In this work I define “queerness” as an “oddness” in terms of elements that are perceived as “being different form the norm” but, crucially, NOT "wrong”. While “odd” still carries predominantly negative connotations (as an opposite to “regular” or “even”), the term “queer” (which does not have a clear opposite) has a celebratory notion of “other-ness” within current queer culture and the queer art discourse, in general. This work is part of this discourse.

Musical Background

Taking the Baroque concerto as a format reference, I wanted to base some of the music on existing Baroque material. It made sense to me to go back to the Baroque model as the origin of the concerto in Western art music. 

Rather than choosing music by Bach or Händel, I found it more appropriate to stay with the theme of the piece and choose music by a composer with an outsider status within the world of classical music. Telemann is such a composer, as is clearly expressed in Stanley Goodman’s article “Telemann: A Forgotten Friend of Bach and Handel” (The Musical Times Vol. 91, No. 1286 April 1950, pp. 135-137, published by: Musical Times Publications Ltd.). As a result, Movements 1, 3 and 5 are based on music by Georg Philipp Telemann. 


Movement 1 is an arrangement of the Largo from his Quartet in d-minor, TWV43:d2. 



In movement 3 the woodwind parts are an arrangement of the Presto of the same Quartet with added trills.

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Notions of Queerness as compositional building blocks in "There are more of them than us - a Queer Concerto for 9 Saxophones and Orchestra"


jump to: compositional decisions regarding Set-up

jump to: compositional decisions regarding Musical Background

jump to: compositional decisions regarding Performance Material


Performance Position

The saxophones are positioned in the front left corner of the stage. This way all performers are inhabiting the same space (i.e. the stage), but there is a clear spatial separation between soloists and orchestra.

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The theme at the beginning of movement 5 is based on the Vivace in Telemann’s Fantasia for solo flute No 2 (TWV 40, 2-13).


Dress Code

In the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire student handbook it states that performers MUST wear black on stage. While the orchestra wear black and thus conform to traditional standard, the soloists wear “casual streetwear”, actively breaking the dress code for the occasion.

Exaggerated use of tradition technique

The typical and thus expected ritardando at the end of Movement 1: Largo is exaggerated in order to draw attention to itself:


The percussionist causes a noisy accident, disrupting the flow and atmosphere of the movement:

Travesty of soloist and orchestra roles

The 4th movement divides attention: The soloists play almost unaccompanied energetic, driving material, which in a traditional concerto would attract undivided attention. However, the orchestra perform a system of hand gestures and almost inaudible music. As a result, the visual focus is clearly with the orchestra, while the sonic focus stays with the soloists:

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Queering tradition

Strings in drag

At the beginning and end of the second movement the strings appear in “drag”, i.e. their are posing as a related string instrument (guitar) by adopting their playing technique.

Inappropriate behaviour

The adjustment of music stands is traditionally an element that players tend to hide as much as possible. Here the soloists all 

adjust their stands in an obvious way:

Performance Material

Similar to the adoption of Polari as a culturally defining language used by gay subculture, the soloists shift to their own microtonal language. Quarter-tones are not part of the traditional diatonic language and have often been perceived and described as “wrong” because they sound “out of tune”. Consequently, a quarter-tonal language seems perfect to emphasise the outsider status of the saxophones in this piece. While the saxophone music follows the traditional diatonic language of the orchestra in the first two movements (emphasised in movement 2 by the diatonic triadic sequence in the saxophone part), in movement 3 they break away and introduce their newly adopted language. 

In addition to strict structural divisions and subdivisions in threes (marked by the percussion) the Trio presents three different languages: The woodwind carry on with the established Baroque diatonic music, strings enter last with a textural glissando and the saxophones present a series of quarter-tone chords:

Language as cultural definition

The quarter-tonal language continues in the fourth movement with occasional players in the orchestra joining the saxophones briefly:

Finally, after several attempts of combining the Baroque context with the new language and material, orchestra and soloists settle on a C major chord with microtonal extensions: a more “inclusive” version of the C major chord, followed by a final descending quarter-tone line to give queerness the last word:

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