Hey Internet, 

I’m busy at work and about to abscond to the Pennsylvania backwoods for a long weekend of fraternity / boxing / booze. However, today is Claude Debussy’s 151st birthday and this disciple will not the date pass without commemoration.

Last year I assembled a “tour” - a playlist and text accompaniment - of my favorite Debussy works. You can find the tour below. If you’re a fan, check it out. If you’re not a fan, you will be.

Ciao,

Scott

ataxiwardance:

Debussy - Selected Works

"There is no theory. You have only to listen. Pleasure is the law. I love music passionately. And because l love it, I try to free it from barren traditions that stifle it. It is a free art gushing forth — an open-air art, boundless as the elements, the wind, the sky, the sea. It must never be shut in and become an academic art.” - Claude Debussy

August 22nd, 2012 was Debussy’s 150th birthday. If you’ve been paying attention, you know this is kind of a big deal to me. Yet, in my preoccupation with job interviews, socializing with the hoi oligoi, and general revelry, I did not memorialize the occasion.

Shame shame shame.

As an act of atonement towards my patron saint of music, I’ve decided to assemble a collection of my favorite Debussy compositions and share them with my tiny corner of the internet. In an attempt at restraint, I gave myself a meager allocation: 20 “tracks”. This paltry allocation was built out from a prior mix I had made for my (impossibly lovely) friend Sandra which emphasized slightly lesser known or under-appreciated works. This means that many of Debussy’s “greatest hits” are not listed here. This includes Clair de Lune, the two Arabesques, and the revolutionary Prelude. These are beautiful and immortal pieces but, frankly, I assume anyone’s whose ever watched a sappy romantic comedy is already familiar with them. Of course petty obscurantism was not my intention. Both Réverie and the Girl with Flaxen Hair make an appearance. Simply trying to avoid giving a tour of the obvious.

There’s no strict logic behind the ordering of the tracks but some thematic patterns can be noticed:

Cathedrals

We begin, appropriately enough, with two Preludes. Both demonstrate Debussy’s revolutionary vision of harmonic architecture. Debussy’s powerful chord stacking evokes images of majestic Gothic towers and his cascading melodic phrases make for ornate decorations atop every parapet. 

Dances

Then a bit of footwork. The Danses pair perfectly and the Waltz and Sarabande make fine partners in triple step. Little known fact: you CAN shake it to Debussy. Ah! And what’s a dance without community? Listening to La Plus Que Lente, one cannot help but imagine Debussy and Satie enjoying a drink together at a small cafe in Monmarte. The orchestration of the Sarabande also seems a perfect tribute to the complex, but undeniable, influence Debussy had on the younger Ravel.

Bodies of Water

Next, Debussy’s beloved sea. We go on a tour of all waters: First turbulent and treacherous; later buoyant and jocular. Debussy, I think unique among composers, appreciated the beauty of waves and winds. The flux and flow of water into and upon itself. Movement without destination. 

"Music is the expression of the movement of the waters, the play of curves described by changing breezes."

Dreams

No tour or exploration of Debussy’s genius would be complete with at least a nod towards his exploration of the space between the conscious and subconscious. He was a master of blurring the boundaries between fantasy and reality; Debussy’s world seems so often dominated by what is felt rather than what known. Because so much of his music lives at the intersection of sensoral experience and cognition, it’s unsurprising he is often pigeon-holed as an dream-like “Impressionist” composer.

Foreign Lands

A quick travelogue through Debussy’s flirtacious orientalism follows. What I wouldn’t give to have been with him at the 1889 Paris Universal Exposition. To witness a genius mind processing the quixotic quarter-tone of javanese gamelan music for the first time. His was a far sighted cross cultural brilliance. From a letter to a friend:

Do you remember the Javanese music, able to express every shade of meaning, even unmentionable shades … which make our tonic and dominant seem like ghosts, for use by naughty little children?” 

Beginnings

At last, we end with his beginning. To understand Debussy, you must appreciate his natural tendency towards rebellion. Debussy, like Napolean, was historical revolution made manifest in a man. To continue the historical analogies, I imagine Debussy at the Conservatoire de Paris in the same way I picture Luther at Catechism. Beau Soir is one of his first works, written as a young man of twenty or so, and, like the Prelude, is a poetic adaption based on lyrics from Paul Bourget. He has already mastered the language he would come to destroy. Even in this simple parlor song, you can hear the tired boundaries of the Western tradition start to ache and sway. We close with these words:

A plea to relish the charm of life

While there is youth and the evening is fair,

For we pass away, as the wave passes:

The wave to the sea, we to the grave.

Teeb - “Claude Debussy - Claire De Lune” / “Drake - Over” (Mash Up)

Happy 151th Birthday to my favorite composer and seminal figure in Western Art Music - Claude Debussy. 

Happy Wednesday to Drake.

Debussy - Selected Works

"There is no theory. You have only to listen. Pleasure is the law. I love music passionately. And because l love it, I try to free it from barren traditions that stifle it. It is a free art gushing forth — an open-air art, boundless as the elements, the wind, the sky, the sea. It must never be shut in and become an academic art.” - Claude Debussy

August 22nd, 2012 was Debussy’s 150th birthday. If you’ve been paying attention, you know this is kind of a big deal to me. Yet, in my preoccupation with job interviews, socializing with the hoi oligoi, and general revelry, I did not memorialize the occasion.

Shame shame shame.

As an act of atonement towards my patron saint of music, I’ve decided to assemble a collection of my favorite Debussy compositions and share them with my tiny corner of the internet. In an attempt at restraint, I gave myself a meager allocation: 20 “tracks”. This paltry allocation was built out from a prior mix I had made for my (impossibly lovely) friend Sandra which emphasized slightly lesser known or under-appreciated works. This means that many of Debussy’s “greatest hits” are not listed here. This includes Clair de Lune, the two Arabesques, and the revolutionary Prelude. These are beautiful and immortal pieces but, frankly, I assume anyone’s whose ever watched a sappy romantic comedy is already familiar with them. Of course petty obscurantism was not my intention. Both Réverie and the Girl with Flaxen Hair make an appearance. Simply trying to avoid giving a tour of the obvious.

There’s no strict logic behind the ordering of the tracks but some thematic patterns can be noticed:

Cathedrals

We begin, appropriately enough, with two Preludes. Both demonstrate Debussy’s revolutionary vision of harmonic architecture. Debussy’s powerful chord stacking evokes images of majestic Gothic towers and his cascading melodic phrases make for ornate decorations atop every parapet. 

Dances

Then a bit of footwork. The Danses pair perfectly and the Waltz and Sarabande make fine partners in triple step. Little known fact: you CAN shake it to Debussy. Ah! And what’s a dance without community? Listening to La Plus Que Lente, one cannot help but imagine Debussy and Satie enjoying a drink together at a small cafe in Monmarte. The orchestration of the Sarabande also seems a perfect tribute to the complex, but undeniable, influence Debussy had on the younger Ravel.

Bodies of Water

Next, Debussy’s beloved sea. We go on a tour of all waters. First turbulent and treacherous; later buoyant and jocular. Debussy, I think unique among composers, appreciated the beauty of waves and winds. The flux and flow of water into and upon itself. Movement without destination. 

"Music is the expression of the movement of the waters, the play of curves described by changing breezes."

Dreams

No tour or exploration of Debussy’s genius would be complete with at least a nod towards his exploration of the space between the conscious and subconscious. He was a master of blurring the boundaries between fantasy and reality; Debussy’s world seems so often dominated by what is felt rather than what known. Because so much of his music lives at the intersection of sensoral experience and cognition, it’s unsurprising he is often pigeon-holed as an dream-like “Impressionist” composer.

Foreign Lands

A quick travelogue through Debussy’s flirtacious orientalism follows. What I wouldn’t give to have been with him at the 1889 Paris Universal Exposition. To witness a genius mind processing the quixotic quarter-tone of javanese gamelan music for the first time. His was a far sighted cross cultural brilliance. From a letter to a friend:

Do you remember the Javanese music, able to express every shade of meaning, even unmentionable shades … which make our tonic and dominant seem like ghosts, for use by naughty little children?” 

Beginnings

At last, we end with his beginning. To understand Debussy, you must appreciate his natural tendency towards rebellion. Debussy, like Napolean, was historical revolution made manifest in a man. To continue the historical analogies, I imagine Debussy at the Conservatoire de Paris in the same way I picture Luther at Catechism. Beau Soir is one of his first works, written as a young man of twenty or so, and, like the Prelude, is a poetic adaption based on lyrics from Paul Bourget. He has already mastered the language he would come to destroy. Even in this simple parlor song, you can hear the tired boundaries of the Western tradition start to ache and sway. We close with these words:

A plea to relish the charm of life

While there is youth and the evening is fair,

For we pass away, as the wave passes:

The wave to the sea, we to the grave.

jennaddenda:

SBTRKT - Gamelena

“back in the studio. working towards eps/ album/ etc…. something new - no plan for it - just thought id share”

Debussy would be proud.

I mean. He’d probably be scared and confused at first.

But then later he’d be proud.

I could write a (very short and clumsy) book on why I love the music of Debussy. However, as I have to be at the bar shortly, for now I will err on the side of brevity in tribute and simply say this:

The first time I heard Debussy I was struck with the realization that all “classical” music wasn’t written by the same person, wasn’t solely for the decaying and wasn’t to be experienced through a phone’s speakers while waiting for tech support. 

He was the first composer I every really noticed. The first time my hyperactive impulsive childish brain heard something brightly glinting caught my mind’s eye through in the dense timbre of the orchestral armory. Something in his music mentally arrested me, took me by my shoulders and demanded my attention. Whether it was to be sweet, kind, soft and gentle or bombastic, unnerving, intimidating and abrasive… there is a quality to his music that seizes me and refuses indifference.

So often as adults (“ugly-large-children” as I call them) we immediately ignore or pigeonhole music on the basis of prejudice, collected experience, “common sense” or other terrible reasons. I am thankful that the impact of Debussy was great enough to break through that formidable wall in myself and let in a little fresh air and sunlight into my life. I am aware it’s an un-falsifiable claim but I suspect that without Debussy I would never have “gotten into” Western Art Music generally. Given how much joy my meager efforts in to the history, biography, composition and theory of Western Art Music has brought me… that is certainly something to appreciate.

So. Happy birthday Debussy. You will always hold a special place in my heart.

As they say, you never forget your first.

There’s no need either for music to make people think! … It would be enough if music could make people listen, despite themselves and despite their petty mundane troubles, and never mind if they’re incapable of expressing anything resembling an opinion. It would be enough if they could no longer recognize their own grey, dull faces, if they felt that for a moment they had been dreaming of an imaginary country, that’s to say, one that can’t be found on the map.

The century of aeroplanes deserves its own music. As there are no precedents, I must create anew.

  • Claude Debussy

Collect impressions. Don’t be in a hurry to write them down. Because that’s something music can do better than painting: it can centralise variations of colour and light within a single picture — a truth generally ignored, obvious as it is.

  • Claude Debussy in a letter to his pupil Raoul Bardac (1906)

Emma Bardac (1862–1934), née Moyse, was the mutual love interest of both Gabriel Fauré and Claude Debussy. Of Jewish descent, Emma married, aged 17, Parisian banker Sigismond Bardac, by whom she had two children, Raoul, and Hélène (later Madame Gaston de Tinan (1892–1985)). Emma was an accomplished singer and brilliant conversationalist. Fauré wrote his Dolly Suite in the 1890s for Hélène and La bonne chanson for Emma herself.

After her affair with Fauré, Emma was introduced to Debussy in late 1903 by her son Raoul, one of his students.[1] Emma and Sigismond were divorced on 4 May 1905, and she eventually married Debussy in 1908. Bardac had a child by Debussy, a daughter, Claude-Emma, nicknamed ‘Chou-Chou’ (born 30 October 1905), and dedicatee of his Children’s Corner Suite composed in 1909. Claude-Emma died of diphtheria in 1919, the year after her father’s death. Emma Bardac died in 1934 and, like Claude-Emma, was laid to rest in Debussy’s grave in the Cimetière de Passy in Paris.

SANDRA!

how did i not know that Debussy’s second wife had previously had an affair with Fauré?

HOW? HOW DID THIS ESCAPE MY ATTENTION?

Claude Debussy - La plus que lente L. 121

performed by Claude Debussy