This project is inspired by a number of questions I have had myself and received from others in trying to conceptualize how people talked about gender and sexuality in musicology, music theory, and musical biography/life-writing in times and places before that was an accepted subdiscipline in music research. In a memorial essay for pioneering queer musicologist Philip Brett, Susan McClary noted the humor at play in the subtitle to Queering the Pitch: The New Gay and Lesbian Musicology (ed. Brett, Elizabeth Wood, and Gary C. Thomas, 1994):
This title contains several vintage Brettisms, including the pun on the British term for tuning (“queering”) and the implication in the subtitle that there was an old gay and lesbian musicology—as, of course, there was, even if it dared not speak its name.Susan McClary, “Introduction: Remembering Philip Brett,” in Philip Brett, Music and Sexuality in Britten: Selected Essays, ed. George Haggerty (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), 8n3.
My discussion of various people, sources, and issues as they appear in the musical, queer, and/or literary works of Vernon Lee, Rosa Newmarch, and Edward Prime-Stevenson (along with those of many of their friends, lovers, relatives, colleagues, contemporaries, and/or readers) is one attempt towards recuperating this “old” musicology from a time when the very notion of “musicology” as both academic field and term in the English language was still somewhat contested. In the inaugural issue of the Musical Quarterly, US music scholar observed some potential problems in terminology:
Perhaps the first question is, Do we really need the word “musicology?” It is a word not instantly grateful to the ear or to the mind. The eye may confuse it with the botanist’s “muscology,” and the humorous fancy may even connect it with the ubiquitous Musca of entomology. Even when we see what it is and that it is etymologically correct, we have to confess that it seems almost as hybrid as “sexology.” At all events, it is more ingenious than euphonious, more curious than alluring.Waldo S. Pratt, “On Behalf of Musicology,” The Musical Quarterly 1, no. 1 (1915): 1.
Pratt was more concerned with possible misunderstandings in what musicology was than what musicologists did. (For the curious “muscology” is an obsolete term for the study of mosses, while Musca is the genus of flies that includes the common housefly.) But the question of what counts as “musicology” (and, indeed, if we “really need it”) in thinking about how people experience, think, write, and talk about music history is a big part of why my project deliberately links each of my three main “characters'” scholarship to their literary work (Lee’s horror fiction, Newmarch’s poetry, and Prime-Stevenson’s short fiction). Although they each had different historical, methodological, and aesthetic interests, their research and creative writings can be viewed collectively as an attempt to find, explain, interpret, and (in a few cases) invent musical and historical possibilities beyond what could be openly discussed.