Wednesday, 2 November, 2016
3:30pm-4:00pm, University of British Columbia
REGISTRATION AND PRE-SPEAKER RECEPTION
4:00pm-6:00pm, University of British Columbia
Alisha Lola Jones, “'You Are My Dwelling Place': Experiencing Black Male Vocalists' Worship as Autoeroticism in Gospel Performance.”
Within twenty-first century historically Black Pentecostal settings where gospel music is performed, there is a longstanding tradition of presenting songs and delivering sermons that promote sexual abstinence among unmarried individuals, encouraging them to wait to have sex until they get married. Essential prescriptions for maintaining chastity in the “Worth the Wait” movement are teachings that Christian believers should guard their hearts and minds from lust, pornography, and even masturbation. Following Black men’s narratives about singing gospel, I contend that sexual abstinence discourse obscures the alternative forms of sensual and sexual exploration occurring in gospel music participation. Noticing the religo-cultural fixation on sexual abstinence rhetorics, many religious scholars have focused on the ways in which such teachings foster anxieties about the meanings and implications generated from the use of the body for pleasure and arousal. However, in my research on Black men’s performance of sexuality in gospel, I have found a music-centered contradiction to these sexual abstinence teachings. In the vocal pedagogical language and imagery that voice teachers and directors deploy to teach “good singing,” mentors make references to sensations perceived in the genitalia and other erogenous zones so that the vocalist can achieve “supported” breathing and ideal “placement” in the production of vibrant sound, also known as resonance. Black male performers are encouraged to draw from their sexual experience and/or imagination to simulate sensed and sung sexual climax, while simultaneously using sonic iconicity and resonance to evoke transcendence in listeners during the facilitation of public worship. Further, outside of Black church music academies, these male musicians have encountered non-Black instructors’ use of similar vulgar pedagogical imagery that is problematically derived from essentialist perceptions of Black men, emphasizing their physical attributes and sexual prowess over physical sensations and spiritual vitality.
Examining ethnography in Washington, DC of Charles Anthony Bryant’s musical tribute to Richard Smallwood, performing his composition “I Give You Praise” and interviews with male gospel vocalists and preachers, I consider gospel music as an embodied sexual activity in which vocalists simultaneously experience and surrogate pleasure as an essential, unspoken feature of worship leadership. In this ethnomusicological research, I draw from musicological research on gender and sexuality in other genres pioneered by scholars such as Susan McClary, Suzanne Cusick, and Philip Brett to analyze gospel music making and Christian worship participation as sex. With attention to the ways in which men speak about music making in homosocial gospel music networks, singing gospel is a multi-sensory, sexual activity engaging the listener with musical semiotics, memory, iconicity, and embodied resonance inscriptions. Inspired by the climactic phrase of the refrain in “I Give You Praise”, the following questions are examined in this presentation: In what ways do Black male gospel musicians perceive their vocal sound and embodiment as a dwelling place, a construction of habitation and safe space that facilitates spiritual, physical, or even sexual transcendence through worship in a manner that resembles an orgasmic experience? More to the point, to what extent do Black male musicians tap into modes of eroticism to inform their facilitation of worship?
Deborah R. Vargas, “The ‘J’ (jota) in Jenni: Jenni Rivera’s Queer Sonic Imaginary.”
This talk considers the performative and industry labor of the late singer Jenni Rivera. Utilizing the Spanish pronunciation of the letter “J” or “jota”—also the Latino vernacular for “queer”—as a queer analytic, this presentation considers Chicana/Latina queer subjectivity and representational strategies throughout key moments in Rivera’s career. Within the context of competing contemporary neoliberal projects of xenophobic immigrant discourse and normative representations of Latina/o gender and family, Rivera’s performances prompt us to think critically about the potential to imagine Chicana/Latina genders and sexualities that are counter to, in excess of, and incompatible with heteronormative constructions of citizenship and sexuality.
Thursday, 3 November, 2016
8:00am-8:45am, University of British Columbia
9:00am-10:30am, University of British Columbia, Irving K. Barber Library, Dodson Room
Elías Dylan Krell, “Race-ing Away: Black Trans Feminist Critique and the New (Old) Queer.”
This paper takes up the call to interrogate “queer” as an analytic and postulates that the emergence of “trans” may have augmented the implicit whiteness and middleclass status of “queer.” “Trans” has, in recent years, been positioned as queerer than queer—as a positionality and analytic that unsettles aspects of embodiment, identity, and politics that even “queer” did not or could account for. I begin with a phrase that I do not quite dare offer in class but have found useful in my writing, namely, that race and class do not go away just because you are trans. In fact, the “unknown” or unfamiliar practices with regard to trans “etiquette” may draw attention away from queer of color critiques of the imperialist aspects of queer as an analytic, identity, and historical position (and also elide “etiquette” itself as a raced and classed concept). I ask how musicology can potentially intervene in this newest iteration of gender-and-sexual-transgression-becoming-visible-through-privileged-whiteness by giving voice to queer and trans of color critique. I proffer a case study on Angelica Ross, a Black trans feminine singer-songwriter who appeared on a television show and then wrote an editorial critiquing her experience therein. Analyzing Ross’s written and musical work, I suggest that “race” is the “queer” that neither “queer” nor “trans” has gotten a handle on. In closing, I suggest that “race-ing queer” offers us a lighted pathway by which to imaginatively and performatively “walk” a trans of color critique: the gerund amplifies the process by which theory is enacted when we listen to music with a radically intersectional ear. I close by proposing women of color feminisms as an underexplored trove of techniques and strategies for queer and trans feminist politics that center race and class; that is, the “path” has been largely cleared for us, if we know how to listen.
Christopher Nickell, “Queer Arab Musicking Men: Ethnography and the Challenge of Queerness and Race.”
My paper opens with a theoretical problem from my ethnographic work on masculinity in the underground music scenes of Beirut, Lebanon: how to speak of queer Arab musicking men? Insights from queer and critical race theories both offer promise but resist facile application. Queer theory’s Americanist bent means that discussions of queerness elsewhere must attune to differences in conceptions of gender and sexuality and their relations to self-making, lest they traffic in ideological neocolonialism. Yet my musicking associates’ understandings of gender and sexuality are inflected by Euro-American notions of these registers of identity; aware of how “gay” can act to naturalize homo-norms for creating queer capitalist subjects, for instance, they nevertheless find such concepts useful. Critical race theory also illuminates the differential racialization of the musicking Arab male body in and outside the Middle East, but Arabness historically has a fraught relation with normative Euro-American concepts of race. Yet, similar to queerness, ideas of “brownness” pervade my interlocutors’ self-reflections, appealing to postcolonial color-line solidarity. From these insights, my paper moves to map unpredictable entanglements of gender and sexuality with race. I draw from three case studies to motivate this mapping: the most popular band of the English-dominated Beirut scene has an out-queer frontman who sings in Arabic; a band gigging in Germany to “make it big” plays up cultural intimacy of male homosociality to make light of hard times; an aging indie music enfant terrible embraces androgynous performance alongside chauvinistic ownership of successive young, female artists he produces. Along with Puar, Pérez, Ahmed, and others, I advocate considering race and queerness in the same frame, giving careful attention to the specifics of both discursive and affective elements while acknowledging the historicity of our own conceptual orientations. Musical ethnography, as my case studies show, can and must respond to this challenge.
Yun Emily Wang, “Sounding and (mis)hearing the “home” in Toronto’s Chinese queer diaspora.”
Social imaginaries of “homes” and homelands have figured prominently in transnational studies, particularly in the ethnomusicology of diaspora: music and the performing arts have been shown to serve as an important conduits to “home,” through which the diasporic subjects anchor identities, assert agency, and make sense of their transnational conditions. Important as notions of “home” may be, they often reproduce the exclusionary logic of the home nations on one hand, and mask the epistemological violence of the diaspora on the other. Following what David Eng calls a “methodology of queer diaspora” (2010), in this paper I explore expressions of longing and belonging that are alternative in multiple ways.
Specifically, I examine the everyday listening and sounding practices among a group of queer diasporic Chinese in Toronto, whose bodies are racialized as “visible minorities” in Canada and whose gender-crossing voices rendered their alterity audible as well. Drawing from three years of fieldwork, I discuss three types of expressive practices relevant to “home” in the queer diaspora: firstly, I situate my interlocutors’ stylized Mandarin verbal performances within the sociolinguistic archetype of gay men’s “camp talk” to demonstrate how multiple displacements manifest at the tip of the tongue in everyday speech. Secondly, I explore moments where spontaneous sing-alongs to Mandopop turn into vocalized sonic symbols (such as crying and sex noises), which destabilize relationships between sound and place, and voices and subjects. Lastly, I analyze the in-group circulation of an alleged mishearing of the soundscape of a Taiwanese national monument as a form of queering across multiple social categories and national borders. Ultimately, I hope to demonstrate an instability that is simultaneously, inseparably diasporic and queer. Prioritizing neither heuristics, such instability—explored by my interlocutors through sounding and listening—is where the politics and possibilities of queer diaspora can be lived and felt.
10:45am-12:15pm, University of British Columbia, Irving K. Barber Library, Dodson Room
GENEALOGIES OF CURRENT POPULAR MUSICS
Gayle Murchison, “Let’s Flip It! Quare Emancipations: Black Queer Traditions, Afrofuturisms Janelle Monae to LaBelle.”
Recent African American theorists argue that the term “queer” excludes, erasures, or minimalizes people of Color and their cultural productions. In response, E. Patrick Johnson theorizes quare studies, which “addresses the concerns and needs of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people across issues of race, gender, class, and other subject positions.” Francesca T. Royster has applied quare theory to post-soul music, examining both LGBTQIA artists and how a range of musicians explores gender and non-heteronormative sexuality; and Sheena C. Howard has explored intersectional black lesbian identity.
There is a long, rich black quare music tradition to which Afrofuturism has been central. Mark Dery asks, “Can a community whose past has been deliberately rubbed out, and whose energies have subsequently been consumed for legible traces of its history, imagine possible futures?” Afrofuturist quare musicians (e.g., from Sun Ra to Janelle Monae) create post-civil rights worlds in which African Americans enjoy full social privilege, civil rights and liberties, and inhabit spaces welcoming a range of emancipated black sexuality. Two recordings and videos melding science (speculative) fiction with post-war black popular music challenge music industry representations of black female bodies. Vis-à-vis bell hooks, they can be read as quare feminist critiques of an industry in which black female bodies are consumed in pornographic tropes. “Q.U.E.E.N” (Queer, Untouchables, Emigrants, Excommunicated, and Negroid) posits Janelle Monae as a revolutionary leader. Monae’s dystopia is the successor to LaBelle’s soul-era Afrofuturism. Its songwriter, member Nona Hendryx (out as LGBTQIA), characterized the group and her music in interviews as political. A quare reading of LaBelle’s 1974 “You Turn Me On,” performed February 22, 1975 on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert considers how the group navigated mainstream media’s limiting girl-group/soul diva dichotomies to offer a utopian vision of black sexuality. Taken together, Monae and LaBelle offer two points on the continuum of Afrofuturist quare resistance.
Rebekah Lobosco Gilli, ““Lighting the way to freedom”: Janelle Monáe’s Afrofuturist Feminism in “Many Moons” (2008).”
Neo-soul artist Janelle Monáe’s first EP and two full length albums (2007–2013) together comprise the suites that follow the story of Monáe’s alter-ego Cindi Mayweather as she becomes the messianic figure to the android community of Metropolis. In this paper, I begin with a brief discussion of Monáe’s reimagining and appropriation of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), arguing that the political message of Monáe’s imagined future directly addresses contemporary racial issues. This can be seen not only as an example of “anti-anti-essentialist” Afrofuturism (Rollefson 2008) or the “destructive hypersexuality” of the “Robo-Diva” (James 2008): Monáe’s self-positioning of her alter-ego as a messianic figure borders on androgynous, recalling Haraway’s third gender (1991) and signifying a potential new positioning of the black female persona in American popular music.
Through a close reading of Monáe’s 2008 music video “Many Moons,” off her 2007 EP Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase), I examine the intersection of Afrofuturism, black feminism, and queerness. In doing so, I posit that the multiple ways in which Monáe positions herself within the male-dominated Afrofuturist traditions pushes the boundaries of its discourse outward towards a new way black female bodies can be (re)presented. The video’s aesthetics, in conjunction with the music and lyrics, showcase Monáe’s engagement with what African-American Studies theorist Susana Morris (2012) calls “Afrofuturist feminism” while also using androgyny, gender bending, and racialized imagery within the video to further open the discourse of Afrofuturist feminism to non-normative gender identities. From Monáe’s conscientious choice of hairstyles and clothes, to her play with racialized, gendered bodies and “multi-egos” (Eshun 1998), Monáe-as-Mayweather becomes a “liberated voice” (bell hooks 1989) for the underrepresented black female in contemporary North American culture as well as Afrofuturist traditions.
Shana Goldin-Perschbacher, “"Stolen Song": Theorizing Racism, "Roots," and Revolution in Contemporary North American Transgender and Queer Folk Music."
It's understandable that those from "a nothing town where they sing the same song in every house" would "try on" other peoples' sounds, white Canadian transgender musician Rae Spoon sings in "Stolen Song"(2016), "but you[/I] can take it off and that's why it doesn't belong to you[/me]." The othered people in "Stolen Song" are marked by not being able to "take it off" where "it" implies racialized musical sound. Spoon connects this stance with a recent music video depicting a cisgender actor costumed as transgender.
We know that musical belonging is a fraught enterprise. North American folk music has been shaped by its history of bias and pigeonholing and yet also by attempts to use this music to fight oppression. Karl Hagstrom Miller notes that while black and white southern musicians could certainly "take it off" and sing or play many styles of music, the industry shoehorned them into racialized and regionalized roles (2010). Nadine Hubbs, engaging Beverly Skeggs' work (2004), elaborates that "certain selves are fixed in place so that others can be mobile"(2014). And Benjamin Filene identifies the irony of the appeal of "outsider populism" in which othered citizens are positioned (often by the middle class) as exemplary "common people," a process that both solidifies a sense of otherness and yet draws audience identification with othered peoples' "grit and character" (2000).
This paper ethnographically, historically, and analytically explores the stories several contemporary trans and queer folk (and folk-related) musicians including Spoon, Mouths of Babes, Hurray for the Riff Raff, and Actor Slash Model tell as they explore their own and others' "roots" and the pressing concerns trans and queer North Americans face today, asking what roles racial (and class and regional) otherness play in songs about queer and trans life as well as songs directly intended to challenge racism.
12:15-1:15, University of British Columbia
Friday, 4 November, 2016
12:00pm-1:45pm, sponsored by the SMT Queer Resource Interest Group, Sheraton Wall Center Hotel
IDENTIFICATION AND IDENTITY
Kyle Kaplan, “Peter de Rome's Soundtracks and the Politics of Interracial Desire.”
In October 1971, the Wet Dream Film Festival awarded its top prize for erotic short filmto Peter de Rome, a white British man whose amateur filmmaking grew out of documenting histime as a Civil Rights activist in the American South. Titled Hot Pants, de Rome’s film featured ablack man dancing to James Brown’s “Blues & Pants,” before disrobing and masturbating toclimax. Hot Pants captures de Rome’s practice of filming his own interracial sexual and socialencounters, and augmenting them with soundtracks and visual treatment. Winning the prizeushered de Rome into the burgeoning porno chic of the early 1970s, which offered professionalbacking and a creative community to circulate his films within. Histories of this era havefocused on the films of Warhol and Anger to provide a mise en scene of early liberatory queerpolitics, and by doing so have largely centered on a white visual imaginary. Returning to deRome’s inclusion of his black friends and lovers complicates this imaginary and providesopportunity to consider the political implications of interracial desire.
This paper exposes the double-edged political project initiated by de Rome’s use ofmusic by James Brown and Scott Joplin in the presentation of sexual community in two of hisfilms: Hot Pants (1971) and Mumbo Jumbo (1972). By scoring and manipulating the images ofhis personal encounters, de Rome transforms them into choreographed scenes displaying thepleasure and potential of interracial desire as a basis for queer community building. I explorethis potential alongside the political imbalance that emerges from these soundtracks as theyengage narratives of fetishization and commodification via white spectatorship andlistenership. I trace the transformation of de Rome’s intimate encounters into public texts toshow the politically unstable effects that music holds for aestheticizing interracial desire.
Mitchell Morris, “The Blacks, The Jews, and the Gays: Bette Midler's Third-Order Vaudeville.”
Bette Midler's notorious performances at the Continental Baths in New York began in the summer of 1970, in the effervescent conditions that had followed the Stonewall Riots of 1969. Midler's work in the cabaret formed the basis of her career during the '70s and decisively shaped all of her later work and star image. And this work was more than exclusively an artist's self-fashioning—at the time, and to the present day, Midler considered her performances to be a contribution to the gay liberation movement; if we take her comment seriously, it's worth exploring the nature and extent of her role in representing a new cultural style of gay identity.
The outrageous persona of "The Divine Miss M" (in a later burlesque version, "Bathhouse Betty") was at one level a cross-gendered impression of stereotypical gay traits and manners. But at the level of musical performance, it was clear that this persona articulated a sexual identity that was built in part of the expressive resources of Black and Jewish female singers, further mediated by the "second order" conditions of vaudeville's presence on '50s TV and its subsequent transformations into a "third order" historical phenomenon.
My discussion will explore two segments of Midler's "time capsule" film Divine Madness (1980). Midler's cover of Bessie Smith's "Empty Bed Blues" diverges from its model in ways that are demonstrably connected to the interventions of Janis Joplin, such that the complex sexualities and racial locations of both singers are sublimated into Midler's more Broadway-ish style. In Midler's "Sophie Tucker" stand-up routines, a composite "ethnic broad" persona works through old burlesque routines that allow the material to be newly-assimilated in a post-Stonewall context. Midler's frank incorporation of this material into a gay-inflected milieu points to the potential psychic complexity of post-Stonewall cross-identifications in music.
Stephan Pennington, “Willmer Broadnax, Mid-Century Gospel, and Black Trans/masculinities.”
One of the persistent critiques of transgender men is that the process of transitioning from female to male is a process of embracing male privilege, entering the dominant power structure, and perpetuating sexist notions of masculinity and femininity. To be sure, a number of passing guides for transgender men emphasize the necessity for trans men to present conservatively, advising khakis rather than leather and hair with a side part rather than a buzz cut. What is overlooked in the critique is an unspoken assumption of whiteness. However, not all trans men are white, not all men can enter into dominate white supremacist hegemony, and what masculinity can be and can mean varies widely by race and the raced relationship to power.
While some scholarship has looked at trans men of color, the slim pantheon of trans men who have received the most attention, from historical figures like Billy Tipton or more contemporary figures like Brandon Teena, are almost exclusively white. This focus on white trans men and their performance of masculinity obscures the very different ways men of color, trans or otherwise, interfacing with gender within white supremacy. This lack points to a need to see what can be learned from the performances of trans men of color. Once such performer was Willmer Broadnax, an African American gospel hight tenor who performed in many successful gospel groups from the 1940s throughout the 1960s, including the Spirit of Memphis Quartet, The Fairfield Four, and the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi. Like his contemporary, white jazz musician Billy Tiption, it was not until his death in 1992 that it was discovered Broadnax was assigned female at birth. However, unlike Tipton, Broadnax rejected the hyper-masculinity so often associated with transmasculinites. In this paper I will analyze Broadnax’s singing style in order to reveal important elements of the negotiation of black masculinity available to black men, trans or cis. Broadnax's high powerful tenor evidences a resistance to the hyper-masculinity ascribed to blackness within the racist imagination on the one hand and his vocal technique evidences a solidarity with black women gospel singers on the other, two things that confound hegemonic narratives of transmasculine (and cismasculine) performance. Expanding the study of trans men to include trans men of color in performance opens up greater understandings of raced gender and raced gender relations and opens new ways of thinking about black, trans, and black-trans masculinities.
8:00pm-10:00pm, sponsored by the AMS LGBTQ Study Group, Sheraton Wall Center Hotel
CRITIQUING RACIAL BLINDNESS
Kira Dralle, “Everyone Wants to Fight about Beyoncé: Racialized Emotive, Lived Bodies, and the Praxis of the Subversive Intellectual.”
Musicology has traditionally marginalized theories that have become canonical in the critical discourse today. Issues of affect, of the haptic sensorium, and of practical issues concerning musical pedagogy, still fight to find a place within the institution of music. These theories address the issues of the lived bodies of performers and audiences alike, and directly address what topics are most urgent in our contemporary musicological discourse. Queer musicology has introduced the emotive into scholarly work, but has done little to address the emotive as culturally specific to issues of race and of intersectionality. If musicology supported the pedagogical works of Gloria Anzaldùa and bell hooks, or the school-to-prison pipeline writings of Angela Davis, we might better avoid racially insensitive teachings of opera in a prison system. We might then find a greater understanding of intersectionality through interdisciplinarity.
This paper will address musicology’s marginalization of types of analysis that speak to emotion or embodiment, emphasizing more specifically the complete erasure of the black emotive or of black embodiment. Using Beyoncé’s recent release of Formation and subsequent performance at Super Bowl 50, I trace the ways in which black anger is delegitimized and criminalized, resulting in both paralyzing fear and silence from a white audience. This paper also explores how Beyoncé’s feminism and explicit sexual agency, is a radically queered version of many of the feminisms of musicological discourse. It opens up non-normative ways of expressing gender, sexuality, and motherhood, which are explicitly non-white. The goals of this paper lie in opening conversations at the margins of our discipline, at the margins of academic, popular, and black feminism, and at the margins of affect theory and queer studies. Intersectionality must be understood through interdisciplinarity.
Eric Hung, “Race-ing and Queering the Historical Mission of American Musicology through Public Musicology.”
The development of American musicology in the early 20th century occurred in an environment where Western art music was seen as having a “civilizing influence” upon the masses. Testifying before Congress in 1924, Jacob Hayman argued that training in Western Art music can reduce social upheavals by the lower classes by bringing “contentment and cheer” into their homes. At the same time, Francis Elliott Clark, as Director of the Educational Department at Victor Records, argued that knowledge of symphonic and operatic music is essential in the moral education of school children.
These early American musicologists established curricula and developed research methodologies that are, in many ways, still normative today. As the recent Musicology Now uproar demonstrates, the “civilizing mission”—with its championing of Western art music and ridicule of popular music—remains a central tenet for many musicologists today.
This paper argues that truly race-ing and queering this historical mission requires new methodologies that allow us to better understand the musicking of people of color and other marginalized groups. As Bob Fink demonstrated in “Elvis Everywhere,” while traditional and critical theory-based methodologies are excellent at uncovering the original contexts surrounding a work’s composition, they do not generally help us comprehend the listening practices of the public.
What is needed right now are techniques of public musicology, an emerging field that builds upon “shared authority” methodologies developed by public historians, museum curators, and applied ethnomusicologists. In the presentation, I will examine two public history projects that can be adapted by musicologists to study the musicking of marginalized communities. The first is the Philadelphia Public History Truck, which uses oral histories and artifacts provided by community members to tell the stories of particular neighborhoods. The second is an interactive timeline called The Knotted Line.
Kai Finlayson, “Defense Mechanisms: Queering Musicological Aversions to Critical Race Theory.”
What are our disciplinary defenses against race-ing the “mainstream” of music scholarship, and what can these defenses teach us about queer music scholarship today? My paper seeks to provoke and analyze these defenses, particularly around the question of “relevance.” I discuss the layers of defense against the topic of race surrounding my dissertation project, and show how an examination of the logic of each layer not only sharpens the relevance of critical race theory, but also suggests how “race-ing” queer theories of music lets me articulate the relevance of my transgender experience to my scholarly project.
Because my dissertation is about wind instruments in German-speaking lands around 1800, this paper discusses an especially high number of defenses of the supposed “irrelevance” of the topic of race. Although my research on eroticized organological change and listening practices to Harmonie wind music informs my discussion, the particular case study I will discuss in terms of “relevance” engages the set of interrelated operas featuring enchanted wind instruments, composed between 1789 and 1797. These magical operas refract plot structures of the theatrical and literary “colonial fantasies” Susanne Zantop describes in the German- speaking late eighteenth century, and gather key scenes around the thematic of hearing and playing wind instruments. In my discussion of defenses, I use and critique German Studies scholarship on gender and race around 1800, and thereby address the defense of temporal- geographical irrelevance. Next, I consider the interplay between magical instruments and exoticism, and address how scholarship on both musical exoticisms and sexualities defends itself against critical race theory. Lastly, I analyze how these scenes of listening produce Spillers’s “flesh,” and discuss the defense that claims critical race theory only applies to music featuring racialized bodies, and hence the implications for queer theories of musical embodiment.
Ali Na, “The Color of Queer Critique: Sonic Performances of Blackness and Queer Temporality.”
Queering musicology does not necessarily address systems of whiteness that are co-constitutive with heteronormativity. Thus, queering demands attention to critical race studies—a turn to race-ing queer music studies. This need to approach queer sonic forms with race points to the precise problem outlined by queer of color critique, and this paper asks whether or not queer of color critique accounts for race-ing queer music. Does it put queerness before race? How might blackness be an already queer form of aesthetic critique? This paper argues for a methodological approach of race-ing queer music that affirms the use of race, as imbricated with sexuality, as a starting point. Focusing on vocal performances that characteristically deploy pauses, silences, and the break, this paper turns to Thomas DeFrantz's “Performing the Breaks: Notes on African American Aesthetics” and “Blacking Queer Dance” alongside Fred Moten's In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition. These texts serve as jumping-off points for considering race in contemporary queer temporality scholarship. In sum, this paper argues that the break cannot be disarticulated from a particular black aesthetic, providing a means of queering musical time that foregrounds racialization. Analyzing black queer temporality through both the ephemeral qualities of performing sound and the materiality of the bodies of performers thus contributes to the critique of social normativity in music studies.