télécharger 177.02 Kb.
Debussy at the piano, in front of the composer Ernest Chausson, 1893
Beginning in the 1890s, Debussy developed his own musical language largely independent of Wagner's style, colored in part from the dreamy, sometimes morbid romanticism of the Symbolist Movement. Debussy became a frequent participant at Stéphane Mallarmé's Symbolist gatherings, where Wagnerism dominated the discussion. In contrast to the enormous works of Wagner and other late-romantic composers, however, around this time Debussy chose to write in smaller, more accessible forms. The Deux Arabesques is an example of one of Debussy's earliest works, already developing his musical language. Suite bergamasque (1890) recalls rococo decorousness with a modern cynicism and puzzlement. This suite contains one of Debussy's most popular pieces, Clair de Lune. Debussy's String Quartet in G minor (1893) paved the way for his later, more daring harmonic exploration. In this work he utilized the Phrygian mode as well as less standard scales, such as the whole-tone, which creates a sense of floating, ethereal harmony. Debussy was beginning to employ a single, continuous theme and break away from the traditional A-B-A form, with its restatements and amplifications, which had been a mainstay of classical music since Haydn.
Influenced by Mallarmé, Debussy wrote one of his most famous works, the revolutionary Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, truly original in form and execution. In contrast to the large orchestras so favoured by late-romanticism, Debussy wrote this piece for a smaller ensemble, emphasizing instrumental colour and timbre. Despite Mallarmé himself, and colleague and friend Paul Dukas having been impressed by the piece, it was controversial at its premiere. Prélude subsequently placed Debussy into the spotlight as one of the leading composers of the era.
The three Nocturnes (1899), include characteristic studies in veiled harmony and texture as demonstrated in Nuages; exuberance in Fêtes; and whole-tones in Sirènes. Contrasting sharply with Wagnerian opera, Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande premiered in 1902, after ten years of work. It would be his only complete 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. Again, the reviews were sharply divided. Some critics thought the treatment to be less subtle and less mysterious than his previous works and even a step backward. Pierre Lalo complained "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.
During this period Debussy wrote much for the piano. The set of pieces entitled Pour le piano (1901) utilises rich harmonies and textures which would later prove important in jazz music. His first volume of Images pour piano (1904–1905) combine harmonic innovation with poetic suggestion: Reflets dans l'eau is a musical description of rippling water; Hommage à Rameau, the second piece, is slow and yearningly nostalgic. It takes as its inspiration a melody from Jean-Philippe Rameau's Castor et Pollux.
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 the Javanese music. Debussy wrote his famous 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 by mimicking the opening bars of Wagner's prelude to Tristan und Isolde.
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). Debussy wanted people to respond intuitively to these pieces and so he placed the titles at the end of each one in the hope that listeners would not make stereotype images as they listened.
Larger scaled works included his orchestral piece Iberia (1907), began as a work for two pianos, a triptych medley of Spanish allusions and fleeting impressions and also the music for Gabriele d'Annunzio's mystery play 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 otherwise was touched only in relatively short piano pieces.
During this period, as Debussy gained more popularity, he was engaged as a conductor throughout Europe, 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. Debussy avoided analytical dissection and attempts to force images from music, "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. Debussy was for the most part enthusiastic about Richard Strauss and Stravinsky, worshipful of Chopin, Bach and Mozart, and found both Liszt and Beethoven geniuses who sometimes lacked "taste". He also admired the works of Charles-Valentin Alkan. Schubert and Mendelssohn fared much worse, the latter being described as a "facile and elegant notary".
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. The forms are far more irregular and fragmented. 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 Debussy's late music.
His two last volumes of works for the piano, the Études (1915) interprets similar varieties of style and texture purely as pianistic exercises and includes pieces that develop irregular form to an extreme as well as others influenced by the young Igor Stravinsky (a presence too in the suite En blanc et noir for two pianos, 1915). The rarefaction of these works is a feature of the last set of songs, the Trois poèmes de Mallarmé (1913), and of the Sonata for flute, viola and harp (1915), though the sonata and its companions also recapture the inquisitive Verlainian classicism.
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 Debussy's death. Debussy planned a set of six sonatas, but this plan was cut short by his death in 1918 so that he only completed three (cello, flute-viola-harp and violin sonatas).
Caplet and Debussy
The last 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, composed in the same year as Jeux and premiered only two weeks later by the same ballet company. Decades later, composers such as Pierre Boulez and Jean Barraqué pointed out parallels to Anton Webern's serialism in this work. Other late stage works, including the ballets Khamma (1912) and La boîte à joujoux (1913) were left with the orchestration incomplete, and were later completed by Charles Koechlin and André Caplet, who also helped Debussy with the orchestration of Gigues (from Images pour orchestre) and Le martyre de St. Sébastien.
The second set of Préludes for piano (1913) features Debussy at his most avant-garde, where he utilizes dissonant harmonies to evoke specific moods and images. Debussy consciously gives titles to each prelude that amplify the preludes’ tonal ambiguity and dissonance. He utilizes scales such as the whole tone scale, musical modes, and the octatonic scale in his preludes that exaggerate this tonal ambiguity, making the key of each prelude almost indistinguishable at times. The second book of Preludes for piano represents Debussy’s strong interest in the indefinite and esoteric.
Although Pelléas was Debussy's only completed opera, he began several opera projects which remained unfinished, his fading concentration, increasing procrastination, and failing health perhaps the reasons. He had finished some partial musical sketches and some unpublished libretti for operas based on Poe's The Devil in the Belfry (Le diable dans le beffroi, 1902–?1912) and The Fall of the House of Usher (La chute de la maison Usher, 1908–1917) as well as considered projects for operas based on Shakespeare's 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 the outbreak of World War I and his poor health.
Given that Debussy's music is apparently so concerned with mood and colour, one may be surprised to discover that, according to Howat, many of his greatest works appear to have been structured around 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, frequently by using the numbers of the standard Fibonacci sequence. Sometimes these divisions seem to follow the standard divisions of the overall structure. In other pieces they appear to mark out other significant features of the music. The 55 bar-long introduction to 'Dialogue du vent et la mer' in La mer, for example, breaks down into 5 sections of 21, 8, 8, 5 and 13 bars in length. The golden mean point of bar 34 in this structure is signalled by the introduction of the trombones, with the use of the main motif from all three movements used in the central section around that point.
The only evidence that Howat introduces to support his claim appears in changes Debussy made between finished manuscripts and the printed edition, with the changes invariably creating a Golden Mean proportion where previously none existed. Perhaps the starkest example of this comes with La cathédrale engloutie. Published editions lack the instruction to play bars 7–12 and 22–83 at twice the speed of the remainder, exactly as Debussy himself did on a piano-roll recording. When analysed with this alteration, the piece follows Golden Section proportions. At the same time, Howat admits that in many of Debussy's works, he has been unable to find evidence of the Golden Section (notably in the late works) and that no extant manuscripts or sketches contain any evidence of calculations related to it.
Debussy had a wide range of influences. Among the Russian composers of his time, the most prominent influences on Debussy were Tchaikovsky, Balakirev, Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin and Mussorgsky. 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.” Specifically, Mussorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov directly influenced one of Debussy’s most famous works, Pelléas et Mélisande. 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.” After Debussy’s Wagner phase, he started to become immensely interested in non-Western music. He was drawn to unorthodox approaches to composition that non-Western music utilized. Specifically, he was drawn to a Javanese Gamelan, which was a musical ensemble from the island of Java that played an array of unique instrumentation. He first heard the gamelan at the 1889 Paris Exposition. Debussy was not as interested in directly citing his non-Western influence in his music, but instead used his non-Western influence to shape his unique musical style in more of a general way.
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. Debussy was heavily influenced by the French symbolist movement, which was an art movement in 1885 that influenced art forms such as poetry, visual art, and theatre. He shared the movement’s interest in the esoteric and indefinite and rejection of naturalism and realism. Specifically, “the development of free verse in poetry and the disappearance of the subject or model in painting influenced Debussy to think about issues of musical form.” Debussy became personally acquainted with writers and painters of the movement and based his own works off of those of the symbolists. One of Debussy’s main influences was the famous poet Stéphane Mallarmé, who “held the idea of a ‘musicalization’ of poetry.” In other words, Mallarmé drew strong connections between music and his poetry. Debussy wrote "Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune", which 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, Debussy believed he had much more to learn from artists than from musicians who were primarily interested in their musical careers.
Contemporary painter James McNeill Whistler who lived in France for a period of time had a profound influence on Debussy. 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." Although it is not known what it is meant by this statement, one can observe in his music a careful use of orchestral, textural, and harmonic 'shading'.
11.Influence on later composers
Claude Debussy is widely regarded as one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. His harmonies, considered radical in his day, were influential to almost every major composer of the 20th century, especially the music of Maurice Ravel, Igor Stravinsky, Olivier Messiaen, Béla Bartók, Pierre Boulez, Henri Dutilleux, Ned Rorem, and the minimalist music of Steve Reich and Philip Glass as well as the influential Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu. He also influenced many important figures in Jazz, most notably George Gershwin, Bill Evans, George Shearing, Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, Antônio Carlos Jobim, Herbie Hancock and Jimmy Giuffre. Furthermore, he had a profound impact on contemporary soundtrack composers such as John Williams because Debussy's colorful and suggesting style translated easily into an emotional language for use in motion picture scores. In 1999, The Art of Noise released a concept album titled The Seduction of Claude Debussy. The group blended the music of Debussy with drum and bass, opera, hip hop, jazz, and narration, and described the album as "the soundtrack to a film that wasn't made about the life of Claude Debussy". In 2000, the band released Reduction, a limited-edition album composed mainly of outtakes from this album.
Leopold Stokowski, in an article, pointed out the identification of composers including Debussy with the music of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, providing an inspiration for non-contrapuntal music.
«Chasse aux mots» column on La Nouvelle cuisine in the March 2015 issue of Le Canard déchaîné, pp. 3 Be sure you can understand and...