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Music about AIDS

This project reflects changes in attitudes related to sexuality, illness, and loss, as well as the relations between medical discourse and cultural myths.

This is a longstanding, ongoing project by Paul Attinello which makes an extensive examination of music composed in response to the AIDS pandemic. Works by classical composers, popular musicians, and performance artists among others, reflect changes in attitudes related to sexualityillness, and loss, as well as the relations between medical discourse and cultural myths. At a more technical level, they also reflect similarities and contrasts among musical genres, subcultures, audiences, identities, other artistic media, and some of the emotional and ideological patterns associated with each.

The project’s final projected output is a substantial monograph on the topic, which focuses on commercial products, thus chiefly considering on the urban West, with reflections on major musical productions in other parts of the world. Meanwhile a series of articles by Attinello document current findings. The more recent of these include:

  • ‘Deaths and Silences: Coding and Defiance in Music about AIDS’, in Oxford Handbook of Music Censorship, edited by Patricia Hall (Oxford University Press, 2013).
  • ‘Who Dies? Musical and Dramatic Transformations in Derek Jarman’s Last Films’, in HIV/AIDS in Contemporary Culture: Strategies of Representation and Remembrance, edited by Gustavo Subero (Ashgate in 2013).
  • ‘Time, Work and Chronic Illness’, MTO: Music Theory Online, vol. 15 nos. 3/4 (August 2009),

For more details click here.

In tandem with these writings, and as further outputs from the project, Attinello has given over 200 presentations on Music and AIDS, in academic contexts, but also to health professionals, medical students, and the public more widely.