Music Composers

Claude Debussy-Part 2

He recognized no boundaries whatsoever between the different keys; the same tonality is seldom maintained beyond a single measure. He uses key signatures but he could as well dispense with them, like some of the ultra-modernists (for instance, the Viennese Schonberg). Somebody said that Debussy puts them in place yielding only to an amiable and indulgent prejudice.

"I prefer," said Debussy, "to hear few notes of an Egyptian shepherd's flute, for his is in accord with his scenery and hears harmonies unknown to your treatise.  Musicians will listen only to music written by experts. They never turn their attention to that which is inscribed in Nature. It would benefit them more to watch a sunrise than to listen to a performance of the Pastoral Symphony." A French writer has characterized him as "le tres exceptionel, tres curieux, tres solitaire M. Claude Debussy."

New Effect

In his search after something different, novel, unaccustomed, he is not satisfied with the modern scale system; he reverts to the mediaeval choral modes with their far greater latitude and variety. He is especially fond of the "authentic" modes Lydian (f g a b c d e f) and Dorian (d e f g a b c d) which he often uses in his opera Pelleas et Melisande. The whole tone scale which Debussy employs also extensively is not his exclusive invention. Russian composers have used it before him and French masters have used it contemporaneously. But it must be said that Debussy has introduced it in many of his works with particular charm. The absence of a decided tonality, of harmonic repose, make it particularly fit for the evanescent, vaporous ideas of Debussy.

The Etude Magazine February 1921





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