Philip Brett, a musicologist who advocated the importance of gender and sexuality in the study of music, has died. He was 64. Brett, who most recently taught musicology at the University of California, Los Angeles, died of cancer October 16.
A Grammy-nominated choral conductor, Brett was an authority on the music of the English Renaissance and on Benjamin Britten, one of 20th-century England's most prominent composers. In lectures and a scholarly paper, Brett argued that Britten's homosexuality permeated his work. As a result, Brett is credited with helping form "new musicology," a branch of study aimed at understanding musical compositions through feminist, gender, and cultural studies. "He was the first person to discuss the relationship of musicality and homosexuality within a musicological venue," said Byron Adams, chairman of the music department at the University of California, Riverside. "It was radical and incredibly courageous."
Born in England, Brett earned his bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees at Cambridge University. Brett helped found the Gay and Lesbian Study Group of the American Musicological Society, which in 1996 established an annual award in his name to honor exceptional musicological work in the field of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and transsexual studies. Brett was also known for his work on 16th-century composer William Byrd. He was general editor of The Byrd Edition, a 20-volume collection of the composer's music, and personally edited 10 of the volumes. He is survived by his longtime partner, UC Riverside professor George Haggerty.