This year the Austrian Academy of Science offered a scholarship to students covering travel and accommodation expenses for a trip to their summer school in Vienna, Austria. I was one of the winners of this scholarship and got to attend the three-day course for free this September. The subject to be discussed was homosexuality in Franz Schubert’s lifetime, since there has been a longstanding debate in the field of musicology on whether Schubert was homosexual or not. We heard lectures from professors specializing in many different fields other than musicology, and the other attending students came from all over the world. I enjoyed listening to everyone’s differing perspectives and discussing the topic and its relevance to musicology and academia in general.
One lecturer was very keen to keep the discussion “factual” while another provided mostly historical background to make sure we understood the context of Schubert’s life. I understood very little of the musicology lecture, but we concluded that it is difficult to say whether the queerness some listeners hear in Schubert’s music is projected, or present somehow in the music itself.
Although the summer school lasted only three days, every day was packed. We were treated to a fancy dinner, a performance of Schubert’s work by a pair of very talented musicians, and on our last day we went on a walking tour of Schubert-related landmarks around the city. After our three days of lecture and debate we concluded that it doesn’t matter if Schubert was gay or not, but it does matter that we are able to talk about it in an academic setting and make sure that queer voices are heard. I was able to spend additional time in Vienna after the school was over with Paula Stevens, an exchange student who previously came to UW. It was a rich and rewarding experience, and I am very grateful that I was able to attend.