms of musical language that misses the point. Given that the vast majority LGBT people were closeted for fear of persecution until relatively recently, one of the main messages from playing music by a gay composer (especially one from a longer time ago) is that gay people have always existed.

September 9, 2019, 5:50 PM · @Andrew Hsieh I think you have a good point there
Edited: September 9, 2019, 6:14 PM · Andrew, from my part, concerning 'gay music', this was mentioned in the context of tackling Lydia's analog. There is no 'gay music' in the vein of Russian or French. Perhaps one can speak of a gay sensibility...but then, how to define that within such an abstract acoustic art form?
Sexuality does not have such a direct imprint on musical language. There is however gay literature, gay cinéma where imprints are clearly substantial.

I don't miss the point you mention : In my previous post, I also mention that events like this are a form of social and cultural empowerment. So we find ourselves in agreement on this.

However, I think Rocky was not being disparaging or revealing any homophobia, even if personally I disagree with his statement about inclusivity (or is it inclusion) going too far.

Lastly, I think these disagreements need not be viewed antagonistically. Rather they pose interesting questions to each other's beliefs.

September 9, 2019, 6:17 PM · Being gay is as inherent as being a woman, a person from Russian descent. If people can organize programme around women composer, Russian composers, etc., why NOT gay composers?

Please go to women's event and tell them: "Music is music and it is a sad day when you choose to play [woman composer's name] because she is woman". Lets's see how that goes down.

September 9, 2019, 6:30 PM · Actually, one can pose the same sort of questions regarding women composers (and not a Russian composers).
September 9, 2019, 6:34 PM · Why someone has to feel ‘sad’ about a LGBT music event focusing on LGBT composers just baffled me.

The OP just asked a simple question. Why criticising it instead of just providing a helpful answer?

September 9, 2019, 7:51 PM · Schubert should probably not be on the list. There has been a bit of a food fight about that among musicologists, but the case against is quite strong, IMO.
September 9, 2019, 7:51 PM · Schubert should probably not be on the list. There has been a bit of a food fight about that among musicologists, but the case against is quite strong, IMO.
September 9, 2019, 8:18 PM · So, I went to DePaul in the heart of Chicago’s north side for my degree in composition. Even there in the 1980s, discussion was largely about the male composers and it was just accepted as part of understanding many of our great creative predecessors.
That said, I gained little knowledge or understanding of women composers, much less lesbian or transgender artists in those days. In the days before the internet, so little scholarship was easily available.
I believe that celebrating the achievements of members of groups, nationalities, etc is worth while. It provides a greater sense of self and inclusion in the continuum of our cultures.
I only hope that we cultivate a sense that these works are all facets in the jewel of our shared humanity and that more groups, especially the 50% of us gain more attention and adjulation.
Edited: September 9, 2019, 9:35 PM · Even though there is no "gay aesthetic" per se, being gay influenced the lives of composers and in many cases, worked its way into compositions -- just like composers in heterosexual romantic relationships (good or bad) often had their compositions influenced by their partners.

Put another way, living in a politically oppressive society does not result in a "oppression aesthetic", yet what would Shostakovich be without the influence of Stalinist oppression in his life? One could readily curate a concert of music of composers who lived oppressed lives. (Indeed, there have been curated concerts of entartete musik -- the "degenerate" music suppressed by the Nazis.)

September 9, 2019, 9:47 PM · I've gone back and forth about whether to add my 2 cents to this discussion. I'm not qualified to respond as a "musician". And I understand no attack was meant. But if you're not part of the oppressed minority, you probably don't get it. As a gay woman, I can tell you that for gay people, it was required for so long that you hide your sexual orientation in order to avoid being thrown in jail or a mental hospital, that most of the accomplishments by gay people that we might want to honor are simply unknown. There is something positive when you're a member of a denigrated group about discovering that members of your group made significant contributions.
Unfortunately, for women, not only were we often not "allowed" to contribute, but our contributions were often co-opted by husband's or other men. And lesbians often married, because historically they couldn't live at the level to which they were accustomed unless they did. Along that line, I looked online for gay women composers. I found Ethyl Smyth. But you might consider including some more modern song writers like Big Mama Thornton, Bessie Smith, or anyone published on Olivia Records like Kris Williamson. Sorry the list is so modern, but we've been lost to history.
Edited: September 10, 2019, 12:21 AM · ”idea of of tolerant and inclusive society has gone too far in his honest opinion”

This is the sentence that is the problem. Now, I come from Northern Europe, which is fairly equal and accepting and I remember that this was exactly what I thought when I was growing up raised in a fairly conservative home. That I actually didnt have problems with people of the sexual minorities though I was brought up to be a little scared of them but felt that things were going too fast to a direction that was a bit scary and unknown for me because how I was brought up.

Well, I grew older and saw that actually things had been going to a better direction with gay marriage and so on. So I outgrew this way of thinking and no longer had doubts. I changed my whole thinking of sexuality in the process too and nowadays Im all for the news things like not thinking of gender and sexuality in a dual model and trying to bring my children in an non-gender way alltogether, which is a another concept alltogether now popular in especially Sweden. And these two concepts may also bring uncertainty and scariness in people not used to them in conservative surroundings.

So it is hard when people are in a mixed cultural environment. They may have gay friends and actually not be racist but due to the background dont see the great offensive that is built in that sentence. And therefore have a hard time accepting that there is anything wrong with what they are saying,

It is hard to see the wrong thinking in ones own mind and right now it seems that in the States it is far easier to stay behing the conservative way of thinking rather than question ones own mind. And therefore people keep repeating the same sentences again and again.

Edited: September 10, 2019, 1:33 AM · Peter Maxwell Davies

There's a viola solo that might tick the box: -

or there's this sonatina for violin: -

September 10, 2019, 5:40 AM · Thanks “Alf” for the suggested piece. Peace!
Edited: September 10, 2019, 6:26 AM · Peace and catburgers, Edward!
September 10, 2019, 7:46 AM · I agree with what Elise Stanley said about Rocky's post. To me Rocky makes a very valid point, but his idealogy cannot be put into practice quite yet since parity has not been achieved to a reasonable level.
September 10, 2019, 7:53 AM · Thoughtcrime
Edited: September 10, 2019, 8:35 AM · Maria, nice post.

However, one can argue that the Swedish model of de-genderizing actually does the opposite of thematically group people under seperate umbrellas. It lessens the importance of these umbrellas in the first place. Which is, i think, not far from where Rocky's point, comes from ( although the inclusivity phrase suggests otherwise)

But of course, Sweden (and Rocky's Canada, if I am correct ) are more progressive on these fronts than the US, especially in the current political climate.

September 10, 2019, 9:22 AM · apologies aside, I think Rocky's position arises from bigotry, pure and simple. Its a typical position put forward by a lot of Trump supporters.
September 10, 2019, 10:04 AM · I date back to the days before this became a political label.
In my first major orchestra, there were members who were gay.
They didn't see this anything special or different, and neither did any of the rest of us. They were just orchestra members, and accepted because of their playing and personality.
September 10, 2019, 10:25 AM · Malcolm, you're lucky. I grew up in a Bible Belt town where people could barely say the word "gay" -- it had to be whispered -- and to be gay meant ostracism, people hiding their children from you, etc., functionally being erased from existence. (We had a carpool with a lovely family that was disrupted because the father turned out to be gay -- more precisely, bisexual. The town basically cut off all contact with the family and they had to move.) My parents were so terrified that I (as a tomboy) might eventually turn out to be gay that they wouldn't let me buy Hot Wheels cars.

I had to go off to college on the east coast in order to get my brain realigned around reality, and even then, several of my professors had emotional declarations of their orientation in front of their classes. Even if I'd turned out solidly heterosexual, it would have been nice, when younger, to have an understanding of how common it is to be gay, and that it's not the end of the world.

So I applaud both these interest-group events and music that is thematically appropriate. (In addition to music by LGBT composers, you might consider some of the contemporary compositions that honor AIDS victims.)

September 10, 2019, 10:59 AM · I just want to thank Beverly Harris for adding your two cents! I think that was beautifully expressed - and it is sad. So much lost to history, indeed. And I have also found it to be true that it is hard for those who have not experienced being part of an oppressed minority (whatever it is) to truly understand. This isn’t meant as an attack, simply as a statement of reality. Even my dearest, closest friend, who was by my side all of my childhood, failed to notice so much of the incredibly hurtful exclusion that I experienced due to my race/being biracial. She, as an adult, powerfully apologized that she missed it (with no prompting from me, and with no complaint from me, either); her husband is part of a minority group, and she is starting to have eyes for what he experiences.

And I hear all the time, and it is an isolating thing to hear, “oh, I never thought of you poorly because of your race” (in my case). Just because you don’t see it happening does not mean everything is just hunky dory. It might be that you cannot see, due to your position of privilege as a non-oppressed group, even if you are not actively doing any oppressing! And it’s incredibly hard to ignore the fact that *still today* the LGBTQ community faces an incredible amount of prejudice in many parts of the world, including in many parts of the US. People are still literally dying at the hands of those who think they don’t deserve to live.

This might be a bit “harsh”, but I hope to that it will be taken as it is intended: an attempt at explaining the isolation these attitudes cause. To be offended that a minority group might celebrate the accomplishments of their members, especially in the case of these composers, many of whom had to painfully live secret lives, is a bit of a luxury, in my opinion. Perhaps the difficulty you could try to live through in solidarity is trying to understand why.

Edited: September 10, 2019, 11:54 AM · Lydia, I agree with you " be gay,'s not the end of the world",and I also agree with Rocky, which statement I interpreted as meaning: why the distinction? So you are in essence both saying the same thing. If we were only to listen to certain composers' work on the basis of the record of their private life (in today's context), there would no doubt be a number of great composers (old and modern) who would go into oblivion. We are living in a time when statues of the leaders who shaped our country are taken down because some of their views and actions, hundreds of years ago, are non longer acceptable and offensive to some in today's context. This is where sometimes I think things are taken a bit too far, but I disgressed from the OP's topic, sorry. I hope my views didn't offend anyone.
Edited: September 10, 2019, 11:55 AM · Roger St Pierre "We live in a time when statues of the leaders who shaped our country are taken down because some of their views and actions, hundreds of years ago, are non longer acceptable and offensive to some in today's context."

Quite usually because they were racist imperialists responsible for various crimes such as enslavement, colonisation, murder, misogyny, antisemitism, etc.

But maybe some still don't find this offensive.

Edited: September 10, 2019, 12:04 PM · I wasn't refering to such extreme, but to views that were at the time widely accepted and the norm throughout society. Racist imperialism, murder, misogyny, antisemitism, etc. were never acceptable nor the norm, although nepotism seems to be gaining popularity these days... oops, I am disgressing again, sorry.
September 10, 2019, 12:04 PM · Oh, but they many points in history re. many groups of people..
Edited: September 10, 2019, 12:14 PM · You can chose to erase history and be bound to repeat it, or embrace it and learn from it rather. Many seem to think the former is best unfortunately. So in that context, LGBT composers should be celebrated and the OPs intent well placed and appropriate.
September 10, 2019, 12:19 PM · There is a difference between “erasing history” and celebrating it or refusing to think about atrocities done in the past. I don’t think the statues you are probably referring to should be destroyed, personally, or the people forgotten - it would be dangerous to erase all trace of them, which is what I think you’re trying to say. But a museum -where information can be given re. their whole selves and actions - seems like a more appropriate place to house such controversial statues than a town square, which is *historically* a place reserved for “heroes”. Leaving such monuments up could be considered more akin to “erasing history” than addressing the issues raised by those wanting them to be removed.

History is not a monolithic “true account” of events, either. History was generally written by those in power, which presents some challenges to interpreting it. Challenging these power structure can create a lot of sensitivities, esp. among those who have historically enjoyed the upper hand. Still important.

September 11, 2019, 3:42 AM · Thanks to all of you for your replies!
September 11, 2019, 12:01 PM · You could adapt something by Elton John. I recently heard a song of his on the radio, Nikita, which has a classical feeling.
September 11, 2019, 12:06 PM · So if I did a programme of Tchaikovsky, Britten, Schubert and Saint-Saints would that work?
September 11, 2019, 12:24 PM · Could be a fine program, with the caveat on Schubert.

I think Maynard Solomon was the one who made a lot of splash suggesting that he was gay, but an independent scholar (who seems to have a habit of trying to prove Solomon wrong on things) debunked the evidence he used and found a whole lot more suggesting that Schubert was unable to get married because of his financial condition/social status-- and that he would have contracted syphilis the time-honored way in Vienna's red light district.

September 11, 2019, 12:30 PM · There might be an argument for keeping Schubert in the program anyway just for stylistic contrast. It probably depends on the specific works chosen. Tchaikovsky and Saint-Saens could sound like stark contrasts, or too similarly Romantic era.
September 11, 2019, 12:44 PM · I'd go Schubert Arpeggione sonata, Tchaik Sounvenir de Le Cher, Op 42, Saint saints Sonata no 1 and Britten's Elegy
September 11, 2019, 5:24 PM · In addition to Schubert's financial condition and social status, he was also 5'1", which was very short even for the times. His friends called him "Little Mushroom" which suggests, er, not someone whose physique was his fortune.
September 12, 2019, 2:22 PM · Echo Dash by Jennifer Higdon! You need women on your list too! Or any other piece she wrote for violin and piano. She's a wonderful composer. There are also a few other LGBT composers that are in Hilary Hahn's collection "In 27 pieces". I think Nico Muhly is for example. Basically, there's lots out there. Just have fun!
September 13, 2019, 7:19 AM · IMHO you should not select Britten for a LGBT-themed concert (for non-LGBT themed, it is fine), simply because many people still ignorantly associate homosexuality with paedophilia, even though the two are like separate sexual orientation, and most high-profile child sexual abuse cases originated from the 'sacred' place by presumably straight, powerful, married adult men.

Research on this matter has been inconclusive but I believe the proportion of paedophiles among the LGBT population is lower, or at most equal to non-LGBT population.

September 13, 2019, 8:19 AM · @Matt, I think you have a good point there. I could swap out Britten with a collection of stuff from West Side Story (I found the other day)
September 13, 2019, 6:04 PM · I think that would be a good idea. West Side Story is always popular with audiences too.
September 13, 2019, 6:39 PM · Right thats sorted then. Thanks everyone!
September 13, 2019, 7:10 PM · Why the Saint-Saens sonata and not another of his pieces? You'll need a very good collaborative pianist.
September 13, 2019, 7:18 PM · The only one of his that is within my technical capabilities currently
September 14, 2019, 4:22 AM · There isn't that much evidence of Saint-Saens being homosexual either. His remark "Je ne suis pas homosexuel. Je suis pédéraste" was almost certainly made flippantly and suggests he wasn't active in either sphere. He did have children by his wife.
I remember hearing a viola sonata by Lennox Berkeley that, unusually for me, I quite liked
Edited: September 14, 2019, 9:04 AM · Poor Rocky, he doesn't know what times we live in, hahahaha. My condolences to you, Rocky, I do share your thoughts and understand what you're trying to say.
Today, every sheep desperately brags about how open minded, tolerant and respectful he or she is, so much that it has become full circle and is acting exactly the opposite. This insight sums it up:
"Fascists of the future will call themselves anti-fascists"
September 14, 2019, 9:11 AM · I don't think is appropriate to celebrate LGBT music with pedophile composers. seems that just the kind of thing that should be left out.
September 14, 2019, 9:18 AM · In fairness, I didn't know that about him. The whole point of asking was because I didn't know any LGBT composers (other than Tchaik)
September 14, 2019, 10:14 AM · It is worth noting that until the early 20th century, homosexuality was something you *did* versus something that you *were*. The behavior might have been treated unfavorably, but it was not an identity the way we think of it now.
Edited: September 14, 2019, 11:01 AM · Getting married and having children is not proof of being straight. Many gay people past and present marry members of the opposite sex and have kids in order to somewhat fit into their society.

Saint-Saens must have been quite a lively character. I read he liked to do drag and danced in ballerina costume with Tchaikovsky in one of his ballets.

Edited to add, pédéraste does not necessarily coincide with paedophile in its meaning and it has classical Ancient Greek resonance. It may be that Saint-Saens was evoking this classical tradition than wanting to be tagged with the newer term homosexual. Serious research should be done before accusing him of paedophilia as we understand it.

September 14, 2019, 11:16 AM · Oh my, what a can of worms...
September 14, 2019, 11:27 AM · Poulenc wrote a compelling and programmatic violin sonata in memory of the gay spanish resistance poet Fedorico Lorca who was murdered during the Spanish civil war by the Nationalists.
September 14, 2019, 4:45 PM · Poulenc's sonata sounds a bit outside of my technical profiency currently...
September 16, 2019, 5:41 PM · But it is soooo beautiful.
September 16, 2019, 5:44 PM · There are some nice Barber and Copland collections out there.
September 16, 2019, 5:45 PM · So much to chose from- at least from the 50% who got published and supported.
Edited: September 16, 2019, 10:12 PM · Well when you figure about 5% of the population is LGBT, and then you go to IMSLP and look at the enormous list of composers there, 1 in 20 of them is or was probably LGBT. Okay that's going to be a really rough estimate but still it's a lot of gay composers.

And don't forget Jean-Baptiste Lully.

A lot of interesting discussion was brought on by Rocky's comment. I don't agree with Rocky, but I didn't sense bigotry, and I think the various comparisons to far-right groups and so on were unnecessary and shameful. This is why people have trouble talking about difficult things in the public sphere: The risk of saying something that's a little "behind the times" (perhaps inadequately informed relative to the "state of the art" of a particular subject -- for example not knowing all the phrases that have become tainted) is too high. Punishment is swift and vituperative. Scroll back and you'll see the ones trying to be civilized and constructive (notably Elise and Tammuz, in my opinion). In forums like these, there's no body language -- one can't soften a position with a quick shrug -- and one can't always walk something back quickly enough -- heaven forbid you stray from your computer for half an hour. We should make more effort to be conciliatory and avoid just raising the noise volume, especially when the alleged "offense" comes from someone who has been a steady, loyal, and thoughtful contributor for many years.

Edited: September 18, 2019, 7:20 AM · Tammuz, in late 19th century France, pédophile meant someone who loved children, not someone who abused them, as it should do now, coming from classical Ancient Greek words denoting child and liker - e.g., someone like Lewis Carroll or Dr Barnardo. On the other hand, pédéraste, also, as you pointed out, derived from classical Ancient Greek, is formed from roots meaning child and sexual "love" (eros). So its connotations were never good, and in the context in which Saint Saens was speaking, were not meant to be. As I said, he was probably speaking tongue in cheek.
To everyone, Beethoven, Schubert and Saint-Saens should probably not be on the list; on the other hand, there are two other composers who haven't been mentioned yet: Prokofiev and Tippett. Also one of the best-known musicians of ancient times (there are, of course, very few whose names we know), who probably played his own music, also engaged in homosexual acts, namely Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (But I don't think any of his music has survived).
There are also quite a number of heterosexual adulterers amongst composers, but not many murderers of others (Gesualdo is the only one that springs to mind - apart from the afore-mentioned Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus!).
September 17, 2019, 8:00 AM · Lewis Carroll?!
Edited: September 17, 2019, 9:50 AM · Is it ethical to "out" someone by sheer force of historical research? Would a composer who closeted himself during his lifetime want his works performed on a program celebrating the contributions of LGBT composers? Would it matter if that composer were still alive?
September 18, 2019, 5:21 AM · The OP: LBGT charity concert, thought it would be quite fitting to have pieces composed by said community.

Rocky: why the composer had to be gay? The whole idea of tolerant and inclusive society has gone too far, imho.

Note that no one has said someone has to be gay, or overtly implied so. The OP has a well-meaning and simple intention. Rocky's comment, on the other hand, was unnecessary, out of place, and divisive.

Paul was surprised that some reaction to Rocky's comment was 'unnecessary and shameful', and that punishment on him was 'swift and vituperative'. I myself, on the other hand, was even more surprised that members like Lydia or Irene - those who are also steady, loyal, and thoughtful contributors for many years, had to go to great lengths, just to explain to us the simple concept that it's ok to use LGBT composers for a LGBT event!

P/S I'm from academia too. As an economist I would say the OP's idea also made a lot of common business sense! What kind of audience wouldn't expect something LGBT when they attend an LGBT event? Go figure.

September 18, 2019, 5:24 AM · Matt, thanks for your support
Edited: September 18, 2019, 9:04 AM · I never said Jake's idea wasn't a good idea. I think it's quite fine and appropriate. My jazz quintet played for an LGBT event a few years ago. It didn't occur to us to select tunes written by LGBT people although certainly there are many to choose from (Billy Strayhorn, etc.). What I'm wondering is whether, in these times, if we booked that gig again, we should feel *compelled* to do so. It's one thing to do something for a group because you feel it's a nice gesture (which I believe is Jake's situation), but quite another to do something because you feel society is expecting it.

And that's where the comparisons between national culture and "LGBT culture" are interesting. Suppose you're playing a gig for an event celebrating Finnish cultural heritage, naturally you will play Finnish composers. If you don't play any Sibelius, people will wonder what you were thinking. And the question I think Rocky and some of the others were asking is whether one should feel the same level of expectation playing for an LGBT event. That's a very interesting question. I don't know the answer -- but I don't think it's something that should have us calling each other bigots or alt-righters.

Some time ago I was involved in a conversation about the MeToo movement. Someone said they thought it would be okay if a few innocent men went to prison if it moved the needle on how badly women are mistreated in the American workplace. I said I thought that was "swinging the pendulum too far the other way." I was excoriated for this comment. I learned later that it was perfectly okay to have the opinion that innocent men shouldn't be imprisoned, but that apparently the "pendulum swinging" metaphor has been banned from polite discourse. In many of our conversations today, how you say something is far more important than what you say. Apparently it was assumed that I had in mind all of the negative connotations that are apparently associated with the swinging of pendulums.

September 18, 2019, 6:59 AM · Yes, Craig, there was nothing untoward or sexual about Lewis Carroll's (Rev. C.L.Dodgson's) love for children. It is thought that the distancing between him and the Liddells was caused by speculative gossip about him and the chidren's governess and also about him and "Ina" (who might have been Alice's older sister or even her mother, both named Lorina).
He apparently gave quite sacrificially to CSSM (the Children's special Service Mission).
September 18, 2019, 7:20 AM · Maybe I'll add more oil to the pan here. :) This post is less relevant to the musical aspect (which is Rockys essential point I believe) and is in a more general tone.

Just to note: Matt, quite the contrary. Rocky's comment is not at all out of place , even though it has proven to be devisive. In fact, that it illicited such a response proves otherwise. As for being unnecessary, most posts on could be dismissed similarly simply because they are deemed unnecessary by someone else.

Personally, as someone who bats for the same team, I can see how Rocky's post is relevant to my observations, least with pertinence to the part of society that already accepts and embraces LGBT issues (the "preaching to the choir" idiom applies here).

It is as if the flip side of being rejected by society is rendering LGBT a 'fetishised' identity that 1. Relentlessly separates and categorizes ones person whether with or without one's consent and in a huge variety of ways 2. Foregrounds this identity over and above other facets of one's makeup that are perhaps much more pertinent to one's achievements.

In a way, I suspect that the liberal fetishism of LGBT identity (well, more so gay men) as well as other minority identities is the flip side of conservative demonization. We, others, become paradoxically more segregated, more identified and carved out of the mass...first as a result of bad intentions, then paradoxically as a result of good ones.

In an (my) ideal world, the difference between gay or straight should be as trivial to the society's values as having brown or black or blonde hair. But it is not an ideal world, and so I understand the other side of the argument within an unideal world. But it's far from ideal and certainly open to criticism

There are criticism of identity-centric reductions that are not at all right wing in sentiment.

Lastly, none of what I had to say is a rejection of an LGBT event/ endorsement per se.

September 18, 2019, 7:22 AM · PS re composers who were murderers: I forgot about a murdering (and adulterous) English (partly Welsh) composer who was contemporary with Taverner and Tallis - can anyone think of his name?
September 18, 2019, 8:40 AM · John R, you may be thinking of Thomas Campion (1567 - 1620), though Wikipedia says he was exonerated.
September 18, 2019, 10:53 AM · I'm with Rocky M. A composer's gender/sexual orientation is completely irrelevant. In the case of dead composers, they can't even defend themselves.
September 18, 2019, 11:56 AM · John, I do find your comment proving of why representation is important. Nobody should need to "defend themselves" as if being gay or bisexual is an abhorrence. Sadly that is a major attitude though. I have had my life threatened before for being gay. I don't even hold my fiancee's hand in public anymore because of the looks and comments people give. Alas, such is the reality of the world. If gender and sexuality do not matter, then why should one react as if this is a witch hunt.

History assumes the composers are straight. Nobody says they need to "defend themselves" from the accusation because it is permissible to society, and good, and that is what needs to change.

Gender and sexuality are spectrums and the sooner people realize being different is not a bad this the better.

September 18, 2019, 12:15 PM · Whether you are in or out of the closet depends mostly on how oppressive your society is. Being outed once you are dead is a different thing.
"defend themselves" (pregnant language) against what?
Against the charge of gayness in intolerant Czarist Russia? No, it seems against the charge of gayness in an intolerant 21st century USA.
This thread got onto the subject of paedophiles and murderers precisely because of homophobia.
September 18, 2019, 12:36 PM · I'll enter my comment in the form of a dialog between two hypothetical v-com members:

V1: Richard Nixon was gay.

V2: What?? That's news to me!!

V1: All right, I lied, but it doesn't matter because Nixon is dead and there's nothing wrong with being gay, so there is no offense against which to defend.

Edited: September 18, 2019, 1:15 PM · Given the context of Jake's concert, I think it would be perfectly fine to mention that a particularly composer's sexual orientation is in question by scholars, as part of introducing a work. It's part of the context of the work for that interest group. I would otherwise only mention it if it were directly part of the work's history, i.e. "Composer X dedicated this piece to Mr. Y, a beloved friend that some people scholars might have been his lover."
September 18, 2019, 7:26 PM · @Paul, let’s be clear that no one has haphazardly attributed homosexual characteristics to certain historical figures without at least some lengthy historical debates and essays.

Just a mere 70 years ago, Alan Turing, widely dubbed as father of modern computer science, was chemically castrated with a forced suicide just for committing homosexual acts. More appallingly, this punishment was not decided solely by an individual, but collectively by something as big as the British Government, in a country now widely considered as the cradle of democracy and the avant garde of individual freedom!

I now wonder what the implications were for those composers to come out in their time?

If a gay historical figure had to go through such ordeal for us to admit that they were gay, we may as well never had a chance to duly recognise anyone who was. And we may never have a chance to acknowledge the contributions made by this community.

Edited: September 18, 2019, 9:12 PM · Matt, sure, I get all that. I haven't been living in a cave for the past 50 years. Whether something has been attributed to a historical figure "haphazardly" is a subjective matter, though. How many times has historical research "proven" something only to be reversed 50 years later with finger-wagging judgment cast upon the previous scholarship for being superficial or sloppy. I work at a public university, and as such, I am in the clear majority among my colleagues as a progressive firebrand. But those with minority viewpoints (and here I am talking about things slightly right of center, not fascist garbage) do have a case to make about whether there is room at all within the public sphere for their thoughts. Even the neutrality of ignorance, as expressed in the form of a sincere question, can become grounds for derision and shaming.
September 19, 2019, 11:34 AM · I think Paul makes some good points. There seem to be some fringey strands of scholarship where people try and infer all kinds of things from going back and reading novels or writings of this or that author. Oh, this person must have been gay or lesbian, or this or that, because that's how someone would write in my specific cultural context nowadays, or sometimes it's just really wishful thinking. People were not all post-modernists hundreds of years ago, living in the west, and not all writings are memoirs.

A lot of it amounts to fan-fiction. It's like the 'Shakespeare must have been someone else' thing, or the 'Anna Magdalena must have written the cello suites' or whatever. It's nice to have representation for people in history that resonate with how you see yourself, but starting with some premise and trying to shoehorn little bits of evidence into historical revisionism is not scholarship, and you see this now in Russia with them trying to censor Tchaikovsky's homosexuality.

Edited: September 19, 2019, 1:09 PM · Last year, I attended a bluegrass festival. No music other than bluegrass was performed. That didn't seem strange to me at the time, but in hindsight, and in light of prior posts, maybe I should have taken a stand for greater diversity? ;-)

On the other hand, I haven't yet noticed that LGBTQ music is stylistically identifiable, but I still have so much yet to learn. :-)

September 19, 2019, 12:47 PM · Matt - please could you check your facts as regards Alan Turing's death through cyanide poisoning. It may or may not have been an act of suicide, and there is no evidence to connect it with his prosecution and (elective) punishment for homosexual acts
Edited: September 19, 2019, 1:14 PM · Sometimes orchestras and musicians hold events where they play compositions by jewish composers...many of who are far more informed by European wide classical music than by any jewish tradition per se ( although even then there is a vast difference between Yiddish central/eastern European and Sephardic middle even then there is no uniformity within the grouping itself). Would we be as inclined to criticize such an event as in the LGBT case?
September 19, 2019, 1:38 PM · David:
The real cool kids will now be diverse enough to play both country AND western.
September 19, 2019, 9:08 PM · Jake asked a question, and got some really good answers. Special thank you Bruce Berg, for pulling that obscure one.

For those who didn't have an answer, at least you gave an opinion ;)

September 20, 2019, 4:28 PM · @Julie, you're a woman, aren't you? :-)

Not wanting to add another comment, but I wish to share an interesting observation: Of the people who commented in support of Rocky, almost all are male members (considering the members' profile name to be a very good proxy of their gender). Rocky had long gone without explaining clearly his comment, leaving them trying hard to speak on behalf of Rocky's mind, and the meaning of what he actually said. Female commenters, on the other hand, either gave no opinion or criticised Rocky's position.

This small sample is in line with the general observation that women have a more liberal view towards LGBT citizens than men, although proportionally, there are more gay men than gay women. Perhaps it was mainly because women belongs to the more 'oppressed' group and therefore better understand what it means to be discriminated?

@Steve Jones, feel free to disbelieve the connection of Alan Turing's suicide with his punishment / public humiliation despite his contributions. Remember that his autopsy report was done by the British government - the very group that prosecuted him.

@Paul, since you mentioned the MeToo movement "Someone said they thought it would be okay if a few innocent men went to prison if it moved the needle on how badly women are mistreated in the American workplace. I said I thought that was "swinging the pendulum too far the other way.""
I actually had no problem with a few men being badly treated so that a lot more women get a better treatment.

I'm not a feminist; however, I think a woman's suffering is as worthy to avoid as a man's suffering, assuming it caused the same level of discomfort for both of them. After all, we want to minimize the collective suffering by humans, regardless of their gender, right?

September 20, 2019, 7:27 PM · “Someone said they thought it would be okay if a few INNOCENT men went to prison if it moved the needle on how badly women are mistreated in the American workplace.”

A key detail of that quote.

Edited: September 20, 2019, 8:16 PM · I think we are talking about innocent sufferers of both genders, and personally I'm not only referring to the workplace.
P/S I sense a big side-thread coming - hope I was wrong!
September 20, 2019, 9:45 PM · Some people just need to get off their computers and go outdoors.
Edited: September 21, 2019, 1:34 AM · Matt, out of curiosity, if you supported/believed in justice and equality for women, you would be de facto a feminist. Unless you don't support or believe in such a thing of course. Or is it because the term feminism has been soiled and perverted by right wing types?

It's like advocating for economic and social justice and explicitly stating that one is not a socialist because the term has been demonized by self serving capitalists.

I think that's the same kind of trap laid by right wing types regarding 'political correctness', 'diversity', 'tolerant and inclusive' etc that may be tropes unwittingly recycled by types who are not really right wing.

September 21, 2019, 5:22 PM · @tammuz, I believe in fairness for all, and the best policy balance that will optimize social, economic, generational, and environmental well-beings (not that my opinion matters much though).

I'm not a feminist as I don't necessarily hold every opinion that a feminist would commonly hold. For example, I don't necessarily advocate for women in developed countries to spend more time in the workforce, as this will continue to exert more impact on their countries' already struggling population growth, people's chances to get married and childbirth, and children having less time with mothers. (Women in developing countries, however, should be entitled to have more work responsibilities and leadership, to be more self-aware of their rights).

September 21, 2019, 6:16 PM · Mary Ellen, thank you for telling me that Thomas Campion was a composer - at school I only ever heard of him as a poet. But he died more than 20 years after Taverner's death. But I gather that one of the best known victims of the murderer of whom I am thinking was a lady composer ...
September 22, 2019, 2:55 AM · Tammuz, "feminism" has incorporated a variety of ideologies and political movements. Shouldn't Matt have the right to decide whether he does or doesn't want to use the term to describe himself, rather than you attempting to do it for him?
Edited: September 22, 2019, 4:15 AM · Exactly David, a variety, with differing, even sometimes conflicting, opinions on how to achieve what constitutes the core similarity between this different movements: equality between the sexes. This belief and work towards equality is what defines feminism in general, not the method of how to achieve this by one theorist or activist over another. If someone believes in this equality , then they inherently possess feminist beliefs...even if they conflict with another feminist on how to achieve this equality. If you don't fundamentally believe in the equality of the sexes within society, then you're not a feminist. Matt can choose whatever he wishes for himself, and I have the right to note a probable (edited) deduction if I observe it.

The same could be said of socialists, not all have the same principles on how to achieve social or economic justice but they share a base anti capitalist belief system against creating a system of haves over the havenots.

September 22, 2019, 4:30 AM · Matt: "For example, I don't necessarily advocate for women in developed countries to spend more time in the workforce, as this will continue to exert more impact on their countries' already struggling population growth, people's chances to get married and childbirth, and children having less time with mothers. "

I agree with you Matt. You are not a feminist because you does not believe in the equality of sexes. It seems you see reality through a society that engineers itself around the role of women as mothers and probably wives, as understood from a patriarchal point of view. And the developing vs developed is telling and points to another regressive belief concerning developed countries, but I've diverged enough from the main topic.

September 22, 2019, 4:50 AM · Tammuz, that depends on what you mean by "equality". Does that mean "exactly the same"? Certainly, we can all agree that women are generally better at some things than men, independent of cultural influences and social conditioning.
Or do you deny that?
September 22, 2019, 5:22 AM · David, where in my post did I say that meant "exactly the same"? It's quite irrelevant to my point. I am not trying to define what women choose to do or not to do, let alone what you or I think theyre better at... that is their business. And that is the point. Their lives, their bodies, their business.
Edited: September 22, 2019, 5:44 AM · "Equality" can mean different things to different people. That's why I asked.
I do think it's of greater value to define exactly what one means, than use vague "buzz-terms". ;-)
Edited: September 22, 2019, 5:49 AM · Gender equality is not a buzz term. It is in various charters and officially enshrined in the law system of several countries. It might be a buzz term for you perhaps.
Edited: September 22, 2019, 6:43 AM · The various charters and laws do not all use the same definitions, and are still in a state of flux from both new legislation, and various court rulings over interpretation.
For example, equality (under US law) is interpreted much differently today than it was when the US Constitution was originally written.
September 22, 2019, 6:46 AM · That is indeed the case; but certainly Matt's view falls outside the entire spectrum of interpretations or definitions (whether on the basis of sameness, positive action or transforming gender identities) . Functionally, gender equality is for equal opportunities afforded to women in society, work place, etc...whether that be done via the sameness principle (women enter the market as it is), positive action (changing the work conditions to suit the perceived difference of women), or through a redefinition of gender and transformation of society. While all different, the aim is to ensure that, functionally, gender inequality is undone and that women are afforded the same opportunities in society Matts view is incompatible with any of these views. This is why I said that bringing up that point of what is meant by equality
was irrelevant. Matt has a fundamentally patriarchal non feminist not pro-equality (in any of its guises) viewpoint, free of all buzzes.
Edited: September 22, 2019, 8:26 AM · Tammuz wrote:
"Matt has a fundamentally patriarchal non feminist not pro-equality (in any of its guises) viewpoint, free of all buzzes."

How so? Is it because Matt does not have a panoptic view that women should spend more time in the workforce, in all situations?

Not all women want to. Shouldn't that be up to the individual woman, or are you (presumably a male) better qualified to make their decisions for them?

What is your obsession with lumping people into various buzz-word categories?

September 22, 2019, 8:57 AM · The semantics defence": because it can not be defined it isn't true or valid.

Usually used to either obfuscate the question or to hide and avoid being seen to contradict it.

Gender equality is not such a difficult term, however, various groups/factions and time eras may have interpreted it.

Edited: September 22, 2019, 10:07 AM · Elise, my mother was the major mover, motivator, and shaker in my family. She also got consistently much higher grades than my father in both college and grad school, despite any sort of male/female grading prejudice there may have been in place at that time, favoring males. She will always be one of my major heroes, along with one of my sisters, who has adopted a bunch of fetal alcohol syndrome and crack cocaine babies, in an attempt to make the world a better place.
Edited: September 22, 2019, 9:52 AM · "I don't necessarily advocate for women in *developed* countries to spend more time in the workforce, as this will continue to exert more impact on their countries' already struggling population growth."

Matt's statement is indeed outside the conventionally accepted feminist canon. Someone making such a statement would not be classified as a feminist as it is currently defined. Feminism is a quintessentially progressive movement. Conservative ("alternative") definitions of feminism are usually all about co-opting the term for the purpose of confusing and obfuscating the issue.

On the other hand, that alone doesn't invalidate Matt's opinions. He can still be a feminist in his own mind.

Edited: September 22, 2019, 10:13 AM · David wrote about "a panoptic view that women should spend more time in the workforce, in all situations .... Not all women want to. Shouldn't that be up to the individual woman, or are you (presumably a male) better qualified to make their decisions for them?"

You're right, David, that it's about equal opportunity. But is there any *depth* to the claim that some women "don't want to" enter the workforce? Is it because there's no point getting a job if you can't make enough money to pay for day care? Is it because one was "brought up differently" (i.e., brainwashed) in a patriarchal culture or religion, where people are taught using language such as "women are equal but have different social roles" or with highly differential parental expectations (girls learn to sew, boys learn to use power tools; girls prepare for marriage, boys prepare for college). These kinds of things are a lot more prevalent than most people imagine. They're just not talked about as much. What would you say, for example, about a college student handbook that included "a commitment to the biblical view of men and women" in its "non-discrimination statement"? Of course a private college can do such things but it's hardly "feminist."

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