Queer Ears and Icons

Judith A. Peraino

in Listening to the Sirens

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2005 | ISBN: 9780520215870
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520921740 | DOI:
Queer Ears and Icons

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This chapter describes basic principles of how and why musicians come to signify queer identities; how such signs, or icons, have operated in the past and continue to operate today. It considers how music operates as an aspect of what Foucault calls the “technology of sign systems, which permits us to use signs, meanings, symbols, or signification.” The technology of sign systems does not refer to semiotics—how sign systems work—but rather to how relationships of power are implicated in the assignment of meaning to abstract sounds and symbols. The chapter also describes how and why musicians as “icons” become an integral part of the sign system of queer identity. Further, it discusses how musical icons, along with music in general, can serve as strategies of self-representation for gays and lesbians—and this in confrontation, as well as dialog, with the normative function of sign systems.

Keywords: queer ears; technology; abstract sounds; abstract symbols; sign system

Chapter.  18512 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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