05 September 2012


That is a 1992 video by Edson Cordeiro and Cassia Eller. It is a mash-up of The Rolling Stone's Satisfaction and Mozart's Queen of the Night.

Cordeiro is one of the few modern male sopranos. He has a five-octave range and seems to hit the high F6 in Queen easily. Watching the video I started thinking about gender in the arts.

The woman in the song is Cassia Eller. She is a contralto.

Of course she isn't really bending gender, just expectations. She is more in line with Nina Simone. A woman who's voice could be mistaken for a man's without the visual. Victoria Legrand of Beach House falls into this category as well.

Ms. Jones
While these artists are clearly playing with gender norms I have always found artists that play with true androgyny fascinating. Grace Jones, Boy George, even Adam Lambert. They clearly touch on and tread the line of what people find comfortable with strict gender roles.

Watching the videos from the two Brazilian artists led me to a series of videos from other artists working outside their gender roles. Below we have a 70s disco queen, a woman who may have slept with Frieda Khalo, and a woman who lived her life as a man playing jazz.

Quick note on Billy Tipton: No one knew he was a woman until he died.


Chavela Vargas:

Billy Tipton:

What does this have to do with books? The history of gender twisting exists there as well. Woolf's Orlando, Eugenides Middlesex, Shakespeare practically used it in every comedy. These are only three, the list stretches on.

Why does it matter?

My view of the arts is that they are a place for us to expand the boundaries of what it means to be a human. To ask ourselves questions and to get answers. They aren't mirrors exactly, more dreams of what we could be. And the twisting of strict gender roles is just another way to point out that our arbitrary boundaries can be pushed outward a little.

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