Rhythm & Verse: A Literary and Music Salon

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"At our salon there is no parade of celebrities. People of various professions, generations and classes simply assemble here. They are people who participate in intellectual and in literary life or who wish to do so.
Art lovers." ~ Rahel Varnhagen, Salon Hostess, 1820 through 1833, Berlin

Sophie's Music Salon
• Who came before us
History Resources

Who came before us
A brief history of literary and music salons

And in the

Yes, there is Paris and, yes, there is Gertrude Stein. And yet, the known history of salons dates from as early as the 7th century C.E. This rich, vibrant story has us traveling from Arabia, through both Eastern and Western Europe, England, Argentina, Taos, New Mexico, California, Philadelphia, and New York City. Salon hosts were primarily highly-educated women. They determined who was to be invited. They moderated the discussion and debate about art, music, literature, current events and issues. These conversations were an essential feature of the salon. At its core, however, a salon was a social gathering. As a participant, you would find yourself in the company of the host within her private residence (and, in some instances, a coffee house - as is ours). Here, artistic expression and ideas were shared, discovery and education valued.

And in the beginning . . . Literary Salons in Pre-Islamic Arabia
The tradition of literary circles in Arabic culture appears to have been born with Al-Khansa who would "stand in the Ukaz market in Mecca reciting her poetry and airing her views on the scholarship of others. (Arabic Literary Salons in the Islamic Middle Ages; Poetry, Public Performance, and the Presentation of the Past by Samer M. Ali -2010) One of the less well-known salons in Beirut met for three consecutive nights during the full moon, where male and female guests stayed awake until dawn. In early 20th century Egypt, we find Mayy Ziyada and her literary salon, which one historian (Kkhaldi) argues was a "microcosm for the Arab Nahdah or 'Awakening.''

In good company . . . Music Salons of the 17th through 20th centuries
Attending a music salon or soirée in 17th century Western Europe, you might well find yourself in the presence of Johann Sebastian Bach and his sons - and in 18th century Paris, Mozart. If you were to attend one of the Mendelssohn family's salons in Germany in the 19th century, you would certainly find the child prodigy, Felix, playing before writer, poet and philosopher, Goethe. Frederic Chopin was a frequent salon guest. Italian salons attracted composer Giuseppe Verdi. Pauline Viardot, a well-known Paris salonnière (hostess), mezzo-soprano, and composer, helped launch the career of Camille Saint-Saens and Jules Massenet, among others. The influence of these soirées was so great that "new genres of music began to develop specifically for salons" (
www.osborne-conant.org/Taos.htm - in PowerPoint link). In 19th century Eastern Europe, Mikhail Glinka, Franz Liszt, and Pauline Viardot were guests of the poetess, Jewgenja Rostopecha, who hosted one of several music salons in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Paris salons of the late 19th and early 20th centuries facilitated some of the greatest compositions by Debussy and Ravel, among others.

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