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Material Texts: Jeffrey Kallberg (Music, Penn): “Chopin’s Chaise longue: Sociability and Homosocial Exchange”
Monday, September 11, 2017 - 5:15pm to 6:30pm

Class of 1978 Pavilion in the Kislak Center
6th Floor of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library

We will be welcoming Jeffrey Kallberg for a talk entitled: “Chopin’s Chaise longue: Sociability and Homosocial Exchange.” Kallberg writes:

Six weeks after Chopin’s death, the contents of his last apartment on the Place Vendôme were sold at auction.  In the inventory prepared for the sale, the most expensive set of items included “une chaise longue,” as well as several chairs and drapes. Chopin’s chaise longue reified his habits of luxury.  Chopin’s refined taste served as a hallmark to his contemporaries: though perhaps not as omnipresent a filter as his Polish origins and his poor health, his perceived elegance served to distinguish his life and his music from that of many of his contemporaries.

Chopin’s chaise longue also draws attention to the interior musical spaces he occupied.  The chaise longue (we know from contemporary watercolors) sat prominently in the music salons of his Square d’Orléans and Place Vendôme residences.  Anecdotes from the nineteenth century tell of an ailing Chopin teaching lessons from it.  But more interesting is the placement of the chaise longue in these rooms, for it was arrayed in such a way that the pianist and person occupying the chaise longue could look directly at one another.  This arrangement promoted conversation, both in the literal sense and, metaphorically, through music.

The trope of music as an elocutionary act plays out most interestingly in Chopin’s waltzes, a genre that engages in numerous ways with notions of sociability.  Manuscripts of the Waltz in F minor provide material and musical evidence of how elegance and eloquence could intersect as compellingly in his music as in his furniture.  (In one of these manuscripts, Chopin wrote in both pen and pencil.  Pencil signified particular pedagogical circumstances and meanings in Chopin’s manuscripts, a fact that attendees can confirm by studying a new acquisition of the Kislak Center, a set of variants that Chopin wrote out for his famous Nocturne in E-flat major, op. 9 no. 2.)  And a musical token concealed in the opening theme of the Waltz reveals a connection with the funeral March from his second Piano Sonata, and that in turn situates Chopin in a homosocial compositional circle with his friend Alkan and a little-known Spanish composer, Santiago de Masarnau.

Jeffrey Kallberg is William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Music and Associate Dean for Arts and Letters in the School of Arts and Sciences of the University of Pennsylvania. A specialist in music of the 19th and 20th centuries, editorial theory, critical theory, and gender studies. he has published widely on the music and cultural contexts of Chopin, most notably in his book, Chopin at the Boundaries: Sex, History, and Musical Genre (Harvard University Press). Together with Olivia Bloechl and Melanie Lowe, he edited the collection Rethinking Difference in Music Scholarship (Cambridge University Press). His current projects include books on Chopin’s nocturnes and on Chopin’s things, and an investigation into the links between ideas of landscape and modernism, especially in Scandinavian music from the first half of the twentieth century.