Queering the Kiss

Rodney Sharman


  • Spencer Kryzanowski University of Alberta, Augustana Campus


Rodney Sharman, The Garden, fine art, piano, music


Sexually explicit, provocative, and entrancing are three descriptors that merely scratch the surface of Rodney Sharman's solo piano work The Garden. The piece is representative of a more recent style of writing that requires a pianist who both speaks and plays. With text by queer Canadian playwright Peter Eliot Weiss, The Garden juxtaposes the complexities and politics surrounding homosexual kissing, momentary sexual encounters, and the gay club scene with nostalgic remembrances and the transformative power of a single kiss. Musically, The Garden heightens this juxtaposition, featuring both highly dissonant and tonal passages. Specifically, the piece systematically combines numerous genres and styles including rock-n-roll, 50's pop ballad, and contemporary bi-tonal dissonance. In addition to The Garden's technically challenging piano score, Sharman includes speaking, singing, and percussive passages for the solo performer, demanding extra-musical, cabaret-style theatrical qualities in performance. This approach creates a postmodern blend that reflects the influence of American pianist and composer Frederic Rzewski, whose monumental work for speaking pianist entitled De Profundis is based on Oscar Wilde's prison-based letter under the same title. Yet, Rodney Sharman's The Garden steps beyond Rzewski's piano piece in it queer aspects, openly and unapologetically detailing homoerotic desire for cock, sex, and love. Sharman was born and raised in Biggar, Saskatchewan and now resides in Vancouver, British Columbia. He has written a variety of operas, chamber and choral works, and compositions for various solo instruments. The Garden was originally commissioned by American pianist Anthony de Mare with funding from the Canada Council Music Commissioning Program.   A video of the performance can be seen here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVNG5aFeWM0   Faculty Mentor: Milton Schlosser