November 15, 2009

Sylvano Bussotti


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 prejudice 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!  For these music theorists, 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...

13 comments:

maready said...

Boom --- you've made my day! Ever since I heard about this piece, I've become increasingly obsessed with hearing it. I'm downloading now and am expecting GREAT THINGS. I didn't know Bussotti was gay. I was expecting a small rant about Antonio Gramsci the great Italian communist philosopher of the title --- and instead I got a big rant about something entirely different! In any case, I got my rant of the day (having already delivered several of my own to several unfortunate bystanders) --- thanks again, both for posting this and for getting me to reconsider and explore Bussotti's music. (The title does mean "The Tears of Gramsci" doesn't it? ---- at least I hope that's what "semi" means ...

Boom said...

Blogger maready said...
>> I didn't know Bussotti was gay. <<

Wow, Maready! That's like saying "I didn't know Beethoven was deaf" :))

As for the translation of the title, my Google Translate did not "get" it or any of its words! So I'll have to trust your linguistic intuition.

maready said...

Beethoven was deaf?

Discobole said...

Of course!
As Buñuel put it once, "There are three famous deaf artists natives of Aragon, Beethoven, Goya and myself".
To which was made the same answer than you, by the way.

Discobole said...

semi = seeds, se non me equivoco

Caleb Deupree said...

Interesting piece, many thanks for the introduction.

sasha said...

Wonderful!! Have spent much time with that great DG Sinopli recording of Bergkristall..But other than that I know nothing more of the man's work..Enjoyed reading your preamble to this post..Drawing several famous names together as you do makes for interesting reading but no mention of that other most out-spoken gay composer H W Henze(The man who left Germany for Italy)? And what of the closet cases?!? Any chance you might 'out' some in future postings....

Boom said...

Blogger sasha said...

...no mention of that other most out-spoken gay composer H W Henze(The man who left Germany for Italy)?
And what of the closet cases?!? Any chance you might 'out' some in future postings.... <<

Ah, Henze... I have some works of his in the pipeline, so there was no need to mention him at this point (and he is a very different musical mind from Bussotti...).

And as far as 'outing' any composers, that is impossible even if I knew anything of the kind (which I don't). Everyone from Haendel on - even those who only walked into a closet to get a pair of shoes - have been 'outed' by the ever vigilant queer theorists/historians of music desperate for publications or thesis topics :))

sasha said...

Yes well said Boom..I think we can happily leave such things to the highbrow (but oh so gutter) press..And I do look forward to your future Henze posts..For one I have attempting with no great success to track down recordings of the concertos (oboe/harp, double bass, piano).

Anonymous said...

thank you thank you thank you thank you!!!

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who cannot work with this FLAC? I keep getting unrecoverable error messages...

Boom said...

Anonymous said...

>>> Am I the only one who cannot work with this FLAC? I keep getting unrecoverable error messages... <<<

Looks like it. There have been several dozens downloads without a single problem indicated prior to your comment.
Sometimes, downloading the file again is the only hope. It occasionally happens that the file may get corrupted during the original download.

inau said...

Большое спасибо! Как-то я давно к Вам не заглядывал, а тут - столько великолепной музыки!