This chapter examines some of the conventions involved in representing the erotic in music, and reveals the ideological character of these conventions. The disparity and mutability uncovered by a comparison of representations of sexual desire in three differing musical styles (Baroque opera, the Victorian drawing-room ballad, and Tin Pan Alley in the 1920s and 1930s) show that a genealogy of sexuality in music needs to address disjunctions rather than developments, historical contingencies rather than evolutionary questions. There is certainly no progress to be discovered in the way eroticism has been depicted in music: representations of eroticism in contemporary music are not more real now than they were in the 17th century. The fact that the latter can seem cool or alien to us today points to the way sexuality has been constructed in relation to particular stylistic codes in particular historical contexts, and is therefore cultural rather than natural.
Keywords: ballad; erotic; feminine; gender; masculine; opera; sexuality; Tin Pan Alley; Baroque opera; drawing-room ballad
Chapter. 6578 words. Illustrated.
Subjects: Music Theory and Analysis
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