This week we are exploring Impressionism in both art and music. Yesterday we looked at Claude Monet as an example of an Impressionist painter. How do characteristics of Impressionism find their way into music?
Claude Debussy is one example of an Impressionist composer. Like Monet’s paintings, Debussy attempted to create a sense of detached observation in his music. Rather than creating clear stories or emotions as in much music of the Romantic period, Debussy evokes images or moods that aren’t necessarily clear. These images are created through the use of motives that do not necessarily develop but may change slightly throughout the work, as if looking at the scene at various perspectives. Debussy also used exotic scales such as the pentatonic (5 note) scale as well as unresolved dissonances amongst other techniques in his compositions.
One example of Debussy’s Impressionist output includes La Mer. This is an orchestral work that is meant to depict the movement of the sea through the use of rapidly alternating musical images. Debussy wrote this piece with inspiration from his childhood memories of the sea. Listen to La Mer and let me know if you think Debussy effectively evokes the movement of the sea.