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Music gained popularity in the intimate nineteenth-century parlour. At the time, home life was centred in the salon, or parlour, where children played and learned with adult supervision, and where the family entertained company.
Musical performances for small groups of people became popular events, and some composers/performers were able to support themselves financially by performing in these small venues and attracting wealthy patrons. Most famous among these was Frédéric Chopin (1810–1849).
Music in the parlour was of a very different sort than in the concert hall. Solo performances and chamber music were popular and included everything from operatic and orchestral transcriptions to sentimental love songs and ballads. In the United States, hymns and folk songs by composers like Stephen Foster (1826–1864) supplemented the European repertoire.
With the rise of the parlour as the centre of family life, music education became increasingly important. Children were often taught to play musical instruments as part of a well-rounded education; for girls, playing an instrument was more important than learning to read. When guests and potential suitors visited, the children and teenagers would entertain with performances of the latest popular works.
However, the most important musical instrument in the home was the piano because it was useful as both a solo instrument and as an accompaniment to a group of singers or instrumentalists.
To accommodate home use, smaller pianos were created, first square pianos and later uprights. Small pianos took up less space and, although they were not as powerful as larger types, they were also less expensive. With the technological advances of the Industrial Revolution, the mass manufacturing of musical instruments, especially pianos, provided a seemingly endless supply for the huge markets of both the United States and Europe. The piano would remain a central component of domestic life until it was replaced by the phonograph, radio, and television in the twentieth century. ~ Michael Walsh
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