Alex Blaze

Queer music Friday

Filed By Alex Blaze | August 24, 2007 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: queer music

Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" (of course it was for a man) performed by the Orquesta Sinfónica de Xalapa:

Aaron Copland once said when Leonard Bernstein urged him to come out in the 70's, "I think I'll leave that to you, boy." Too bad, I'm sure Aaron would have grand-marshalled the greatest Pride ever.

A song based on the same theme by the British prog rock band Emerson, Lake and Palmer performed by a techno Japanese ELP-tribute band group after the jump. I really couldn't decide which video to put up because they're both good.

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Wilson46201 | August 24, 2007 5:45 PM

Years ago, on an infrequent visit to Bloomington, I passed by a notoriously cruisy Memorial Union restroom - I noticed an older gentleman who looked exactly like Aaron Copland exiting. I later remarked to a friend about seeing a guy who looked just like Copland. He told me that Aaron was lecturing there that very night at the Music School...

Worth mentioning that the US Military repeatedly used this piece in recruitment ads! Oh, the ironY!

Michael Bedwell | August 24, 2007 7:49 PM

Don't care for the Q-word, but chacun a son mot, and, in any case, many thanks for the link to the article mentioning both Copland and Bernstein. This quote, in particular, is deserving of its own T-shirt:

"Biographer Pollack himself notes that some of Copland's works are infused with a kind of romantic tenderness and relates that once after a good-looking student walked by, Copland, who had written three symphonies remarked to a friend, 'There goes my Fourth Symphony'."

The interesting thing about Bernstein's urging his friend/former sometime lover Copland to publicly come out is that he was not willing to do that himself. And Merv Griffin was not the first celebrity to be straightwashed. The PBS biography of Bernstein sometime in the last year would have the viewer believe that he was a gay virgin until late in life when he briefly lost his head [no pun intended] and did limited gay boomshackalackaing before running back to his heteronuclear family. One thing all agree on is that his ego was hung like a horse.

That is disputed both by this article, the personal experience of a piano major I knew at IU, and the autobiography of his friend Arthur Laurents who makes Lenny sound like quite the flagrant bimo [pronounced "buy-moh" — I just made it up] of many years and tricks standing [and sitting and spinning]. Actually, Laurents said Bernstein was, "a gay man who got married. He wasn't conflicted about it at all. He was just gay." While there's every reason to believe he genuinely loved his wife whom he returned to when she was diagnosed with cancer, despite evidence that a major part of his original motivation was to counteract his gay reputation in order to get the Boston Symphony conductor's job. It was the fifties, after all.

In a kind of six degrees of Aaron Copland, another Boston Symphony conductor was also his protege as well as Bernstein's, who said of him, "He reminds me of me but he knows more." — "MTT" - Michael Tilson Thomas, now the San Francisco Symphony's esteemed conductor and totally OUT. He and his partner Joshua Robison have been together over 30 years.

Post Bernstein's death, Thomas is considered the greatest living interpreter of Copland's music. "The Copland piece we did today, I heard him sing it." He also appears to be the long-awaited successor to Bernstein's TV programs for "young people" about classical music, one of which focused on "Copland and the American Sound."

And Steve Ralls will probably be amused to learn Thomas listens to Madonna on his iPod while working out. : - )

The article mentions another gay composer, Samuel Barber, whose ethreal "Adagio for Strings" has probably accompanied more Het sex in movies and on TV than any other single piece of music. Ironically, the first time I recall hearing it was when it underscored the lovemaking of a gay couple in the pioneering 1974 independent film, "A Very Natural Thing."

Obviously made on the proverbial shoestring with the proverbial limited actors, it was, nevertheless, revolutionary for its time, if seen by few nongays. Filmed four years after Stonewall and nearly a decade before AIDS stole its first victims, the couple's adagio by the fire is sexy and romantic, and there is some sexy and romantic romping naked in the surf, too. I remember Kinsey co-researcher Paul Gebhard remarking when we showed it to him and some other people at the Institute how believable the orgy scene was without showing any of what we would now call the full monty.

Like one of the characters in the play/movie "Boys in the Band," "A Very Natural Thing" challenged the idea that only monogamy was moral—remarkable for their time.

Here's a rather poor trailer, sans Adagio:

Michael Bedwell | August 25, 2007 12:01 AM

Wilson, was that tearoom near "Sugar and Spice"? LOL.

Ah, the perils of editing on screen. The sentence that began "That is disputed both by this article...." was referring to the false chronology of Bernstein's sexual adventures, not the size of his ego.

Mea culpa.