Camp Identities: Conrad Salinger and the Aesthetics of MGM Musicals
This dissertation seeks to position the music of American arranger-orchestrator-composer Conrad Salinger (1901-62) as one of the key factors in creating the larger camp aesthetic movement in MGM film musicals of the 1940s and 1950s. The investigation primarily examines Salinger's arranging and orchestrating practices in transcriptions and conductor's scores of musical numbers from MGM films, though some scores from Broadway shows are also considered. Additionally, Salinger's style is frequently compared to other arrangers, so as to establish the unique qualities of his music that set it apart from his contemporaries from both a technical and an aesthetic standpoint and that made it desirable as an object of imitation. By inquiring into his musical practices' relationship to his subjectivity as a gay person in the era of "the closet," this analysis both proposes and confirms Salinger's importance to the MGM camp aesthetic. With the concept of "musical camp" thus established, the dissertation subsequently demonstrates its capacity to produce new readings of the politics of national belonging and gender that manifest in various musical numbers.
American musical theater
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