Music and queerness interact in many different ways. The Oxford Handbook of Music and Queerness brings together many topics and scholarly disciplines, reflecting the diversity of current research and methodology. Each of the book's six sections exemplifies a particular rhetoric of queer music studies. The section "Kinds of Music" explores queer interactions with specific musics such as EDM, hip hop, and country.
"Versions" explores queer meanings that emerge in the creation of a version of a pre-existing text, for instance in musical settings of Biblical texts or practices of karaoke. "Voices and Sounds" turns in various ways to the materiality of music and sound. "Lives" focuses on interactions of people's lives with music and queerness. "Histories" addresses moments in the past, beginning with times when present conceptualizations of sexuality had not yet developed and moving to cases studies of more recent history, including the creation of pop songs in response to HIV/AIDS and the Eurovision song contest. The final section, "Cross-cultural Queerness," asks how to understand gender and sexuality in locations where recent Euro-American concepts may not be appropriate.
The great debt of this book is to the writers and thinkers who have created and sustained the field of queer music studies. Such work required courage from the beginning and still does to the present.
Many authors in queer music studies identify as LGBTQ+ personally; others who do not may be assumed to have close connections with LGBTQ+ people. Either way, but especially for those who are LGBTQ+, we have had to reckon with prevalent discrimination—homophobia, transphobia, racism, classism—making decisions about self-presentation in our lives and our workplaces and in our public professional work.
The Handbook chapters by Gould and Fisk describe personal longing and struggle. It should be understood that every chapter in this book is the outcome of a long series of commitments made in potentially hostile environments. The content of this book should be savored not only as knowledge but also as perseverance and integrity.
One strand of queer music studies identifies the inhibitions and constraints of established paradigms of music research; Philip Brett was eloquent on this topic. Music-scholarly norms have often suppressed discourse about gender and sexuality in relation to musical life and have discouraged personal discourse altogether. Writing about music and queerness can have negative professional consequences. Anyone in the field knows of superb scholars who sought but never found an appropriate academic position, or who found it only after a long search. Identifying oneself as queer or writing on queer topics adds to the already-inherent stress and vulnerability at every point of scholarly professional life, from the formation of a dissertation topic, to conference proposals and publication submissions, to the job hunt, to application for tenure. Special difficulties arise for ethnomusicologists, who often have to get their research approved by foreign governments. Here is one way to show the precarity that still characterizes queer music studies: despite the many superb publications that have established the field, it seems there has never been a music faculty position advertised simply as “Queer Music Studies” or “LGBTQ Studies in Music”; neither I nor the people I asked about this could remember even a search in “Gender and Sexuality Studies in Music.”
Queer music studies, if professionally risky, has also been intensely rewarding to its practitioners, individually and in relationships with colleagues. For many of us, feminist and queer research transformed what it feels like to be an academic scholar of music. It opened up new possibilities that academic research and writing can be personally expressive and politically engaged. One aspect of queer music studies has been its repeated turn to multi-author formations—conferences and conference panels, edited collections, special issues of journals. Queer music studies is not just a genre of writing; it creates communities and movements. And every public gathering of queer music scholars, from conference session to Handbook, calls out to potential new participants. At the same time, as communities form, we must always be alert about marginalized or not-yet-included people and topics.
I am deeply grateful to the contributors who have created this book. For some chapters, there was little change from the initial submission to the published version. In many other cases I collaborated with authors on extensive revisions. In working with the authors on their chapters, I was an interventionist editor, not in order to change ideas but to improve clarity. Clarity is not a simple quality; it invites the question “clarity to whom?” And the answer might be uncomfortable: perhaps “clarity to a normative subjectivity,” perhaps that of a cisgender able-bodied straight white man. There is tension between the goal of clarity and the love of diversity. I hope the authors and I have found an appropriate accessibility that fully respects difference. I am grateful to the authors who worked patiently with me on revisions. I know each of the authors much better than when the project started; that has been one of the great benefits of this work.
It was a pleasure to interact with my main OUP contacts Norm Hirschy and Lauralee Yeary. Hirschy was strongly committed to this Handbook from the beginning. How delightful to encounter Yeary in our new relationship, after having been her teacher at UVA. Hirschy and Yeary were consistently patient and supportive, and gentle with the quirks of my personality. They made important, substantive interventions as we put this book together. Anonymous reviewers commissioned by OUP responded to the project with many useful comments at the proposal stage and partway through the process of submission and revision of chapters.
Beyond my conversations with authors about their individual chapters, I consulted about aspects of this project with many colleagues as the Handbook took shape. They included Christina Baade, Dana Baitz, Andre Cavalcante, Adrian Childs, Suzanne Cusick, Sam Dwinell, Shana Goldin-Perschbacher, Sumanth Gopinath, E. Patrick Johnson, Matt Jones, Roberta Lamb, Alejandro Madrid, Horace Maxile, William Meredith, Susan McClary, Robert McRuer, Gregory Mitchell, Mitchell Morris, Stephan Pennington, Emily Wilbourne, and others.
I am fortunate to work in the Department of Music at the University of Virginia, where academic faculty have autonomy in choosing topics for research and teaching and in designing our own courses. It was the perfect environment to think about this book. Many schools of music and music departments do not offer such freedom and flexibility. Colleagues Nomi Dave, Bonnie Gordon, and Michelle Kisliuk, along with past colleagues including Suzanne Cusick, Kyra Gaunt, and Elizabeth Hudson, have ensured that UVA has a lively culture of thinking about gender and sexuality in relation to music.
If I were to name all the loved ones and friends who have ensured my happiness over the Handbook years, I would go on at length. Here are only the most essential. I have no inkling who I would be, personally and intellectually, apart from the wonderful time I spent with brilliant, kind, loving Katharine. Teco continues to offer me joy of many kinds. Everett and Sophie enrich my life immeasurably.
As mentioned in the Introduction, Rachel Cowgill and Sophie Fuller, members of the original editorial group, made valuable contributions to the formation of this project, up to the milestone of a contract with OUP. I enjoyed our work together and was sad when they left.
Associate editors Tavia Nyong’o and Zoe Sherinian, who joined the project after the contract was approved, were superb resources in thinking about contributors and theoretical perspectives, editing chapters, and pondering the shape of the book. The Handbook is much better because of their collaboration.
Sadly, I need to name two participants who passed away before completion of the Handbook.
Tim Stüttgen (1977–2013) is remembered by Tavia Nyong’o, who knew him, as “a dynamic queer journalist, activist, curator and theorist who came out of the punk scene in post-reunification Germany. He was born in 1977 in Solingen, and studied film studies, fine art, and gender-queer theory in London, Hamburg, Maastricht, and Berlin. He was a member of the b-books collective and a part of the cinematic post-porn poem Arret la machine! postpone postpone happiness (2007). His posthumously published monograph, In a Qu*A*re Time and Place: Post-Slavery Temporalities, Blaxploitation, and Sun Ra’s Afrofuturist between Intersectionality and Heterogeneity exemplifies his radically open and imaginative mode of researching, thinking, teaching, and writing.”
The Handbook of Music and Queerness would not exist without my co-editor Sheila Whiteley’s imagination and energy. Throughout her career Whiteley, who died in 2015, was a force for innovation in popular music studies; her numerous publications include monographs and edited collections on counterculture, women and gender, space and place, cultural meanings of Christmas, virtuality, and more. Conspicuously open and friendly, she could also be firm when necessary, which was important in the often-misogynist worlds of popular music studies and music studies generally. Her edited and co-edited collections embody her enduring desire to identify remarkable early-career scholars and publish their work. Her warmth and imagination are sorely missed by many, and of course I missed her terribly in the later stages of work toward this book. May this Handbook stand as one more manifestation of her beautiful mind and spirit.