18 Pages

Introduction: Encoding the Musical Erotic

ByLaurie Stras

The study of sex and sexuality in early modern Europe is now well established in humanities scholarship, whether attending to literature, visual arts, or even music. Yet erotic discourse-or eroticism-in and of itself has not had quite so much attention in the musicological literature, at least not in relation to early modern music. Certainly, for later repertories musicologists, musicians, and audiences have no trouble proposing and agreeing that music can be intrinsically erotic, whether it be harmonically (the Tristan chord) or performatively (much of Madonna’s or Lady Gaga’s output). But eroticism in early modern music has largely escaped detailed scrutiny, possibly because reading erotica created in anything but our own immediate culture (geographical, social, and temporal) is a challenge, or because the oddness, to us, of many of the fundamental beliefs on which it is based render it baffling and strange.