Paper Session
Nov 12, 2021 10:00 AM - 10:50 AM(America/Chicago)
20211112T1000 20211112T1050 America/Chicago Gendered Bodies AMS 2021
Engaging Our Trancestors: A Theoretical Framework for Investigating Historical Trans and Gender-Variant Performers
Individual Paper 10:00 AM - 10:50 AM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/12 16:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/12 16:50:00 UTC

In June of 2014, _Time_ magazine featured transgender actress and activist Laverne Cox on its cover with the headline "The Transgender Tipping Point." A month before, renowned trans academics Susan Stryker and Paisley Currah launched the inaugural issue of _TSQ: The Transgender Studies Quarterly_, the first non-medical, interdisciplinary peer-reviewed journal devoted to trans studies. These and several more examples illustrate that the last decade's surge of transgender visibility has prompted a growing, interdisciplinary interest in transgender studies. Within musicology, scholars tend to focus on vocal embodiment rather than historical performance. In transgender and gender studies, the majority of scholars highlight various issues relating to post-Stonewall trans issues. Since the term "transgender" did not exist as an identity marker until 1965, historians are faced with a problem of not only locating trans people in the archives but also how to engage trans people in scholarly literature prior to the advent of the terminology. In this paper, I offer a context-based theoretical framework for approaching "pre-trans" historical subjects.

Several Berlin sources depict various conceptualizations of "trans" during the 1910s and 1920s, including _Der Eigene (The Unique)_, the first gay journal (published 1896 to 1933), _Die Freundin (Girlfriend)_, the most popular lesbian magazine (published 1924 to 1933), and _Das 3. Geschlecht: Die Transvestiten_ (_The Third Sex: Transvestites_, a collection published from 1930 to 1932, different from its similarly titled predecessor _Das dritte Geschlecht_), all of which provided a necessary platform for queer authors, musicians, and activists. Using these sources, I analyze a number of trans-authored essays and examine the activities of trans club leaders, performers, and lecturers in order to show how trans identities formed publicly. I argue that not only were trans performers (and trans people more generally) active and publicly visible in the early twentieth century but also that "trans" as an identity marker was just as flexible and fluid as it is today, 100 years later. Analyzing these sources highlights an important time in queer history and offers a useful lens for interpreting historical trans figures prior to the advent of contemporary trans terminology.

Kristofer Eckelhoff
The Graduate Center, CUNY
Voice-Gender-Body Rules: Constructing “Normalcy“ in Early Nineteenth Century Italian Opera
Individual Paper 10:00 AM - 10:50 AM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/12 16:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/12 16:50:00 UTC

This talk explores how opera both disrupted and co-constructed notions of normalcy in gender and sexuality, both through its staged characters and its famous singers. It begins by synthesizing contributions from several major scholars of castrati and travesti singers and adds to the mix the perspectives of Anne Digby (1989), Evelyne Ender (2019), and Lennard Davis (2014) on the invention of women's inferiority and constructions of "norms."

The travesti hero appears as a short-lived solution to the castrato "problem" of gender errancy. Naomi André (2006) observes how the gender fluidity of the castrato is gradually tamed by substituting the travesti hero as the seconda donna heroine of Romantic opera. Yet as Heather Hadlock (2004, 2012) demonstrates, audiences increasingly became concerned not so much with singing characters or voices as singing bodies. James Q. Davies (2014) shows further that such concerns are amplified by Romantic notions of voice as containing biology, turning the treble voice toward binaristic, stereotyped gender expressions, codifying essentialized and idealized notions of femininity. 

By adding in Digby, Ender, and Davis and examining periodical literature on Giuditta Pasta, Maria Malibran, and Rosamunda Pisaroni, I situate the desire to define and control female singers' bodies within the emerging scientific and social discourses in the West. Medical writings promoted ideas of women's biological and psychiatric inferiority so as to protect masculine social positions, threatened by female emancipation efforts. Thus, Italian opera eventually aligns with growing tendencies toward gender discrimination by staging an increasingly clear-cut two-gender binary and its accompanying codes of conduct, as rigidity around gender, body, and femininity become the "new normal" in many areas of society. This moment in time underscores how influential new artistic ideas can be when they are endorsed by politicians, scientists, and journalists. Public opinion and its widely supported narratives can disrupt and inevitably shift underlying notions of normalcy and the accompanying acceptability of sexualities, identities, and artistic practices. With shocking speed, new ideas about appropriate femininity turned into something ever-present, inevitable, and "natural." 

Živilė Arnašiūtė
University Of Chicago
Wendy Carlos, SOPHIE, Lyra Pramuk: Synthesizing a Trans Aesthetics of Electronic Music
Individual Paper 10:00 AM - 10:50 AM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/12 16:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/12 16:50:00 UTC

Trans women have always been at the forefront of electronic music. This was true when Wendy Carlos first synthesized Bach through a Moog instrument in the 1960s, and it is true now as trailblazers like SOPHIE and Lyra Pramuk continue to reconceptualize the sonic possibilities for the synthesizer and digital audio workstations (DAWs), often leaving behind already tenuous boundaries of genre in their wake. What are the compositional techniques offered by these instruments (over acoustic ones) that allow for the expression of a markedly trans musical aesthetic? Why have trans musicians overwhelmingly pioneered and pushed the boundaries of electronic music?

This paper positions the synthesizer (and its digital successors) as an indispensable world-building technology of trans and gender non-conforming musicians. I present three brief examples from the artists listed above to forward a unifying aesthetic theory of trans electronic music. Instead of claiming that transness contains inherent musical talents (which would be dubious at best and essentialist at worst), I propose instead that the instruments of contemporary electronic music (synthesizers, DAWs, CDJs, etc.) hold latent possibilities for the types of corporeal self-fashioning that are essential for queer and trans communities. Through these media, the trans body and self can be synthesized through sound in the same way that gender is, in some way, synthesized through bodily presentation and performance. In SOPHIE's case, this manifests in a unapologetically maximalist sound that centers the transformation of her body as she undergoes medical transition. This process often entails synthesizing found sound and the human voice into elaborate sonic collages that often exceed legibility by cisgendered audiences. By stitching these musical accounts into feminist thought old and new - from Haraway's A Cyborg Manifesto to contemporary trans critique - this paper not only foregrounds trans women in the history of electronic music, but implies that their compositional techniques push the boundaries of the self, not to mention those of countless musical genres.

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Ian Giocondo
Columbia University
Columbia University
The Graduate Center, CUNY
University of Chicago
Prof. Natasha Loges
Royal College of Music, London
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