Overall, I found both the articles of Dorf and Moore to be as compelling as they were shocking in their unusual analyses of the queer erotic undertones of twentieth century French music. Their angles presented me with entirely new concepts, and while I do not embrace the entirety of either of their arguments, I appreciate the care with which they present a new lens – that of a traditionally ignored minority group – through which we may view the music we are studying.
“Poulenc’s use of a network of rhetorical and stylistic devices that simultaneously conceal and creatively exploit the secret of his sexual identity reflects the composer’s profound engagement with the queer cultural practices of camp.” (Moore 301)
The great strength of Moore’s article, which led me to more or less buy into his overall claim (see above quotation), was that he delved deeply into two particular musical examples of Francis Poulenc. His thoroughness of musical analysis showed that while he intended to make a certain claim about the role of the composer’s private sexual life in his compositions, he was fully aware of the necessity of solid evidence to support this claim. I was particularly struck by Moore’s interpretation of the “Woman in Blue” character from Les Biches, who the author saw as representative of the ambiguity of interpretation inherent in the work. The author explains that one could either see Les Biches as a straightforward ballet about heteronormative desire or as a work full of veiled references to the homoerotic sexual culture of Paris, of which Poulenc was a part. Moore writes that the Woman in Blue could be seen as an androgynous person whose possible queerness is emphasized by Poulenc’s use of sudden shifts in tonality, thus leading the reader to a deeper acceptance of Moore’s claim that we should take into serious account the queer undertones (or more overt overtones!) of Les Biches. This analysis continues throughout the article, as the author supports his claim about Poulenc and “camp” through more examples from his work Aubade.
“Commisioned by the lesbian American Princesse Edmond de Polignac, [Socrate] represents a unique window into a private queer musical aesthetic hitherto unacknowledged by scholars.” (Dorf 87)
While I was admittedly less attracted to Dorf’s article in that its thesis focused more on the biographical details of the patron and the composer of Socrate, many of the strengths of Moore’s article are present within Dorf’s work. I found his intimate engagement with primary sources particularly helpful, and while the article lacks the overt musical analysis of Moore’s piece, Dorf almost makes up for this omission in his depth of research about the particular social circles of the Princesse de Polignac. Of particular note is his inclusion of the complex relationships between the Princesse and several of her lesbian friends (93-94).