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Intro to Fine Arts: Debussy’s Prelude to an Afternoon of a Faun

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Claude Debussy was one of the most important among the French composers and he was also considered as the central figure in European music at the turn of twentieth century. Debussy’s music mainly expresses the transition period from late romantic music to the modernist music of twentieth century. He is considered as one of the well known composer of impressionist music field. Debussy was deeply influenced by Mallarme and wrote one of his famous works, Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, which was completely unique and truly original in form and performance. Due to the success of Prelude, Debussy was famous as one of the leading composers of that era. Intro to Fine Arts 3 Intro to Fine Arts: Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun is Claude Debussy’s musical composition for an orchestra that lasts for about ten minutes. This work of art is considered as the turning point in the history of music and was influenced by a poem written by Mallarme. Debussy had the plans to write an Interlude and Final Paraphrase after the Prelude but it never happened.

About this composition Debussy wrote, The music of this prelude is a very free illustration of Mallarme’s beautiful poem. By no means does it claim to be a synthesis of it. Rather there is a succession of scenes through which pass the desires and dreams of the Faun in the heat of the afternoon. Then tired of pursuing the timorous fight of nymphs and naiads, he succumbs to intoxicating sleep, in which he can finally realize his dreams of possession in universal Nature. The prelude consists of very little musical literalism, however the lazy melody and the soft and quivering orchestra altogether makes the audience think about Mellarme’s erotic poem. When the Prelude is listened for the first time, it gives the impression of an improvisational music and seems to be free flow. But when you closely observe the music you will find the organization of the musical cells and motifs is complex and it is perfectly traded among the members of the orchestra. It is a unique example of Debussy’s ultimate compositional economical craft.

In this piece of art Debussy has explored with the shading of music and alternate voicing and has brilliantly organized them. In the first minute of the composition, Debussy has left a complete silence for the audience to guess about the music that is going to follow. Intro to Fine Arts 4 An impressionist is one who not only describes flatly but suggests and elicits the meaning. Debussy’s works are deeply influenced by the impressionist artists and writers of that era and has been the core ideas of his creations. But he himself denies the fact that keeps a distance from the term ‘impressionism’. He said that he tried to do something totally different. Debussy’s ‘Prelude to the Afternoon of a faun’ was his first piece of art that reflected impressionism in his work. Literature and music critic Arthur Symons maintains that Debussy is, the Mallarme of music, not because he has set Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun to sound, but the music has all the qualities of the poem and none, for instance, of Verlaine…. Mallarme has a beauty of his own, calculating, new alluring; and Debussy is not less original, aloof, deliberating an artist.

Lockpeiser120 Debussy’s ‘ La Mer’ is considered as the most impressionistic among all his works. La Mer is a true masterpiece when technical precision and clarity is considered having all the structural elements important for a symphonic work i.e., melody, rhythm, harmony etc. Debussy’s revolutionary works almost marked the beginning of impressionism in music. It is felt by the critics that his work made the basis of French style of music for many years to come. Debussy himself included all the qualities of impressionism in his music. This is the fact that is depicted in his matured works and the musicians that followed his style symbolize it as Debussyism. Debussy tried and explored music and harmony in a revolutionary way and tried to free music from the formal rules that were supposed to be applied.



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