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The University of Iowa Libraries

The University of Iowa Libraries


Gender & Sexuality in Music: Home

A guide to print and electronic sources for research about gender and sexuality in music including general reference material, information about the research process, books, scholarly articles, web resources and well-known composers.


Welcome to the Guide for resources about Gender & Sexuality in music.


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Where to Start?

The Study of Gender and Sexuality in Music is a relatively new domain of research. As such, there exists less published material than other topics of interest. Because it is, by nature, an interdisciplinary topic, the research is spread out among these disciplines. Material can be found classified under "Gender," "Sexuality," "Women's Studies," and "Musicology," depending on the content of the material and the whim of the cataloger. A basic understanding of each of these separate disciplines and its content is important.

Research material specifically focused on Gender and/or Sexuality in Music is available, but relatively scarce. Because of the controversial nature of the subject, material is often best sought outside major journals in the fields and in the form of collections of essays rather than monographs or articles in prominent research journals. There are several excellent bibliographies listed on the Reference page, and researchers should also look at the works cited in the books and articles presented here, as they will often lead to additional sources. 

Information is more readily available on a few well-known female composers listed in the Notable Composers tab. More materials are available for these women mainly because of their relation to famous male composers. Study of one of these women will yield a larger body of existing research than other women composers.

What is Musicology?

Musicology is the scholarly study of music, that is, the study of music through research and rather than through performance. Musicology emerged as a discipline through writings by Waldo Selden Pratt around 1915. Pratt established a rift between what he described as the scientific and scholarly study of music and the 'mere' performance of music. Musicology experienced a major shift in the 1980's and led to what is often called "new musicology" which emphasizes the cultural impact and effect of music. New Musicology's emergence is credited largely to Susan McClary's book Feminine Endings: Music, Gender, and Sexuality. Among the many criticisms of musicology is the exclusion of popular music from study. In the academic setting, the study of popular music is still widely controversial and often not accepted as legitimate study.

Within the broad discipline are two sub disciplines: Historical Musicology and Ethnomusicology. Historical Musicology studies music over time. This includes composition, performance and reception. Ethnomusicology is the study of music within its cultural context and the effect culture and music have on each other. Though it is most often associated with Non-Western music, it also applies to the study of music through a sociological perspective. When popular music is studied, it is most often under this umbrella. The study of gender and sexuality in musicology can fall under either umbrella depending on the context and the opinion of the researcher.

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