Abstract

Challenging notions of the composer as solitary genius and of twentieth-century homophobia as a simple destructive force, I trace a new genealogy of Coplandian tonal modernism–“America's sound” as heard in works like “Rodeo,” “Appalachian Spring,” and “Fanfare for the Common Man” – and glean new sociosexual meanings in “cryptic” modernist abstraction like that of Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson's opera “Four Saints in Three Acts.” I consider gay white male tonalists collectively to highlight how shared social identities shaped production and style in musical modernism, and I recast gay composers' close-knit social/sexual/creative/professional alliances as, not sexually nepotistic cabals, but an adaptive and richly productive response to the constraints of an intensely homophobic moment. The essay underscores the pivotal role of the new hetero/homo concept in twentieth-century American culture, and of queer impetuses in American artistic modernism.

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