During the nineteenth century, major composers—such as Schubert, Schumann, Wieck Schumann, Mendelssohn, Mendelssohn Hensel, Liszt, and Chopin—contributed musical compositions to a kind of volume known as a friendship album (also keepsake album, album amicorum, or Stammbüch). Album inscriptions penned by Fryderyk Chopin provide a lens through which we can study these compositions, thereby gaining an understanding of the ways in which musical meaning, genre, and text were governed by conventions of gift exchange. Complete compositions, musical fragments, and performative flourishes left in albums by music lovers as well as professional composers and performers took on the function of secular relics that were understood to preserve metaphysical traces of the inscribers, while handwriting was believed to represent the writer's character or momentary state of mind. These ideas intersect with a broader Romantic culture of collectorship. To invoke experiences and memories shared by the inscriber and the dedicatee, some composers engaged in dialogic relationships with mementos inscribed by others or employed intertextual references. An examination of these forms of interplay adds to our knowledge of the way context can shape the use and meaning of musical borrowing and allusion. The authors of inscriptions also employed intrinsically musical vocabulary to impart the sense distortions that neuroscientists and scholars of memory describe as typical of a recalled experience. Moreover, albums provided a censorship-free private venue for political and national discourses. These musical texts constitute a separate class of presentation manuscripts that serve a specific social function and audience.

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