3. Debussy: Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune

Essay by ziyi94College, Undergraduate October 2014

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Debussy was the most important French composer in the early twentieth- century. He was born in the town of St. Germain-en-Laye which is near Paris. At his early lifetime, he was a fan of Wagner. His early works in which the Wagnerian influence is most obvious are La damoiselleelue and the Cinqpoemes de Baudelaire but soon he feel bored in Wagner's Ring cycle.[2: Forney, Kristine, and Joseph Machlis, The Enjoyment of Music, 291][3: Grove Music Dictionary][4: Forney, Kristine, and Joseph Machlis, The Enjoyment of Music, 291]

His leaving from Wagnerian turned him to seek for his personal style, it is Impressionism. His attraction in this new exotic art was happened when he first saw Javanese Gamelan. Gamelan is an ensemble which is mainly with percussion instruments. It is definitely a new musical path for Debussy in the idea of melody, appropriate rhythm and also harmony. The label 'Impressionist' is the word which usually associated with Debussy's works.

The one who first called Debussy's music as 'Impressionist' was the members of the Institut de France, however, Debussy did not like the term at all when it applied to his work. Instead, he refer 'Impressionist' is the only least term that can be described by those people. [5: Vallas, Leon, Maire Brien, and Grace Brien. Claude Debussy, his life and works, 59][6: Grove Music Dictionary]

In fact, Impressionism first occurred in France. At that time, composers widely used exotic scales like chromatic scales, whole-tone scale and also pentatonic scales. They liked to use short lyric forms instead of the dramatic themes. In Debussy's works, not only those new items appeared. Being infected by the French impressionist painters as well as symbolist poets, he was totally inspired by literary and pictorial ideas. Most of his compositions have descriptive titles too. Poetry is the...