The Info List - Claude Debussy

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Achille- Claude Debussy
Claude Debussy
(French: [aʃil klod dəbysi];[1] 22 August 1862 – 25 March 1918)[2] was a French composer. He and Maurice Ravel
Maurice Ravel
were the most prominent figures associated with Impressionist music, although Debussy disliked the term when applied to his compositions.[3] He was made Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 1903.[4] He was among the most influential composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and his use of non-traditional scales and chromaticism influenced many composers who followed.[5] Debussy's music is noted for its sensory content and frequent use of nontraditional tonalities.[6] The prominent French literary style of his period was known as Symbolism, and this movement directly inspired Debussy both as a composer and as an active cultural participant.[7]


1 Early life

1.1 Musical development

2 Personal life 3 Death 4 Music

4.1 Style 4.2 List of works 4.3 Early works 4.4 Middle works 4.5 Late works 4.6 Mathematical structuring 4.7 Influences 4.8 Influence on later composers

5 Eponyms 6 Recordings 7 References 8 Sources 9 Further reading 10 External links

Early life[edit]

Street where Debussy was born

Debussy, the eldest of five children, was born Achille-Claude Debussy (he later reversed his forenames)[2] on 22 August 1862 in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Seine-et-Oise. His father, Manuel-Achille Debussy, owned a china shop there; his mother, Victorine Manoury Debussy, was a seamstress. The family moved to Paris in 1867, but in 1870 Debussy's pregnant mother fled with Claude to his paternal aunt's home in Cannes
to escape the Franco-Prussian War. At the age of seven, he began piano lessons with an Italian violinist in his early 40s named Jean Cerutti, and his aunt paid for his lessons. On their return to Paris in 1871, Debussy drew the attention of Marie Mauté de Fleurville,[8] who gave him piano lessons at her apartment on the Rue du Cardinal-Lemoine, where she accommodated her daughter Mathilde and son-in-law Paul Verlaine
Paul Verlaine
for the year after their marriage in 1870.[9] Marie Mauté claimed to have been an aristocrat, and a pupil of Frédéric Chopin. Debussy always believed her, although there is no independent evidence to support her claim.[10] Debussy's talents soon became evident, and in 1872, at age ten, Debussy entered the Paris Conservatoire, where he spent the next 11 years. During his time there he studied composition with Ernest Guiraud, music history/theory with Louis-Albert Bourgault-Ducoudray, harmony with Émile Durand,[11] piano with Antoine François Marmontel, organ with César Franck, and solfège with Albert Lavignac, as well as other significant figures of the era. He also became a lifelong friend of fellow student and distinguished pianist Isidor Philipp. After Debussy's death, many pianists sought Philipp's advice on playing his works. Musical development[edit] Debussy was experimental from the outset, favouring dissonances and intervals that were not taught at the Academy. Like Georges Bizet, he was a brilliant pianist and an outstanding sight reader, who could have had a professional career had he so wished.[12] The pieces he played in public at this time included sonata movements by Beethoven, Schumann and Weber, and Chopin's Ballade No. 2, a movement from the Piano Concerto No. 1, and the Allegro de concert.[13] During the summers of 1880, 1881, and 1882, he accompanied Nadezhda von Meck, the wealthy patroness of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, as she travelled with her family in Europe. The young composer's many musical activities during these vacations included playing four-hand pieces with von Meck at the piano, giving music lessons to her children, and performing in private concerts with some of her musician friends.[14] Despite von Meck's closeness[citation needed] to Tchaikovsky, the Russian master appears[to whom?] to have had minimal effect on Debussy.[citation needed] In September 1880 she sent his Danse bohémienne for Tchaikovsky's perusal; a month later Tchaikovsky wrote back to her: "It is a very pretty piece, but it is much too short. Not a single idea is expressed fully, the form is terribly shriveled, and it lacks unity." Debussy did not publish the piece, and the manuscript remained in the von Meck family; it was eventually sold to B. Schott's Söhne in Mainz, and published by them in 1932.[15] A greater influence was Debussy's close friendship with Marie-Blanche Vasnier, a singer he met when he began working as an accompanist to earn some money, embarking on an eight-year affair together. She and her husband, Parisian civil servant Henri, gave Debussy emotional and professional support. Henri Vasnier introduced him to the writings of influential French writers of the time, which gave rise to his first songs, settings of poems by Paul Verlaine.

Debussy at the Villa Medici
Villa Medici
in Rome, 1885, at centre in the white jacket

As the winner of the 1884 Prix de Rome
Prix de Rome
with his composition L'enfant prodigue, he received a scholarship to the Académie des Beaux-Arts, which included a four-year residence at the Villa Medici, the French Academy in Rome, to further his studies (1885–1887). According to letters to Marie-Blanche Vasnier, perhaps in part designed to gain her sympathy, he found the artistic atmosphere stifling, the company boorish, the food bad, and the monastic quarters "abominable".[16] Neither did he delight in Italian opera, as he found the operas of Donizetti and Verdi not to his taste. Debussy was often depressed and unable to compose, but he was inspired by Franz Liszt, whose command of the keyboard he found admirable. In June 1885, he wrote of his desire to follow his own way, saying, "I am sure the Institute would not approve, for, naturally it regards the path which it ordains as the only right one. But there is no help for it! I am too enamoured of my freedom, too fond of my own ideas!"[17] Debussy finally composed four pieces that were sent to the Academy: the symphonic ode Zuleima (based on a text by Heinrich Heine); the orchestral piece Printemps; the cantata La Damoiselle élue (1887–1888) (which was criticized by the Academy as "bizarre", although it was the first piece in which the stylistic features of his later style began to emerge); and the Fantaisie for piano and orchestra, which was heavily based on César Franck's music and therefore eventually withdrawn by Debussy. The Academy chided him for "courting the unusual" and hoped for something better from the gifted student. Although Debussy's works showed the influence of Jules Massenet, Massenet concluded, "He is an enigma."[18]

Pieces from Ariettes oubliées

No. 2: "Il pleure dans mon cœur"

No 4: "Chevaux de bois"

No. 6: "Aquarelles II. Spleen"

All performed by Xiaobo Su, soprano; Giorgi Latso, piano

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During his visits to Bayreuth in 1888–9, Debussy was exposed to Wagnerian opera, which would have a lasting impact on his work. Like many young musicians of the time, he responded positively to Richard Wagner's sensuousness, mastery of form, and striking harmonies.[19] Wagner's extroverted emotionalism was not to be Debussy's way, but the German composer's influence is evident in La damoiselle élue and the 1889 piece Cinq poèmes de Charles Baudelaire. Other songs of the period, notably the settings of Verlaine – Ariettes oubliées, Trois mélodies, and Fêtes galantes – are all in a more capricious style. Around this time he met Erik Satie, who proved a kindred spirit in his experimental approach to composition and to naming his pieces. Both musicians were bohemians during this period, enjoying the same cafe society and struggling to stay afloat financially.[20] In 1889, at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, Debussy first heard Javanese gamelan music. He incorporated gamelan scales, melodies, rhythms, and ensemble textures into some of his compositions, most notably Pagodes from his piano collection Estampes.[21] Personal life[edit]

Debussy, by Marcel Baschet, 1884

Debussy's private life was often turbulent. At the age of 18 he began an eight-year affair with Marie-Blanche Vasnier, the wife of Parisian civil servant Henri Vasnier. The relationship eventually faltered following his winning of the Prix de Rome
Prix de Rome
in 1884 and obligatory residence in Rome. On his permanent return to Paris and his parents' home on the rue de Berlin (now rue de Liège) he began a tempestuous relationship with Gabrielle ('Gaby') Dupont, a tailor's daughter from Lisieux, soon living with her on the rue de Londres, and later the rue Gustave Doré. During this time he also had an affair with the singer Thérèse Roger, to whom he was briefly engaged. Such cavalier behaviour was widely condemned, and precipitated the end of his long friendship with Ernest Chausson. He ultimately left Dupont for her friend Rosalie ('Lilly') Texier, a fashion model whom he married in 1899, after threatening suicide if she refused him.[22] However, although Texier was affectionate, practical, straightforward, and well liked by Debussy's friends and associates, he became increasingly irritated by her intellectual limitations and lack of musical sensitivity. Moreover, her looks had prematurely aged, and she was unable to bear children.[23] In 1904 Debussy was introduced to Emma Bardac, wife of Parisian banker Sigismond Bardac, by her son Raoul, who was one of his students.[24] In contrast to Texier, Bardac was a sophisticate, a brilliant conversationalist, and an accomplished singer. After dispatching Lilly to her father's home at Bichain in Villeneuve-la-Guyard
on 15 July 1904, Debussy secretly took Bardac to Jersey
for a holiday. On their return to France, he wrote to Texier on 11 August from Dieppe, informing her that their marriage was over, but still making no mention of Bardac. He briefly moved to an apartment at 10 avenue Alphand. On 14 October, five days before their fifth wedding anniversary, Texier attempted suicide, shooting herself in the chest with a revolver while standing in the Place de la Concorde; she survived, although the bullet remained lodged in her vertebrae for the rest of her life. The ensuing scandal was to alienate Debussy from many of his friends, whilst Bardac was disowned by her family.[25]

Debussy's last home, now 23 Square Avenue Foch, Paris[26]

In the spring of 1905, finding the hostility towards them intolerable, Debussy and Bardac (now pregnant) fled to England, via Jersey.[27] Bardac's divorce was finalized in May.[28] The couple settled at the Grand Hotel, Eastbourne, from 24 July to 30 August 1905,[29] where Debussy corrected proofs to his symphonic suite La mer,[4][25] celebrating his divorce from Texier on 2 August. After a brief visit to London, the couple returned to Paris in September, buying a house in a courtyard development off the Avenue du Bois de Boulogne (now Avenue Foch) where Debussy resided for the rest of his life.[30] Their daughter (the composer's only child) Claude-Emma was born there on 30 October.[25] Her parents eventually married in 1908, their troubled union enduring until Debussy's death in 1918. Claude-Emma, more affectionately known as 'Chouchou', was a great musical inspiration to the composer (she was the dedicatee of his Children's Corner
Children's Corner
suite). Claude-Emma outlived her father by scarcely a year, succumbing to the diphtheria epidemic of 1919 after her doctor administered the wrong treatment.[31] Mary Garden, who played the part of Melisande in the original production of Pelléas et Mélisande in 1902, was to write of him: "I honestly don’t know if Debussy ever loved anybody really. He loved his music – and perhaps himself. I think he was wrapped up in his genius... He was a very, very strange man." [32] Death[edit]

Debussy's grave at Passy Cemetery
Passy Cemetery
in Paris

Debussy died of rectal cancer at his Paris home on 25 March 1918,[33] at the age of 55. He had been diagnosed with the cancer in 1909[25] after experiencing bleeding, and in December 1915 underwent one of the earliest colostomy operations ever performed. The operation achieved only a temporary respite, and occasioned him considerable frustration (he was to liken dressing in the morning to "all the labours of Hercules in one"). His death occurred in the midst of the aerial and artillery bombardment of Paris during the German Spring Offensive
Spring Offensive
of World War I. The funeral procession made its way through deserted streets to Père Lachaise Cemetery
Père Lachaise Cemetery
as the German guns bombarded the city. The military situation in France was critical, and did not permit the honour of a public funeral with ceremonious graveside orations. His body was reinterred the following year in the small Passy Cemetery
Passy Cemetery
sequestered behind the Trocadéro, fulfilling his wish to rest "among the trees and the birds"; his wife and daughter are buried with him.[28] Music[edit] Style[edit] In 1889, Debussy is reported to have held a number of conversations with his former teacher Ernest Guiraud
Ernest Guiraud
that explored harmonic possibilities at the piano. These discussions were reported by a younger pupil of Guiraud’s, Maurice Emmanuel, who transcribed both the spoken discussion and the actual chord progressions that Debussy demonstrated:

Chords from dialogue with Ernest Guiraud.

Chords, featuring chromatically altered sevenths and ninths and progressing unconventionally, explored by Debussy in a "celebrated conversation at the piano with his teacher Ernest Guiraud"[34]

Stephen Walsh writes, “Emmanuel’s report is so precise and musicianly as to place its authenticity beyond question, and it sums up to the letter the aesthetic position towards which Debussy seems to have been proceeding.”[35] Rudolph Reti (1958, pp.26-30) points out the following features of Debussy's music, which "established a new concept of tonality in European music":

The frequent use of lengthy pedal points – “not merely bass pedals in the actual sense of the term, but sustained ‘pedals’ in any voice."

Des pas sur la neige, bars 1-7

Des pas sur la neige, bars 1-7

Glittering passages and webs of figurations which distract from occasional absence of tonality;

Les fees sont d'exquises danseuses. (Audio below in the 'Late Works' section.)

Frequent use of parallel chords which are "in essence not harmonies at all, but rather 'chordal melodies', enriched unisons", described by some writers as non-functional harmonies;

Canope bars 1-5 (Audio below in the 'Late Works' section.)

Bitonality, or at least bitonal chords;

Brouillards Bars 1-4 (Audio below in the 'Late Works' section.)

Use of the whole-tone and pentatonic scale;

Cloches a travers le feuilles 02

Cloches a travers le feuilles

La Cathedrale engloutie bars 1-2

La Cathedrale engloutie, bars 1-2

Unprepared modulations, "without any harmonic bridge".

La serenade interrompu, bars 76-86

La serenade interrompu, bars 76-87

Reti concludes that Debussy's achievement was the synthesis of monophonic based "melodic tonality" with harmonies, albeit different from those of "harmonic tonality".".[36] The application of the term "Impressionist" to Debussy and the music he influenced is a matter of intense debate within academic circles. One side argues that the term is a misnomer, an inappropriate label which the composer himself opposed. In a letter of 1908 he wrote: "I am trying to do 'something different' – an effect of reality... what the imbeciles call 'impressionism', a term which is as poorly used as possible, particularly by the critics, since they do not hesitate to apply it to [J.M.W.] Turner, the finest creator of mysterious effects in all the world of art."[37] List of works[edit]

Clair de Lune

Composed in 1890, performed by Laurens Goedhart in 2011 (5:04)

Première Arabesque (4:53)

Deuxième Arabesque (4:00)

Both arabesques performed in 2016 by Patrizia Prati on piano

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List of compositions by Claude Debussy by genre
List of compositions by Claude Debussy by genre
(with audio) List of compositions by Claude Debussy by Lesure number
List of compositions by Claude Debussy by Lesure number
(without audio)

Early works[edit]

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From the 1890s Debussy began to develop his own musical language, which was largely independent of Wagner's style, coloured in part from the dreamy, sometimes morbid romanticism of the Symbolist movement. He became a frequent participant at Stéphane Mallarmé's Symbolist gatherings, where Wagnerism dominated the discussion. However, in contrast to the enormous works of Wagner and other late romantic composers around this time, he chose to write in smaller, more accessible forms.

Debussy at the piano, in front of the composer Ernest Chausson, 1893

The Deux arabesques is an example of one of his earliest works, already developing his musical language. Suite bergamasque
Suite bergamasque
(1890) recalls rococo decorousness with a modern cynicism and puzzlement, and contains one of his most popular pieces, Clair de Lune. His String Quartet in G minor (1893) paved the way for his later more daring harmonic exploration, using the Phrygian mode
Phrygian mode
as well as less standard scales such as the whole-tone, which creates a sense of floating, ethereal harmony. He was beginning to employ a single, continuous theme, breaking away from the traditional A–B–A form with its restatements and amplifications, which had been a mainstay of classical music since Joseph Haydn. Debussy wrote one of his most famous works under the influence of Mallarmé, the revolutionary Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, which is truly original in form and execution. In contrast to the large orchestras so favoured by late romanticism, he wrote this piece for a smaller ensemble, emphasizing instrumental colour and timbre. Despite Mallarmé himself and colleague and friend Paul Dukas
Paul Dukas
having been impressed by the piece, it was controversial at its premiere, but nevertheless established Debussy as one of the leading composers of the era. Middle works[edit] The three Nocturnes (1899) include characteristic studies: in Nuages, using veiled harmony and texture; Fêtes, in exuberance; and Sirènes, using whole-tones. Debussy's only complete opera Pelléas et Mélisande premiered in 1902, after ten years of work, and contrasted sharply with Wagnerian opera. Based on the play by Maurice Maeterlinck, the opera proved to be an immediate success and immensely influential to younger French composers, including Maurice Ravel. These works brought a fluidity of rhythm and colour quite new to Western music. La mer (1903–1905) essays a more symphonic form, with a finale that works themes from the first movement, although the middle movement, Jeux
de vagues, proceeds much less directly and with more variety of colour. The reviews were once again sharply divided. Some critics thought the treatment to be less subtle and less mysterious than his previous works, and even a step backward, with Pierre Lalo complaining "I neither hear, nor see, nor feel the sea." Others extolled its "power and charm", its "extraordinary verve and brilliant fantasy", and its strong colors and definite lines.[38] He wrote much for the piano during this period. His first volume of Images pour piano (1904–1905) combines harmonic innovation with poetic suggestion: Reflets dans l'eau is a musical description of rippling water, while the second piece Hommage à Rameau is slow and yearningly nostalgic, taking a melody from Jean-Philippe Rameau's 1737 Castor et Pollux
Castor et Pollux
as its inspiration. The evocative Estampes for piano (1903) give impressions of exotic locations. Debussy came into contact with Javanese gamelan music during the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle. Pagodes is the directly inspired result, aiming for an evocation of the pentatonic structures employed by Javanese music.[39] He wrote his famous Children's Corner
Children's Corner
Suite (1908) for his beloved daughter, Claude-Emma, whom he nicknamed Chouchou. The suite recalls classicism – the opening piece Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum refers to Muzio Clementi's collection of instructional piano compositions Gradus ad Parnassum – as well as a new wave of American ragtime music. In the popular final piece of the suite, Golliwogg's Cakewalk, Debussy also pokes fun at Richard Wagner
Richard Wagner
by mimicking the opening bars of Wagner's prelude to Tristan und Isolde.

Pieces from first book of Préludes

La fille aux cheveux de lin

Performed by Mike Ambrose

La cathédrale engloutie

Performed by Ivan Ilic

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The first book of Préludes (1910), twelve in total, proved to be his most successful work for piano. The Preludes are frequently compared to those of Chopin. Debussy's preludes are replete with rich, unusual and daring harmonies. They include the popular La fille aux cheveux de lin (The Girl with the Flaxen Hair) and La Cathédrale Engloutie (The Engulfed Cathedral), although since he wanted people to respond intuitively to these pieces, their titles were placed at the end of each one in the hope that listeners would not make stereotype images as they listened. Larger scale works included his orchestral piece Iberia (1907), a triptych medley of Spanish allusions and fleeting impressions which was begun as a work for two pianos, and also the music for Gabriele D'Annunzio's mystery play Le Martyre de saint Sébastien
Le Martyre de saint Sébastien
(1911). A lush and dramatic work, written in only two months, it is remarkable in sustaining a late antique modal atmosphere that was otherwise touched only in relatively short piano pieces. As Debussy's popularity increased, he was often engaged as a conductor throughout Europe during this period, most often performing Pelléas, La Mer, and Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune. He was also an occasional music critic, to supplement his conducting fees and piano lessons, writing under the pseudonym "Monsieur Croche". He avoided analytical dissection and attempts to force images from music, saying "Let us at all costs preserve this magic peculiar to music, since of all the arts it is most susceptible to magic." He could be caustic and witty, sometimes sloppy and ill-informed. He was for the most part enthusiastic about Richard Strauss[40] and Stravinsky, and worshipful of Chopin and Bach, the latter being acknowledged as "the one great master."[41] His relationship to Beethoven was a complex one; he was said to refer to him as "le vieux sourd" (the old deaf one)[42] and adjured one young pupil never to play Beethoven's music for "it is like somebody dancing on my grave."[42] It was said that "Debussy liked Mozart, and he believed that Beethoven had terrifically profound things to say, but that he did not know how to say them, because he was imprisoned in a web of incessant restatement and of German aggressiveness."[42] He also admired the works of Charles-Valentin Alkan.[43] Schubert and Mendelssohn fared much worse, the latter being described as a "facile and elegant notary".[44] Late works[edit]

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Debussy's harmonies and chord progressions frequently exploit dissonances without any formal resolution. Unlike in his earlier work, he no longer hides discords in lush harmonies,[45] and the forms are far more irregular and fragmented.[46] These chords that seemingly had no resolution were described by Debussy himself as "floating chords", and were used to set tone and mood in many of his works. The whole tone scale dominates much of his late music. His two final volumes of works for the piano, the Études (1915), interpret similar varieties of style and texture purely as pianistic exercises, and include pieces that develop irregular form to an extreme, as well as others influenced by the young Igor Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky
(a presence too in the suite En blanc et noir for two pianos, 1915).[47] The rarefaction of these works is a feature of the last set of songs, the Trois poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé (fr) (1913), and of the Sonata
for flute, viola and harp (1915), though the sonata and its companions also recapture the inquisitive Verlainian classicism.

Caplet and Debussy

With the sonatas of 1915–1917 there is a sudden shift in the style. These works recall Debussy's earlier music in part, but also look forward, with leaner, simpler structures. Despite the thinner textures of the Violin Sonata
(1917), there remains an undeniable richness in the chords themselves. This shift parallels the movement commonly known as neo-classicism, which became popular after his death in 1918. He planned a set of six sonatas, but had only completed three (cello, flute-viola-harp, and violin) before he died. The final orchestral work by Debussy, the ballet Jeux
(1912) written for Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, contains some of his strangest harmonies and textures in a form that moves freely over its own field of motivic connection. At first, Jeux
was overshadowed by Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, which was composed in the same year as Jeux, and was premiered only two weeks later by the same ballet company. Decades later, composers such as Pierre Boulez
Pierre Boulez
and Jean Barraqué pointed out parallels to Anton Webern's serialism in this work. Other late stage works, including the ballets Khamma (fr) (1912) and La boîte à joujoux (fr) (1913), were left with the orchestration incomplete, and were later completed by Charles Koechlin and André Caplet, who also helped him with the orchestration of Gigues (from Images pour orchestre) and Le martyre de St. Sébastien.[48] The second set of Préludes for piano (1913) features Debussy at his most avant-garde, where he uses dissonant harmonies to evoke specific moods and images. He consciously gives titles to each prelude which amplify the preludes' tonal ambiguity and dissonance. He uses scales such as the whole tone scale, musical modes, and the octatonic scale in his preludes which exaggerate this tonal ambiguity, making the key of each prelude almost indistinguishable at times. The second book of Préludes for piano represents his strong interest in the indefinite and esoteric.[citation needed]

Pieces from second book of Préludes


Feuilles mortes

La puerta del Vino

Les fées sont d'exquises danseuses


Général Lavine – eccentric

La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune


Hommage à S. Pickwick Esq. P.P.M.P.C.


Les tierces alternées

Feux d'artifice

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Although Pelléas was Debussy's only completed opera, he began several opera projects which remained unfinished, perhaps due to his fading concentration, increasing procrastination, and failing health. He had finished some partial musical sketches and some unpublished libretti for operas based on Poe's The Devil in the Belfry
The Devil in the Belfry
(Le diable dans le beffroi, 1902–?1912) and The Fall of the House of Usher
The Fall of the House of Usher
(La chute de la maison Usher, 1908–1917) as well as considering projects for operas based on Shakespeare's As You Like It
As You Like It
and Joseph Bedier's La Legende de Tristan. Further plans, such as an American tour, more ballet scores, and revisions of Chopin and Bach works for re-publication, were all cut short by poor health and the outbreak of World War I. Mathematical structuring[edit] Some people have contended that Debussy structured parts of his music mathematically.[49][50] Roy Howat, for instance, has published a book contending that certain of Debussy's works are proportioned using mathematical models, even while using an apparent classical structure such as sonata form. Howat suggests that some of Debussy's pieces can be divided into sections that reflect the golden ratio, which is approximated by ratios of adjacent numbers in the standard Fibonacci sequence.[51] Influences[edit] Debussy's influences were wide-ranging. He acquired a taste for parallel motion in fifths, fourths and octaves from medieval music,[citation needed] and an appreciation for figuration and arabesque from the Baroque masters. He especially had a great love for the French clavier composers François Couperin
François Couperin
and Rameau, as well as J. S. Bach. Chopin and Liszt were also powerful influences, not only in terms of pianistic layout and harmonic ingenuity, but also because of their willingness to create new forms to accommodate their material.[citation needed] Among the Russian composers of his time, the most prominent influences were Tchaikovsky[clarification needed This seems to contradict what it says in the 'Early Life' section], Balakirev, Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin and Mussorgsky.[19] It can be inferred that from the Russians "Debussy acquired his taste for ancient and oriental modes and for vivid colorations, and a certain disdain for academic rules".[attribution needed][19] Mussorgsky's opera Boris Godunov directly influenced one of Debussy's most famous works, Pelléas et Mélisande.[citation needed] In addition to the Russian composers, one of Debussy's biggest influences was Richard Wagner. According to Pierre Louys, Debussy "did not see 'what anyone can do beyond Tristan.'"[19]

Claude Debussy, by Donald Sheridan

After Debussy's Wagner phase, he started to become immensely interested in non-Western music and its unfamiliar approaches to composition. Specifically, he was drawn to the Javanese Gamelan:[52] a type of ensemble that prominently features percussion instruments, including hand-drums, xylophones, gongs, and other metallophones. He first heard a gamelan at the 1889 Paris Exposition. He was not interested in directly quoting his non-Western influences, but instead allowed their aesthetic to generally influence his own musical work, for example, by frequently using quiet, unresolved dissonances, coupled with the damper pedal, to emulate the "shimmering" effect created by a gamelan ensemble. Debussy was just as influenced by other art forms as he was by music, if not more so. He took a strong interest in literature and visual art, and used these mediums to help shape his unique musical style. He was heavily influenced by the French symbolist movement of the 1880s, which encompassed poetry, visual art, and theatre. He shared the movement's interest in the esoteric and indefinite and their rejection of naturalism and realism. Specifically, "the development of free verse in poetry and the disappearance of the subject or model in painting influenced him to think about issues of musical form."[19] He became personally acquainted with writers and painters of the movement, and based some of his own works on those of the symbolists. The poet Stéphane Mallarmé
Stéphane Mallarmé
was a major influence, who in talking of "a 'musicalization' of poetry"[19] laid claim to a strong connection between music and his own poetry. Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune was directly influenced by Mallarmé's poem "Afternoon of a Faun". Like the symbolists in respect to their own art forms, Debussy aimed to reject common techniques and approaches to composition and attempted to evoke more of a sensorial experience for the listener with his works. Since his time at the Paris Conservatoire, he believed he had much more to learn from artists than from musicians, who were primarily interested in their musical careers. Above all, Debussy was inspired by nature and the impression it made on the mind, making a pantheistic profession of faith when he called "mysterious Nature" his religion. 'I do not practice religion in accordance with the sacred rites. I have made mysterious Nature my religion. I do not believe that a man is any nearer to God for being clad in priestly garments, nor that one place in a town is better adapted to meditation than another. When I gaze at a sunset sky and spend hours contemplating its marvellous ever-changing beauty, an extraordinary emotion overwhelms me. Nature in all its vastness is truthfully reflected in my sincere though feeble soul. Around me are the trees stretching up their branches to the skies, the perfumed flowers gladdening the meadow, the gentle grass-carpeted earth, ... and my hands unconsciously assume an attitude of adoration. ... To feel the supreme and moving beauty of the spectacle to which Nature invites her ephemeral guests! ... that is what I call prayer.'[53] Contemporary painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler
James Abbott McNeill Whistler
(who lived in France between 1855 and 1859) had a profound influence on the composer. In 1894, Debussy wrote to violinist Eugène Ysaÿe describing his Nocturnes as "an experiment in the different combinations that can be obtained from one color – what a study in grey would be in painting."[54] Influence on later composers[edit] Debussy is widely regarded as one of the most influential composers of the 20th century.[55] His innovative harmonies and structures were influential to many major 20th-century composers, particularly Maurice Ravel, Igor Stravinsky,[56] Olivier Messiaen,[57] Manuel de Falla,[58][56] Béla Bartók,[56] Pierre Boulez,[56] Jean Barraqué,[59] Heitor Villa-Lobos,[60] Edgard Varèse,[56] Henri Dutilleux,[59] Ned Rorem,[61] George Gershwin,[59] and the minimalist music of Steve Reich
Steve Reich
and Philip Glass
Philip Glass
as well as the Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu.[59][additional citation(s) needed] He also influenced many jazz musicians, including Duke Ellington, Bix Beiderbecke, Branford Marsalis, and Steve Kuhn.[62] He also had a profound impact on modern film composers such as John Williams, because Debussy's colourful and evocative style translated easily into an emotional language for use in motion picture scores.[citation needed] Eponyms[edit]

A twenty-franc banknote from 1997, depicting Debussy

A number of posthumous discoveries bear Debussy's name. These include:

Debussy Heights, a minor mountain range on Alexander Island, Antarctica, which was discovered in 1960 – including Ravel Peak Debussy, an impact crater on Mercury which was discovered in 1969 Debussy, an Irish thoroughbred race horse 4492 Debussy, a main belt asteroid which was discovered in 1988

Recordings[edit] In 1904, Debussy participated in a handful of recordings made together with Scottish soprano Mary Garden. He also made some piano rolls for Welte-Mignon
in 1913.[63] References[edit]

^ Claude Debussy
Claude Debussy
– pronunciation at Forvo.com ^ a b Also known since the 1890s as Claude-Achille Debussy or Claude Debussy. Born Achille-Claude Debussy, he was known as "Achille" during his student days, changed his forename to "Claude-Achille" around 1890, and after 1894 was known simply as "Claude Debussy" (Fulcher, Jane F. Debussy and His World. Princeton University Press, 2001. p. 101). ^ Politoske, Daniel T.; Martin Werner (1988). Music, Fourth Edition. Prentice Hall. p. 419. ISBN 0-13-607616-5.  ^ a b "Claude Debussy – Biographie : 1903–1909 – Centre de documentation Claude Debussy". Debussy.fr. Retrieved 10 March 2010.  ^ Claude Debussy
Claude Debussy
– Biography at AllMusic ^ Schmitz, E. Robert. The Piano Works of Claude Debussy. Duell, Sloan & Pierce, 1950. pp. 23–26. ^ Hartmann, Arthur; Hsu, Samuel; Grolnic, Sidney; Peters, Mark A. (2003). " Claude Debussy
Claude Debussy
as I Knew Him" and Other Writings of Arthur Hartmann. Boydell & Brewer. ISBN 1-58046-104-2.  ^ Léon Vallas (March 2007). Claude Debussy: His Life and Works. Lightning Source Inc. pp. 4–. ISBN 978-1-4067-5912-9. Retrieved 27 April 2011.  ^ Mathilde Mauté (1992). Ex-Madame Verlaine - Mémoires de ma vie. Champ Vallon. ISBN 2-87673-134-7.  ^ David Mason Greene (2007). Greene's biographical encyclopedia of composers. Reproducing Piano Roll Fnd. pp. 904–. ISBN 978-0-385-14278-6. Retrieved 27 April 2011.  ^ "Centre de documentation Claude Debussy". Debussy.fr. Retrieved 22 August 2013.  ^ Harold C. Schonberg, The Great Pianists, p. 343 ^ "Concerts where Debussy appeared as a pianist". Djupdal.org. Retrieved 10 March 2010.  ^ Edward Lockspeiser, Debussy: His Life and Mind, vol. 1, The Macmillan Company, 1962, pp.  40–47. ^ Alexander Poznansky, Tchaikovsky: The Quest for the Inner Man, p. 375 ^ Thompson, p. 70 ^ Thompson, p. 77 ^ Thompson, p. 82 ^ a b c d e f François Lesure and Roy Howat. "Debussy, Claude." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. 14 December 2009 ^ Moore, Stephen (1999). Satie the Bohemian: From Cabaret to Concert Hall. Oxford University Press. p. 172.  ^ Brent Hugh. " Claude Debussy
Claude Debussy
and the Javanese Gamelan". brenthugh.com. Retrieved 2 July 2014.  ^ Nichols, R. (1998) The Life of Debussy. Cambridge University Press, 196 pages. ^ Orledge, R. 'Debussy the man', in Trezise, S. (ed.) (2003). The Cambridge Companion to Debussy. p. 4. Cambridge University Press, UK. ISBN 9780521654784 ^ Léon Vallas (March 2007). Claude Debussy: His Life and Works. Lightning Source Inc. pp. 169–. ISBN 978-1-4067-5912-9. Retrieved 27 April 2011.  ^ a b c d Diane Enget Moore (2005). Debussy in Jersey. The Centenary, 1904–2004 [1]. ^ "23 Square Avenue Foch
Avenue Foch
75116 Paris, France". Google Maps. Retrieved 11 June 2015.  ^ Claude Achille Debussy Archived 17 March 2015 at the Wayback Machine. ^ a b Simeone, N. (2000). Paris – A musical Gazetteer. Yale University Press. ^ Eastbourne Local Historian (Eastbourne Local History Society) Nr 157 (Autumn 2010). ^ "Claude Debussy's residence". Debussypiano.com. Retrieved 22 August 2013.  ^ "Tobin, A. (2012). ''Claude Debussy's Pianistic Vision''". Debussypiano.com. Retrieved 22 August 2013.  ^ Garden, M. & Biancolli, L. (1951). Mary Garden's Story. 302 p. Simon & Schuster, New York. ^ Debussy, Claude Achille The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Columbia University Press. Retrieved 12 July 2010. ^ Edward Lockspeiser (1962). Debussy: His Life and Mind, p. 207. ISBN 0-304-91878-4 for Vol. 1. cited in Roland Nadeau (1979), "Debussy and the Crisis of Tonality", p. 71, Music Educators Journal, Vol. 66, No. 1 (September), pp. 69–73. ^ Walsh, S. (2018, p.74) Debussy; A Painter in Sound. Lodnon, Faber & Faber. ^ Reti, R. (1958, p.26-30) Tonality-Atonality-Pantonality. London, Barrie and Rcokliffe. ^ Thompson, p. 161 ^ Thompson, pp. 158–59 ^ Brent Hugh. " Claude Debussy
Claude Debussy
and the Javanese Gamelan". brenthugh.com. Retrieved 27 January 2007.  ^ Claude Debussy
Claude Debussy
(1962). Monsieur Croche the Dilettante Hater[full citation needed]. ^ Francois Lesure (1988). Debussy on Music The Critical Writings of the Great French Composer
Claude Debussy ^ a b c Roger Nichols (2003). Debussy Remembered [2]. ^ "The Myths of Alkan". Jack Gibbons. Retrieved 10 March 2010.  ^ Thompson, pp. 180–85 ^ Mark McFarland, "Transpositional Combination and Aggregate Formation in Debussy," Music Theory Spectrum 27 no. 2 (Fall 2005): 187–220 ^ Mark McFarland, "Debussy: The Origins of a Method," Journal of Music Theory 48 no. 2 (Fall 2004): 295–324 ^ Mark McFarland, "Debussy and Stravinsky: Another Look into their Musical Relationship," Cahiers Debussy 24 (2000): 79–112 ^ Barraqué, Jean (1977). Debussy (Solfèges). Paris: Editions du Seuil. ISBN 2-02-000242-6.  ^ "Golden Ratio". Web.hep.uiuc.edu. Retrieved 22 August 2013.  ^ [3] ^ Howat, Roy (1983). Debussy in Proportion: A musical analysis. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-31145-4.  ^ Ross, Alex (2008). The Rest Is Noise. London: Fourth Estate. p. 41. ISBN 978-1-84115-475-6.  ^ Léon Vallas (1933). Claude Debussy: His Life and Works. Oxford University Press, H. Milford. p. 225.  ^ Weintraub, Stanley. 2001. Whistler: A Biography (New York: Da Capo Press). ISBN 978-0-306-80971-2. p. 351 ^ Gorlinski, Gini, ed. (2009). The 100 Most Influential Musicians of All Time (1st ed.). Britannica Educational Publishing. p. 117. ISBN 9781615300563. Retrieved 25 March 2018.  ^ a b c d e Brown, Matthew. Debussy Redux: The Impact of His Music on Popular Culture. Indiana University Press, 2012. p. 2. ^ Brown, Matthew. Debussy Redux: The Impact of His Music on Popular Culture. Indiana University Press, 2012. pp. 2–3. ^ Roger, Nichols (2018). Hall, Peter, ed. Fantasia Baetica & other piano music (PDF) (Booklet). Hyperion Records. p. 5. Retrieved 25 March 2018.  ^ a b c d Brown, Matthew. Debussy Redux: The Impact of His Music on Popular Culture. Indiana University Press, 2012. p. 3. ^ Peppercorn, Lisa M. (1977). "Foreign Influences in Villa-Lobos's Music". Ibero-amerikanisches Archiv. 3 (1): 38, 43, 44, 47. JSTOR 43750552. Retrieved 25 March 2018.  ^ Schweitzer, Vivian (9 September 2008). "Honoring a Modern Composer Shaped by French Tradition". New York Times. Retrieved 25 March 2018.  ^ Brown, Matthew. Debussy Redux: The Impact of His Music on Popular Culture. Indiana University Press, 2012. pp. 3–4. ^ "Steve's Debussy Page". 1 November 1913. Retrieved 10 December 2015. 


Thompson, Oscar, Debussy: Man and Artist, Tudor Publishing Company, 1940.

Further reading[edit]

Fulcher, Jane (ed.) (2001). Debussy and His World (The Bard Music Festival). Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-09042-4. CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link) Lücke, Hendrik (2005): Mallarmé, Debussy: Eine vergleichende Studie zur Kunstanschauung am Beispiel von „L'Après-midi d'un Faune“. Schriftenreihe Studien zur Musikwissenschaft 4. Hamburg: Dr. Kovac. ISBN 3-8300-1685-9. Nichols, Roger (1998). The Life of Debussy. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521578875.  Parks, Richard S. (1989). The Music of Claude Debussy. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0300044393.  Pasler, Jann (December 2013). "Debussy: the Man, his Music, and His Legacy: an overview of current Research". Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association. 69 (2): 197–216.  Poleshook, Oksana (2011). Russian Musical Influences of The Five on piano and vocal works of Claude Debussy. LAP Lambert Publishing. ISBN 978-3-8443-1643-8.  Roberts, Paul (ed.) (2001). Images: The Piano Music of Claude Debussy. Amadeus Press. ISBN 1-57467-068-9. CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link) Roberts, Paul (ed.) (2007). Claude Debussy
Claude Debussy
(20th Century Composers). Phaidon Press Ltd. ISBN 0-7148-3512-9. CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link) Ross, James. 1998. "Pelléas et Mélisande: The 'Nouveau Prophete'? Crisis and Transformation: French Opera, Politics and the Press" D.Phil. Thesis, Oxford University. pp. 164–208. Smith, Richard Langham, ed. (1997). Debussy Studies. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521460903.  Trezise, Simon (ed.) (2003). The Cambridge Companion to Debussy. Cambridge Companions to Music. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-65478-5. CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link) Cobb, Margaret (ed.) (2005). Debussy's Letters to Inghelbrecht – The Story of a Musical Friendship. University of Rochester Press. ISBN 1-58046-174-3. CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link) Miller, Richard (ed.) (Editor: Cobb, Margaret) (1982). Poetic Debussy 2nd Edition. University of Rochester Press. ISBN 1-878822349. 

External links[edit]

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WorldCat Identities VIAF: 6219636 LCCN: n79132137 ISNI: 0000 0001 2119 0614 GND: 118524186 SELIBR: 183573 SUDOC: 026816105 BNF: cb13893072d (data) BIBSYS: 90079353 ULAN: 500335877 MusicBrainz: be50643c-0377-4968-b48c-47e06b2e2a3b NLA: 35034487 NDL: 00437533 NKC: jn19990001672 Léonore: LH/681/19 ICCU: ITICCUCFIV57468 BNE: XX993