Cusick and Her Lesbian Relationship with Music

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  • Topic: Gender, Music, Lesbian
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  • Published : February 1, 2013
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Cusick and Her Lesbian Relationship with Music
In the essay “On a Lesbian Relationship with Music: A Serious Effort Not to Think Straight” by Suzanne G. Cusick, she brings up an interesting topic about the connection between her being a lesbian and her being a musician, a musicologist, if there exists any.

I’m especially interested in the “power system” and the link between musicality and lesbianism she mentions in this article. Here, I’ll try to analysis them in detail and relate them with other issues in music and sexuality, exploring them in a more general picture. Cusick redefines the concept of sexuality in her essay, as the way of “expressing and/or enacting relationships of intimacy through physical pleasure shared, accepted, or given.” According to her, this process of expressing and enacting can also be found in our musical activities, where the circulation of physical pleasure can be experienced as well. Thus, she says that our musicalities and our sexualities are “psychically next-door neighbors.” (70) I need to claim that this idea of her amazes me. From my previous musical experience, I’m pretty sure that music is a subject highly intimate for me. For instance, I usually have reluctance when I’m asked to sing or perform a song written by myself, even if I think it is a brilliant one. And this won’t happen if the song is someone else’s. In my opinion, music, especially my own music which I’m personally attached to, is an expression of my true self, and that identity and personal characteristics contained in it makes it so special that I won’t be willing to share it with others, unless it’s someone really close to me. Another fact that I think will support Cusick’s idea is that different people always have different opinions towards the same piece of music. No matter how the composer perceives it, the listener usually has the tendency to relate it to his/her own personal experiences, which differ from person to person. It is reasonable to think that music is a symbol of someone’s personalities and characteristics, because of the intimacy the music creates. Therefore, I believe that there exists a connection between the musicality and the sexuality of a certain person, since both of them are revelations of his/her true identity, and we can examine our own behaviors on both of them. In other words, these two factors are connected because of the person who they belong to, and they are contained in the system of his/her perspectives. Cusick also explains in her article what does it mean to be a “lesbian” and how to define sexuality, which are essential questions if we want to relate it to music. From her point of view, the essence of one’s sexuality and the element of all relationships is the power system. An example that can explain this is what musicologists say about the masculinity in Beethoven. In Susan McClary’s opinion, there exist musical constructions of gender and sexuality. She regards the field of music and musicology as male-dominated, since the masculine norm and the distinction between genders are deeply rooted in music, such as masculine and feminine cadences, rhythms, gendered major and minor triads, etc. (7) She also analyzes Beethoven’s music, which to her contains “pounding”, “thrusting” gestures that represent masculinity. (75) On the contrary, in Sanna Pederson’s article “Beethoven and Masculinity,” she redefines the concept of masculinity and the link between it with Beethoven. She states that we can find an alternative approach, arguing that we regard Beethoven as symbol of masculinity because of the overwhelming idea that viewing woman as “as unchanging, eternal essence, as the opposite of the dynamically striving and achieving man.” (326) Matthew Head also approaches this from another perspective by examining the heroic in Beethoven’s works, finding many cross-dressed heroines. (132) It’s notable that although there is importance put on female characters, women usually need to conceal...
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