Musical taste responds to our extant aesthetic preferences, but it also structures our emotional landscape: music shapes us, it narrates us, expresses our innermost feelings and marks us in recognizable ways. Music can seem to know us better than we know ourselves. In this sense, writing about music and identity is to articulate the complicated nexus of sound and sense. It is to find a vocabulary for the ways in which music goes beyond what words can say.
In this class, we will write about musical sound and performance as a constitutive force of queer communities. We will develop a sophisticated understanding of music as an expressive medium, parsing the ability of musical sound to speak, on the one hand, where words fall silent and—paradoxically—to conceal secret meanings within the semantically slippery wash of sound.
In the process, we will develop critical vocabularies for talking about sound—both as a structured sonic event, and as a culturally saturated scene of interaction between queer people. We will consider the historical traces left by sound, interrogating the ways in which performances and communities are archived and recorded. We will actively confront the linguistic difficulties of musical and cultural analysis, concentrating on the structural procedures of academic writing in order to address complex and heavily freighted concepts through academic prose.
Music 122: Writing Musical Cultures is a College Writing 2 course. Instruction about writing is included throughout the semester; students should come to each class, prepared to write, to revise their own work, and to think constructively about the work of their peers.