What is so Shocking about Debussy?

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dulcinea
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What is so Shocking about Debussy?

Post by dulcinea » Fri Mar 16, 2007 4:58 pm

:?: I have listened to much of Debussy, including SAINT SEBASTIAN and PELLEAS ET MELISANDE, and have never found anything in his music that I would describe as either shocking, controversial or revolutionary.
Let every thing that has breath praise the Lord! Alleluya!

James

Post by James » Fri Mar 16, 2007 5:14 pm

heh, i think you're bringing this up and bit late....the shock and awe over the doors he opened was long long time ago, it's been assimulated now and is old news. i think it's more of a "you had to be there" sort of thing. he was a true genius ...

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Post by piston » Fri Mar 16, 2007 7:07 pm

Debussy, at his best, created music pregnant with evocative images. It's not that "impressionism" represents just one style, repeated ad nauseum from one piece to another. Rather, the theme is master of the impressions, hence, each great impressionistic piece is original in and of itself. The turning point, according to Pierre Boulez, was Claude's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, on a poem by Stéphane Mallarmé. Here's a good analysis of that particular piece. Yet, if one listens to all of his preludes for the piano -- (I'll translate roughly) steps or tracks in the snow, what has seen or encountered the westerly wind, the submerged cathedral, etc. -- it becomes clear that the image, the evocation, is the style, however diverse and different these images. Capturing Debussy's unique style in one sentence is not unlike trying to encapsulate nature, and human experience of nature, in one memory.

(from Wikipedia)
The Prélude at first listening seems improvisational and almost free-form; however, closer observation will demonstrate that the piece consists of a complex organization of musical cells, motifs carefully developed and traded between members of the orchestra. A close analysis of the piece yields a deep appreciation of the ultimate compositional economy of Debussy's craft.

The main musical themes are introduced by woodwinds, with delicate but harmonically advanced underpinnings of muted horns, strings and harp. Recurring tools in Debussy's compositional arsenal make appearances in this piece: Bracing whole-tone scale runs, harmonic fluidity without lengthy modulations between central keys, tritones in both melody and harmony. The development of the slow main theme moves fluidly between 9/8, 6/8 and 12/8. Debussy explores voicings and shading in his orchestration brilliantly, allowing the main melodic cell to move from solo flute to oboe, back to solo flute, then two unison flutes (yielding a completely different feel to the melody), then clarinet, etc. Even the accompaniment explores alternate voicings; the flute duo's soaring, exotic melodic cells ride lush rolling strings with violas carrying the soprano part over alto violins (the tone of a viola in its upper register being especially sumptuous). And, in the first minute of the piece, Debussy mischievously throws in a bar of complete silence, giving the listener the opportunity to explore the musical quality of negative space within a gentle flowing river of sound.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Mar 17, 2007 12:12 pm

I've been listening to Debussy since I was an infant, so he doesn't seem shocking to me. Glass, Reich, Adams, Lutoslawski, etc., - those are shocking.
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Post by Dalibor » Mon Mar 19, 2007 11:27 am

piston wrote: The Prélude at first listening seems improvisational and almost free-form;
If that is how it sounds on the first listening, than that is what it is

"All music is arbitary, but it must not sound that way!" (Stravinsky)

I would agree with dulcinea - I also feel there are much more "shoking" composers than Debussy (and who also worked before him). Another composer who's "futurist" reputation I also never quite understood is Mahler. Both of them sound to me much more conventional and romantic-like than, say, Mussorgsky (a realy original one).

Unfortunately reputations of artists seem to be much more defined by politics than actual impressions of the audiences

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Re: What is so Shocking about Debussy?

Post by diegobueno » Fri Mar 23, 2007 9:09 am

dulcinea wrote::?: I have listened to much of Debussy, including SAINT SEBASTIAN and PELLEAS ET MELISANDE, and have never found anything in his music that I would describe as either shocking, controversial or revolutionary.
Try this for an experiment. For a week or two, listen to no music other than Gounod, Massenet, Delibes, Lalo and Bizet. Then put on Debussy's Afternoon of a Faun and see if you don't sit up and take notice.
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Re: What is so Shocking about Debussy?

Post by BWV 1080 » Fri Mar 23, 2007 11:23 pm

diegobueno wrote:
Try this for an experiment. For a week or two, listen to no music other than Gounod, Massenet, Delibes, Lalo and Bizet.
You could not pay me enough to do that

(some others could, but you probably not :) )

To think what is shocking about Debussy is that every tired canard trotted out against Schoenberg, Boulez or Carter can just as well apply to Debussy. While some composers before him (Lizst and Mussorgsky for example) tore at the seams of the common practice tonal language, Debussy was the first to really discard it. While Schoenberg and Bartok are credited for the first fully chromatic "atonal" pieces, the tonality in much of Debussy's work is equally ambiguous

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Re: What is so Shocking about Debussy?

Post by anasazi » Sat Mar 24, 2007 1:39 am

BWV 1080 wrote:
diegobueno wrote:
Try this for an experiment. For a week or two, listen to no music other than Gounod, Massenet, Delibes, Lalo and Bizet.
You could not pay me enough to do that

(some others could, but you probably not :) )

To think what is shocking about Debussy is that every tired canard trotted out against Schoenberg, Boulez or Carter can just as well apply to Debussy. While some composers before him (Lizst and Mussorgsky for example) tore at the seams of the common practice tonal language, Debussy was the first to really discard it. While Schoenberg and Bartok are credited for the first fully chromatic "atonal" pieces, the tonality in much of Debussy's work is equally ambiguous
All true, except that Debussy managed to make it all entertaining as well.
"Take only pictures, leave only footprints" - John Muir.

Opus132
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Re: What is so Shocking about Debussy?

Post by Opus132 » Sat Mar 24, 2007 8:37 am

BWV 1080 wrote:While Schoenberg and Bartok are credited for the first fully chromatic "atonal" pieces
I didn't know Bartok used atonality...

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Re: What is so Shocking about Debussy?

Post by BWV 1080 » Sat Mar 24, 2007 9:01 am

Opus132 wrote:
BWV 1080 wrote:While Schoenberg and Bartok are credited for the first fully chromatic "atonal" pieces
I didn't know Bartok used atonality...
Its a very nebulous term, but there are examples in the 1907 Bagatelles that are just as "atonal" as Schoenberg's pre-dodecaphonic music

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Post by johnQpublic » Mon Mar 26, 2007 5:55 am

there are examples in the 1907 Bagatelles that are just as "atonal" as Schoenberg's pre-dodecaphonic music

and Bartok's Violin Sonatas (from the 20's) are tough nuts to crack too
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dulcinea
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Re: What is so Shocking about Debussy?

Post by dulcinea » Mon Mar 26, 2007 9:51 am

diegobueno wrote:
dulcinea wrote::?: I have listened to much of Debussy, including SAINT SEBASTIAN and PELLEAS ET MELISANDE, and have never found anything in his music that I would describe as either shocking, controversial or revolutionary.
Try this for an experiment. For a week or two, listen to no music other than Gounod, Massenet, Delibes, Lalo and Bizet. Then put on Debussy's Afternoon of a Faun and see if you don't sit up and take notice.
I tried what you suggested, and I think I have found the answer to my query. Thank you very much.
Let every thing that has breath praise the Lord! Alleluya!

diegobueno
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Re: What is so Shocking about Debussy?

Post by diegobueno » Mon Mar 26, 2007 10:15 am

dulcinea wrote:
diegobueno wrote:
dulcinea wrote::?: I have listened to much of Debussy, including SAINT SEBASTIAN and PELLEAS ET MELISANDE, and have never found anything in his music that I would describe as either shocking, controversial or revolutionary.
Try this for an experiment. For a week or two, listen to no music other than Gounod, Massenet, Delibes, Lalo and Bizet. Then put on Debussy's Afternoon of a Faun and see if you don't sit up and take notice.
I tried what you suggested, and I think I have found the answer to my query. Thank you very much.
It's amazing how a steady diet of those guys can make you want to declare it a short week.
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TopoGigio

WideEyes

Post by TopoGigio » Fri Apr 18, 2008 1:42 pm

His Messes Noîres, dear.
(Kubrick uses a terrific piano piece for the best effect at WideEyesShut)
:twisted:

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Post by Guitarist » Tue Apr 22, 2008 6:26 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:I've been listening to Debussy since I was an infant, so he doesn't seem shocking to me. Glass, Reich, Adams, Lutoslawski, etc., - those are shocking.
Lutoslawski doesn't deserve to be grouped with those repetitive ___ (fill-in the blank with your own derogatory term!)

piston
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Post by piston » Tue Apr 22, 2008 6:34 pm

Bottom line is that he had to earn a living just like you and I. If you can discern between the artistic Debussy and the earn-a-living Debussy, then you'll manage to hear what this composer might have produced if he had had no material obligations. Start with the saxophone rhapsody commission: that's clearly a money-making work!!!

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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Apr 22, 2008 9:09 pm

What is so Shocking about Debussy?
That he was so incredibly good looking. And that one picture of him when he was young that makes him look like a satyr, mmmmm, yum. He was hot!
Corlyss
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Anton Webern

Post by Anton Webern » Tue Apr 22, 2008 9:39 pm

piston wrote:Bottom line is that he had to earn a living just like you and I.
They all did. This point is moot.

TopoGigio

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Post by TopoGigio » Wed Apr 23, 2008 4:13 am

Corlyss County:
That he was so incredibly good looking. And that one picture of him when he was young that makes him look like a satyr, mmmmm, yum. He was hot!
---------------------
Yes,VonMeck was horrified...he was chasing everybody! :P

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Post by jbuck919 » Wed Apr 23, 2008 5:57 am

Corlyss_D wrote:
What is so Shocking about Debussy?
That he was so incredibly good looking. And that one picture of him when he was young that makes him look like a satyr, mmmmm, yum. He was hot!
People forget that he was the "other" composer favored by Mme. von Meck (of course, Tchaikovsky was problematic in different ways). Which is a back door way of pointing out how strongly Stravinsky was influenced by Debussy, something that may be a commonplace but I have never seen it written up elsewhere and to the extent it is true is a matter more or less, well, impressionistic on my part). Debussy was present and the famous Rite of Spring riot in Paris and tried to quiet the audience down so the music could be heard, but play in juxtaposition Rite and some of Debussy's orchestral music, beginning with Afternoon of a Faun, and I think you'll get the point.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
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Post by diegobueno » Wed Apr 23, 2008 8:39 am

And of course Stravinsky dedicated his Symphonies of Wind Instruments to the memory of Debussy.
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