Award Date

May 2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)

Department

Music

First Committee Member

Janis L. McKay

Second Committee Member

Johnathan Lee

Third Committee Member

Thomas Leslie

Fourth Committee Member

Marina Sturm

Fifth Committee Member

Paul Werth

Sixth Committee Member

Lynn Comella

Number of Pages

73

Abstract

The music of Francis Poulenc (1899–1963) contains a great deal of humor, irony, and drama. These elements have mostly been attributed to Poulenc’s personal frivolity and associations with over-the-top figures such as Jean Cocteau. Poulenc’s homosexuality, until recently, was marginalized by a discourse shaped by Claude Rostand’s 1950 binary of “monk” (moine) and “bad boy” (voyou). In the early 21st century, Richard Burton notes that this cliché focused the discourse of a sacred/profane binary instead of a heterosexual/homosexual binary. The sacred/profane binary is used by scholars such as H. Wendell Howard to explain the distinction between Les Mamelles de Tirésias and Dialogues des Carmelites, using Rostand’s moine/voyou binary to support the theory that Poulenc’s revived Catholicism was the cause of a shift in compositional aesthetic, not any internal struggle with sexuality.

To reframe Poulenc’s work with his homosexuality as a contributing factor, scholars Christopher Moore, Ethan Allred, and Keith Clifton analyze Poulenc’s early ballets and last operas as examples of the camp aesthetic and subversive, gay commentary. Using descriptions of camp by scholars such as Susan Sontag, Moe Meyer, Jack Babuscio, and Eve Sedgewick, virtually all of the scholarship about camp and Poulenc links sonic gestures and extramusical devices in order to affirm the camp aesthetics of juxtaposition, artifice, humor, and theatricality.

This document, while acknowledging the elements of camp in Poulenc’s stage works, examines camp elements in his Trio for oboe, bassoon, and piano (FP 43, 1926) in order to show Poulenc’s camp aesthetic was an autobiographical commentary about his sexuality, not simply a reaction to a preconceived plot or a visual aesthetic. The Trio, arguably Poulenc’s first critically successful piece of chamber music, was written between two of his camp ballets, Les Biches (FP 36, 1923) and Aubade (FP 51, 1929) and at a time when Poulenc first acknowledged his own same-sex attraction. Poulenc’s turmoil over his homosexuality was present by the time Aubade is written and is a cornerstone of critical readings of his operas. Previous to this conflict, Poulenc’s camp manifests in Les Biches as a subversive, ironic commentary of the heteronormative discourse. This document posits that this same kind of playful subversion and queer commentary is present in the Trio, implying that not only is camp applicable to absolute music as well as ballet and opera, but that camp is an aesthetic which is aligned with Poulenc’s style as a composer, despite the compositional aesthetic he subscribes to at any given time.

Keywords

Bassoon; Camp; Francis Poulenc; Poulenc Analysis; Queer Music Theory; Trio for Oboe Bassoon and Piano

Disciplines

Gender and Sexuality | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Music

Language

English


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