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Claude Debussy (1862 - 1918)

Related: art music - French music - Impressionism - modern music - classical music

Contemporaries: Émile Durkheim - Henri Bergson - Havelock Ellis - Georges Méliès - Gustav Klimt - Rupert Carabin - Edvard Munch

At the point when Debussy heard Javanese gamelan performed at the Paris Exposition of 1889, the acoustic world was expanding as dramatically as global awareness. These expositions were celebrations of European colonialism, yet the sudden impact of these colonial "commodities" - Javanese and Vietnamese musicians or West African pot makers -- stimulated a kind of surrealism of possible worlds in the minds of many musicians. As the world changed, rapidly and irrevocably, whether by travel, technological growth, the advent of modern warfare or instant communications, so these surrealistic soundworks depicted a mutating environment of exotic signals and strange noise. Musicians heard and organised sound with a revived sensitivity to its potential. Increasingly easy access to previously unknown musical cultures and environmental sounds threw assumptions of European musical superiority into doubt; theories of harmony and rhythm were eroded and enriched by these influences. Sound was treated as an ocean in which we swim, and in that sense, music has helped to prepare us for the information ocean of the next century. -- David Toop in Ocean of Sound


Claude Achille Debussy (August 22, 1862–March 25, 1918), composer of impressionistic classical music.

Born in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Yvelines, France, Claude Debussy studied with Guiraud and others at the Paris Conservatoire (1872-84) and as an 1884 Prix de Rome winner, went to Rome, Italy (1885–7), though more important impressions came from his visits to Bayreuth (1888, 1889) and from hearing Javanese gamelan music in Paris (1889). --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claude_Debussy [Aug 2004]

Modern music [...]

If modern music may be said to have a definite beginning, then it started [!] with this flute melody, the opening of the Prélude à "L'après-midi d'un faune" (1894) by Claude Debussy . -- Paul Griffiths

Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun (1894) - Claude Debussy

1920 set decoration for "L'après midi d'un faune" by Mallarmé (E. Prampolini).
Image sourced here.

Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun) (1894) - Claude Debussy [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

The Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune (or Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun) is a musical composition for orchestra by Claude Debussy that was first performed in 1894. It was inspired by the poem L'après-midi d'un faune by Stéphane Mallarmé and later formed the basis for the ballet of the same name by Vaslav Nijinsky. The composition is one of Debussy's most famous works and is considered a turning point in the history of music; Pierre Boulez remarked that "one can justifiably claim that modern music began with L'après-midi d'un faune."

About his composition Debussy wrote:

The music of this prelude is a very free illustration of Mallarmé's beautiful poem. By no means does it claim to be a synthesis of it. Rather there is a succession of scenes through which pass the desires and dreams of the faun in the heat of the afternoon. Then, tired of pursuing the timorous flight of nymphs and naiads, he succumbs to intoxicating sleep, in which he can finally realize his dreams of possession in universal Nature.

It contains one of the most famous passages in musical modernism, the half step descent to the tritone and ascent of the flute.

The work is called a prelude because Debussy intended to write a suite of three pieces - Prelude, Interlude, and Final Paraphrase - but the last two pieces were never written. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prelude_to_the_Afternoon_of_a_Faun [Jan 2006]

See also: 1894 - Claude Debussy - classical music - modernist music - modern music

Ocean of Sound (1995) - David Toop

    Ocean of Sound (1995) - David Toop [Amazon US]
    A member of a radical editorial collective on the cutting edge of British music criticism in the 1970s, later a critic for more standard papers, including the Times, David Toop'S second book covers a vast expanse of music. His tour-de-force survey describes a dissonant and invigorating clash of music and noise from western classical to Javanese gamelan, from Claude Debussy to Miles Davis to Brian Eno, from disco to techno to ambient. He discusses the changes in our sound world caused by the global reach of radio and recordings, and shows himself a rigorous pluralist, open to all styles and forms, but unafraid to offer robust criticism in any musical sphere.

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