Rebecca Cypess

Apr 1, 2022

Women and Musical Salons in the Enlightenment

University of Chicago Press 2022

Today we speak to Rebecca Cypess, Associate Professor at Rutgers University, about her new book: Musical Salons in the Enlightenment (University of Chicago, 2022). Interest in music sociability during the eighteenth century, including domestic and semi-domestic music-making, has been steadily growing. As scholars have noted, musical salons were crucial in providing a space where women could perform in public, which was otherwise impossible, for the most part. In this book, music scholar and performer Rebecca Cypess focuses on the figure of the salonnière, the female host at the center of most musical salons in Europe and America in the second half of the eighteenth century. Through case studies include the salons of Anne-Louise Brillon in Paris, Marianna Martines in Vienna, Sara Levy in Berlin, Elizabeth Graeme in Philadelphia, and the painter Angelika Kauffman in Rome, Cypess addresses several far-reaching issues in Enlightenment musical culture. Among them are questions having to do with collaboration and improvisation vs. authorship, sensual vs. intellectual experiences, the role of women in 'governing' the salons and collecting musical scores and instruments, and how these collections can function as texts that illuminate the lived experiences of eighteenth-century music. In this richly written book, Cypess draws on letters, diaries, and other written documents, as well as iconography, to make connections with non-musical practices, including games, and to recreate the salon as an immersive musical and creative environment.

Jana Byars is the Academic Director of Netherlands: International Perspectives on Sexuality and Gender.

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