What would it be to hear queer music?
Speak, and the world is full of singing.Freddy Eynsford-Hill
Wipe away the glitter, dim the sequins’ reflected klieg glare, clip the bell-bottoms’ wings, and listen, if you can, to ABBA without accoutrement. Is there queerness there, immanent in the catchy strains of pop perfection that made “Waterloo” the single greatest number in the camp carnival Eurovision Song Contest’s history? Do we hear it in Sylvester’s head voice, or the soul with which it brims? In the forbidden promises of Ursula’s burlesque seductions in The Little Mermaid, or Scar’s brooding refusal of the family order in The Lion King? Is West Side Story gay-by-gay-Bernstein? Or is there the rumble of queerness in its chords—in, say, the “Quintet,” with the daggerlike pathos of the Sharks’ and Jets’ mutual minor-key accusation, “They began it, they began it,” cutting the lovers’ dreamy phantasies of “Tonight”?
If queerness has, as a pedant’s passion for precision would insist, an essential link with alterity, then perhaps it’s right to hear it in counterpoint and modulation—not cacophony, quite, but the tempering of major chords with the strains of the minor. Or perhaps queerness in music is always rubato: there in the quickening of a heartbeat, a moment’s pleasure stolen.
To claim that tune, perhaps all we need find is a sort of swoony sensuousness—we being a sensuous people, a people of tastes.
Dogmas for the use of the ages.
- 0The practiced chill of postmodern cool is the queer art of the past.
- 1The queer art of the future draws strength from the intellectual challenges of gentleness and the emotional risks of love. It is work with blood in it.
- 2The next queer artists are virtuosos of swoon, and swish, and style. They are fabulous—divine. Glamor in art does not belong to power.
- 3The history of the arts is the history of queer elegy. Art history is the history of queer erasure. This violence is not accidental.
- 4Ours was the voice of Socrates’ Athens; ours was the voice of Baldwin’s Paris. With Woolf we sang modernity; with Shakespeare, the age of the individual. Queerness is not a part of world history—queerness is world-historical.
- 5Art is not a product of history, history is a work of art.
- 6The last time a critical mass of queer artists emerged, we called it the Renaissance.
- 7The queer art of the future is the art of the future.
Ignota Magazine is an all-LGBTQ artistic and cultural journal dedicated to amplifying a distinctively queer artistic voice. We seek to present this voice in forms befitting its divergence, using technically sophisticated tools to bring it to audiences in ways impossible via traditional publishing. More than a mere vessel, Ignota aims to be an exquisite artifact in itself. Decanted, deciphered, and divine, Ignota will showcase the brilliance of the queer voice in a style that exalts and enhances its substance.
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Ask us things, please.
Okay, so what is all this?A
Ignota Magazine is an online literary and arts issue-based publication by and for queer people. It is the first project of The Ignota Media Corporation, a publishing startup with the goal of amplifying voices historically unheard in the industry.
What do you publish?A
Fiction, nonfiction, poetry, visual art, music, video, digital interactive content, and anything else imaginable and unimagined from emerging and established queer creators.
What do you mean by queer?A
Gay, bi, lesbian, trans, and so on. We don’t believe “queer” is a contentless, infinite category, but we do think of it as an expansive one.
What’s different about you?A
We’re not a current-events, pop-culture, or entertainment platform—not that those things aren’t important. We also believe in producing content with technological and aesthetic sophistication in order to curate a powerful queer voice. We go beyond the text-on-a-page model of web publication to showcase work in unexpected ways that take advantage of our digital medium.
What’s a “queer voice”?A
Focusing on a queer voice means that our mission goes beyond publishing work by and for queer people. We aim to publish strains of queerness that can be traced back in art and literature throughout history and around the world.
The editors of Ignota are Lambda Literary Award winner Ryka Aoki, Lambda Literary Award loser merritt k, and Lambda Literary Emerging Voice in Nonfiction Daniel Shannon. So, you know, we know a thing or two about queer art and literature.
What’s with the name?A
We borrowed it from the name of a still-untranslatable secret language invented in the 12th century by the prophet, saint, and abbess Hildegard of Bingen: the Lingua Ignota. Hildegard’s Lingua was not just a seer’s holy script, her closest approximation of the language of God, but a tool and agent of community. It moved in the women who were her charge, securing and uniting them as surely as the abbey walls they had reclaimed the property that was their birthright to raise from nothing. We believe that such is precisely the power and promise of language: to bind together and to set apart. Not for nothing, Hildegard was herself what we would today have the dignity and good sense to call queer.
The Lingua also furnished our logo—a q in our prophet and patron saint’s world-making private language.
How can I learn more?
Announcing Issue Two: “Scandal”
You know how bitchy fags can be.Jennifer North, Valley of the Dolls (1967)
Despite the upheavals of the post-Stonewall seventies, when they exchanged their blackout windows for the transparent item and admitted the last few heavenly bodies denied access, and the post-Giuliani naughties, when they vacuumed the cigarette ash from their ceilings and stools, urban gay bars have never been quite rid of flame’s curls, nor smoke’s languors, nor darkness’ folds.
They endure as the atmosphere of gossip; dish; the queer art of knowingness. Just as the stakes of being known are higher here than most anywhere else, so too are the stakes of knowing, the anxiety of discovery finding its match and mirror in the pleasure of exploration. An elegant reversal is effected: gossip, so often weaponized against queer people, is transformed into a deadly queer weapon.
Scandal is excessive, performative, camp—the snatched wig, the clutched pearls, the gasp and the cackle and squeal. Inhibit though it may its subjects, subtly celebrate though it does the puritanical pressure of the narrow and the straight, it nevertheless invites us to be slain by a moment’s queenly pleasure in the slaying of a foe. For just that moment we are made a little more free, licensed to take pleasure in deviance and find joy in what was enjoined against.
But intimate, too. In scandal is all the amorous excitement of a whisper, tongues clucking and wagging an invitation to explore heat and shade and the infinitude of possibility behind every closed door. Exposure may be public, but exposing retains all the pleasure of the private.
This quarter, Ignota invites you to a tea party. Pitch your work today.
Keywords: stars (they’re just like us), power/knowledge, kiki soso oui oui non non, drama, dirt, page six, subtweets, a funny thing happened on the way to the forums, dirty laundry, calumny, whisper campaign, jungle red.
Ignota seeks fiction, nonfiction, poetry, visual art, music, video, digital interactive content, and anything else imaginable and unimagined from emerging and established queer-identified creators. You can pitch us something spectacular below, or contact the editors with questions.
We’re currently looking for pitches inspired by our second issue’s theme, “Scandal,” and pitches for a video issue built around the work of Nelson Sullivan. We especially want pieces that work on and in a distinctively queer artistic voice—work by us and for us, work in which we see the selves we are and become the selves we strive to be. If that’s your work, then we’d like to hear from you.
Our patron saint.
Ignota lingua per simplicem hominem hildegardem prolata. [An Unknown Language brought forward by the simple human Hildegard.]from the illuminated manuscript of St. Hildegard’s Riesencodex
In the twelfth century, abbess, seer, composer, future saint and Doctor of the Church, and general-purpose and all-around genius Hildegard of Bingen created a language for her nuns and followers. This was the Lingua Ignota, in whose twenty-three litterae ignotae were inscribed the dream of Rupertsberg Abbey: a community literally sacred—different, set-apart, ἅγιος—whose devotion to God was inseparable from its devotion to the women who reclaimed the land and the wealth that was their birthright to raise it from nothing.
Ignota Magazine shares in the spirit of Hildegard’s Lingua: that the vital and vitalizing force of language builds and bounds identity. Hildegard worked the warp and weft of women’s voices—in her proto-opera Ordo Virtutum, the sole male part is a grunting, unmelodious Satan—to weave community. The voice we aim to echo, express, and expand is the voice of queerness, here and today, across time and place, and towards the very same end: imagining a community in itself and standing free.
Your humble editoriat.
merritt is a writer and podcaster. Her first book, Videogames for Humans, is an exploration of contemporary interactive fiction and was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award for Best LGBT Anthology. She hosts the podcasts Woodland Secrets and dadfeelings, and can be found on Twitter at @merrittk.
Daniel is a writer and web developer living and working in New York City. He previously served as editor of qu.ee/r Magazine and contributing nonfiction editor of Stockyard, and was selected as a 2016 Emerging LGBTQ Voice in Nonfiction by Lambda Literary. He apologizes in advance for his tweets as @phyllisstein.
It’s business time.
Ignota Magazine is a publication of The Ignota Media Corporation, a publishing startup founded in late 2016 with the mission of amplifying voices historically unheard in the industry. It’s the first of a series of experiments in creating politically, aesthetically, and technologically sophisticated content delivery platforms for and by groups unjustly relegated to publishing’s margins.
Get in touch for more information about our current and upcoming projects.