Exploring some of performance and contextual aspects of chamber music, this paper reflects on a concert curated and performed by the writer at the PGVIM’s Musique de la Vie et de la Terre series in June 2018. Inspired by Berta Zuckerkandl's salon performances that took place in Vienna from the end of the 19th century until 1938, this 'chamber music concert' combined performances with discussions between writers, artists and sociologists on topics relating to the arts, culture and our contemporary world. The music repertoire explored various instrumental combinations centred around the piano.
Travelling through music covering different time periods, the audience engaged in various discussion topics initiated by the performance pieces. Discussions on contemporary beliefs stemmed from Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Speigel, a reflection on art and ideology was initiated by Gustav Mahler's Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen, thoughts on arts and beauty responded to Maurice Ravel's Ma mère l'Oye, gender and music in response to William Bolcom's The Garden of Eden, a discussion on the artist and his utopia reacted to the political contexts behind Dmitri Shostakovich's String Quartet No.8 and Ludwig Van Beethoven's Symphony No.7 while John Cage's In a Landscape initiated a reflection on life and its journey. We might not be successful in our attempts to define "how music comes to signify things to its listeners; how it participates in the whole signifying life of a culture, echoing the meanings of literature and the fine arts, and reflecting the preoccupations of society" as Professor Raymond Monell wrote in his 'The sense of Music'. However, by blurring the boundaries between performer, audience and curator, or enabling active discussions and reflections during our musical performance, we might be able to discover and share new perspectives to observe our reality from. And like in the salon culture of the early 20th century, we may come to enjoy music as an ideal vehicle for developing our deepest thoughts.