Ballets By Claude Debussy - Musical Style

Musical Style

Rudolph Reti points out these features of Debussy's music, which "established a new concept of tonality in European music":

  1. Glittering passages and webs of figurations which distract from occasional absence of tonality;
  2. Frequent use of parallel chords which are "in essence not harmonies at all, but rather 'chordal melodies', enriched unisons"; some writers describe these as non-functional harmonies;
  3. Bitonality, or at least bitonal chords;
  4. Use of the whole-tone and pentatonic scale;
  5. Unprepared modulations, "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".

The application of the term "impressionist" to Debussy and the music he influenced is a matter of intense debate within academic circles. One side argues 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'—an effect of reality ... what the imbeciles call 'impressionism', a term which is as poorly used as possible, particularly by the critics, since they do not hesitate to apply it to Turner, the finest creator of mysterious effects in all the world of art." The opposing side argues that Debussy may have been reacting to unfavourable criticism at the time, and the negativity that critics associated with impressionism. It can be argued that he would have been pleased with application of the current definition of impressionism to his music.

Read more about this topic:  Ballets By Claude Debussy

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