Stylistic Feature's of Debussy's 'Prelude a L'Apres Midi D'Un Faune'

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  • Topic: Whole tone scale, Claude Debussy, Impressionist music
  • Pages : 2 (584 words )
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  • Published : April 10, 2013
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Claude Debussy was considered one of the most influential Impressionistic composers of his time, along with his contemporary Ravel – ironically, Debussy himself very much disliked the term ‘impressionism’ and believed that he was simply trying to do “something different”. The piece Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune is based on a poem of a similar name, and is also known as a ‘tone poem’ – It tells the story of a faun in a dreamy like state who has encounters with several nymphs.There are many different impressionistic aspects of Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, including Debussy’s creative use of melody. Rather than the development of many motifs, Debussy uses plenty of melodic and rhythmic variation with different textures and harmonisations. An example of this is at bar 21 when the first note of the flute solo is lengthened, while further on the melody is decorated with demi-semi-quaver triplets. Also, Debussy makes use of the whole tone scale when the clarinet takes on the melody part, as well as a chromatic scale which creates an idea of no tonal direction. Along with this, there is use of an augmented fourth (devil’s interval) in the main melody from a C# to a G.Another element developed is the rhythm (and metre). There is no clear sense of pulse, which allows the music to flow freely (like the faun from the poem). Partially responsible for this lack of pulse is the use of complex rhythms that disguise this. There are variation of different groupings of notes, including triplets, quintuplets and sextuplets. The time signature changes frequently between different compound times, including 9/8, 12/8 and 6/8. In earlier eras such as the classical and romantic periods these changes would not have been as frequent.

Debussy also makes interesting use of harmony in this piece. Instead of using chords conventionally like composers such as Mozart would have done, he used chords for colour and character. Debussy uses dissonance freely resulting in...
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