It certainly feels sad to be reminded that Benjamin Britten's obituaries made no mention of his life-long relationship with Peter Pears. Not that such matters ought to be mentioned. But in so far as we are made aware of Bach's wives, Liszt's romantic conquests, Bruckner's asexual existence, or Artur Rubinstein's taking up with a much younger woman at the end of his long life - there surely was no reason (other than genteel homophobia) for suppressing any mention of long-term homosexual relationships in the lives of important musicians, scientists, writers, and artists.
Needless to say, I think that historical and biographical corrections of such lamentable examples of past homophobia in the music world are most welcome. Yet I find it hard not to laugh at some of the offerings from queer theorists of music, whose analyses of compositions by gay (or allegedly gay) composers claim to identify homosexuality in their music! In such analytic acrobatics, modulations reveal flexible or ambiguous sense of self (or of sexuality), increasingly chromatic stretching of tonality is identified with longing for freedom from the constraints of heterosexual tyranny, bi- or polytonality speaks strongly of embracing bi- or polysexuality, and so on. (Lest you think I jest, check out what Susan McClary - the queer theory guru - has to say in her article "Constructions of Subjectivity in Schubert's Music".)
What makes such queer-theoretic musical analyses hysterically funny is that they all sound like a Monty Pythonesque parody of the charlatanish 'research', which flows like a mighty river from so many humanities departments. No wonder those nerdy types with pocket protectors - who actually do something useful for a living, like teaching calculus or designing new molecules - think so little of so much of the recent research in the humanities.
All this brings me to Sylvano Bussotti - one of the most openly gay composers of the 20th century - whose music I have been exploring recently. I shudder when I think about what queer theorists might have identified in Bussotti's flamboyant, highly expressionist, occasionally unabashedly erotic, and often blindingly colorful music. Would they tell us that the suspended, haunting intervals in Rara Requiem express the charged anticipation of anonymous sex while cruising rest areas along the motorway between Milan and Florence? Would they describe those dense and gritty atonal textures in Lorenzaccio Symphony as a musical memory of two bearded faces rubbing against each other? I hope we will never find out...