|Claude Debussy Biography||
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Achille-Claude Debussy (International Phonetic Alphabet ) (August 22, 1862 – March 25, 1918) was a France composer. He worked within the style commonly referred to as impressionist music, a term which he dismissed. Debussy was not only one of the most important French composers but was also one of the most important figures in music at the turn of the last century; his music represents the transition from late-romantic music to 20th century Modernism (music).
Early life and studies
Claude Debussy was born in St Germain-en-Laye in 1862. His parents owned a china shop. Debussy began music instruction when he was nine years old, but his talents soon became evident and at age ten Debussy entered the Paris Conservatoire. Debussy studied with Ernest Guiraud, César Franck and others at the Paris Conservatoire (1872-84). From 1880 to 1882 Debussy was employed by Nadezhda von Meck (Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's patron), giving music lessons to her children. Claude Debussy - the Composer BBC h2g2 website As the winner of the Prix de Rome, he received a scholarship by the Académie des Beaux-Arts, which included a four-year residence at the Villa Medici, the French Academy in Rome to further his studies (1885-7). According to letters from this period, Debussy often was depressed and unable to compose, but he also met Franz Liszt, and finally composed four pieces, which were sent to the Academy; the symphonic ode Zuleima (after a text by Heinrich Heine), the orchestral piece Printemps, and the cantata La damoiselle élue (1887-88), which was criticized by the Academy as "bizarre" and in which some stylistic features of Debussy's later style emerged for the first time. The fourth piece was the Fantaisie for piano and orchestra, which was still indebted to César Franck's music and withdrawn by the composer himself. With his visits to Bayreuth Festspielhaus (1888, 1889) Debussy was exposed to Richard Wagner opera, which was to have a lasting impact on his later work. Wagner's influence is evident in the La damoiselle élue and the Cinq poèmes de Baudelaire (1889) but other songs of the period, notably the settings of Verlaine (Ariettes oubliées, Trois mélodies, Fêtes galantes, set 1) are in a more capricious style. Later, in Paris, during the Exposition Universelle (1889) Debussy heard Java (island) gamelan music. Although direct citations of gamelan scales, melodies, rhythms, or ensemble textures have not been located in any of Debussy's own compositions, the equal-tempered pentatonic scale appears in his music of this time and afterward.
The first masterpieces
Beginning in the 1890s, Debussy developed his own musical language largely independent of Wagner's style and heavy emotionalism. In contrast to the enormous works of Wagner and other late-romantic composers, Debussy chose to write in smaller, more accessible forms. 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 musical mode as well as less standard scales, such as the Whole-tone scale, which creates a sense of floating, ethereal harmony. Influenced by the contemporary symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé, Debussy wrote one of his most famous works, the revolutionary Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune. In contrast to the large late-romantic orchestra, Debussy wrote this piece for a smaller ensemble, emphasizing orchestral colours and timbres of the instruments. Even if Mallarmé himself and Debussy's colleague and friend Paul Dukas were impressed by this piece, the work caused controversy at its premiere; the composer Camille Saint-Saëns for example thought it "pretty" but lacking any "style". It subsequently launched Debussy into the spotlight as one of the leading composers of the era.
Pelléas et Mélisande
In reaction to Wagner and his highly elaborate late-romantic operas, Debussy wrote the symbolist opera Pelléas et Mélisande (opera), which would be his only finished opera. Based on the play by Maurice Maeterlinck, the opera proved to be immensely influential to younger French composers, including Maurice Ravel. Pelléas, with its rule of understatement and deceptively simple declamation, also brought an entirely new tone to opera — but an unrepeatable one. These works brought a fluidity of rhythm and colour quite new to Western music.
Orchestral music: Les nocturnes, La Mer, Images
Among Debussy's major orchestral works are:
Music for piano
During this period Debussy wrote much piano music.
The harmonies and Chord (music) progressions frequently exploit Consonance and dissonance without any formal resolution. Unlike in his earlier work, Debussy no longer hides discords in lush harmonies. The forms are far more irregular and fragmented. The whole tone scale dominates much of his late music. The music for Gabriele d'Annunzio's mystery play Le martyre de St. Sébastien (1911) a lush and dramatic work and written in only two months, is remarkable in sustaining a Late Antiquity musical mode atmosphere that otherwise was touched only in relatively short piano pieces. The last orchestral work by Debussy, the ballet Jeux (1912) written for Serge 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 Preludes (Debussy) for piano (1913) features Debussy at his most avant-garde, sometimes utilising dissonant harmonies to evoke moods and images, especially in the mysterious Canope ; the title refers to a burial urn which stood on Debussy's working desk and evokes a distant past. The pianist Claudio Arrau considered the piece as one of Debussy's greatest preludes: "It's miraculous that he created, in so few notes, this kind of depth." http://homepage.mac.com/stevepur/music/debussy_piano/canope.html
Late music: En blanc et noir , the Etudes and the three Sonatas
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 (music) 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 Neoclassicism (music) which was to become popular after Debussy's death. Debussy planned a set of six sonatas, but this plan was cut short by his death in 1918.
Claude Debussy died in Paris on March 25, 1918 from colorectal cancer, in the midst of the Germany aerial and artillery bombardment of Paris during the Spring Offensive of World War I. At this time the military situation in France was desperate, and circumstances did not permit his being paid the honour of a public funeral or ceremonious graveside orations. The funeral procession made its way through deserted streets as shells from the German guns ripped into his beloved city. It was just eight months before France would celebrate victory. He was interred in the Cimetière de Passy, and French culture has ever since celebrated Debussy as one of its most distinguished representatives.
The term "impressionist", widely applied to Debussy and the music he influenced, is a matter of intense debate within academic circles. It is widely held that the term is a misnomer, an inappropriate label which Debussy himself opposed. In a letter of 1908, he wrote "I am trying to do 'something different'-in a way realities-what the imbeciles call 'impressionism' is a term which is as poorly used as possible, particularly by art critics." Rudolph Réti points out these features of Debussy's music, which "established a new concept of tonality in European music": # Glittering passages and webs of figurations which distract from occasional absence of tonality; # Frequent use of parallel chords which are "in essence not harmonies at all, but rather 'chordal melodies', enriched unisons"; # Bitonality, or at least bitonal chords; # Use of the whole-tone and pentatonic scales; # Unprepared Modulation (music), "without any harmonic bridge." He concludes that Debussy's achievement was the synthesis of monophonic based "melodic tonality" with harmonies, albeit different from those of "harmonic tonality" (Reti, 1958).
Given that Debussy's music is apparently so concerned with mood and colour, it is somewhat unexpected to discover that according to one author many of his greatest works appear to have been structured around mathematical models even when they apparently also use a classical structure such as sonata form. Howat (1983) 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 (Howat, 1983). 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.
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 Igor Stravinsky, Olivier Messiaen, Pierre Boulez, Henri Dutilleux and the minimalist music of Steve Reich and Philip Glass. He also influenced many important figures in Jazz, most notably Duke Ellington and Bill Evans.
Debussy in film and pop culture
Debussy's music has been used countless times in film and television.
Two pianos or piano, four hands
Music for solo instruments and orchestra
Courtesy of: http://www.wikipedia.org/