I’m a jazz buff with a special affection for big bands. Every two or three weeks I jump on iTunes and look at the new releases, hoping to find a new album or some classic reissue to add to my music library. This week an album by the London Gay Big band caught my eye. The London GAY Big Band.
I couldn’t help wondering why I, as a consumer, needed to be told that the band has all gay members. Is the producer thinking that I will be more likely to buy the album because of the sexual orientation of the musicians? (If so, he/she is mistaken.) Is the producer thinking that I will be impressed that gay people can play musical instruments? (If so, I’m not. I’ve always known they could.) Do the proceeds of the album go to help support gay causes? I have no idea, but I couldn’t help thinking that calling it a gay big band seemed somewhat demeaning to gays.
You see, if I were a gay musician, I wouldn’t want you to buy my music because I am gay. I’d want you to buy it because you like it…because it’s good music. If I thought I needed to tell you my sexual preference to get you to buy my music, wouldn’t I be admitting that my music isn’t good enough to hold its own in the wider, non-activist world where sexual preference isn’t used as a marketing ploy?
Take Michael Feinstein, for example. He is a gay man who makes music I love. I’ve seen him in person and have many of his albums. His jazzy, show-tunish, great American songbook style really appeals to me. Never has he billed himself as “Michael Feinstein, the gay singer.” He doesn’t need to. His talent transcends any such considerations and appeals to people of every sexual preference.
Personally, when listening to music, I never even think about whether the drummer or the piccolo player or the third clarinet player might be gay. It doesn’t matter to me. Not even a little bit. I always thought that’s what the gay community wanted. Now, I’m not so sure.
Just about the time I think I have this stuff figured out, I find out I don’t. Perhaps that’s what being an “alien and exile” (1 Peter 2:11) is all about. This world never really quite makes sense.