Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Music and Sex

I had to miss a graduate seminar on this topic due to conflicting schedules, but it is a topic that has always fascinated me. So I'll create my own seminar by doing a post on it.

Music and sex have an interrelationship that is both obvious and subtle. The obvious aspect we see in virtually every recent music video:

Music is, or can be, really sexy with hooks that pull you and beats that push you. Or you can take a more smooth, velvety approach:

Musical theater has a rich tradition of melding music, dance and song together to express sexuality:

In classical music, supposedly more restrained than pop, we can have the lengthy foreplay of Richard Wagner:

Or the primal sexuality of Igor Stravinsky:

But there is much more subtle sexuality in music. The music of Chopin expresses a profound sensuality that most certainly has a sexual component.

And that some performers make more evident:

Sexuality also is the inspiration for a great deal of music. One of the most prominent examples is the late efflorescence of the career of the Czech composer Leoš Janáček who at age 63 met and fell in love witKamila Stösslová, a young woman of twenty-six years. They were both married at the time and remained so. But Kamila was a muse to the older composer and inspired not only some seven hundred love letters, but the composition of all the works that Janáček is now renowned for. The title of his second string quartet makes reference to their relationship: Janáček named it "Intimate Letters":

But you should not get the impression that sexuality in music is just a recent phenomenon. It has always been there. Some of the earliest European secular music, by the troubadours of southern France, had whole genres that were very sexual. The alba, for example, was the song of a lover as dawn approaches, often with a watchman warning of the approach of a lady's jealous husband. One of the most famous composers of these was Giraut de Bornelh (c. 1138 – 1215). Here is his most well-known alba, "Reis glorios, verais lums e clartatz".

I'm sure there are dozens of aspects I haven't touched on, but this at least introduces the subject!

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