I was very skeptical when we first read the Wood and Dorf articles for last Thursday’s class. To me, they seemed to be an attempt to impose a relevant topic from today onto material that had nothing to do with it. I am often torn with how much of a composer’s personal life we can infer from his or her music when there is no written evidence from the composer, only their music. Given those two articles, I found it difficult to believe that one could develop a gay interpretation of a musical work. After reading Moore’s article however, I was much more convinced of the possibility.
Moore provides a lot of great biographical information about Poulenc and his flamboyant lifestyle. He also does an excellent job providing a background of homosexuality in France at the time. It’s interesting to note that although homosexuality was legal at the time, one still needed to fear public shaming. Given this information, Moore provides a convincing argument regarding the campiness of Les Biches, noting that although it was not an exclusively gay aesthetic, it “allowed gay men to create work that was produced under circumstances where it might have been hazardous to be named as gay.” (Moore) He continues to provide a lot of excellent examples within the ballet’s music and choreography of this campiness, specifically with the “Woman in Blue.”
Dorf, on the other hand, provides a much less convincing demonstration of a queer reading of Satie’s Socrate, because the crux of his argument rests on that which is not present in the music. Dorf first demonstrates how secretive the Princesse Edmond de Polignac and Satie were with their sexualities. Because the text used in Socrate (that of Socrates’s Symposium) was originally very sexual, Dorf argues that their purposeful omission of any sexuality in the actual work is actually a reflection of their own suppressed sexuality. I find Dorf’s argument very weak, simply because it is based primarily upon the omission of a subject, rather than Moore’s explicit interpretation of Les Biches.