Debussy Essay

Claude Debussy And Ludwig Van Beethoven

Dmitri Shostakovich, a 20th century Russian composer and pianist, once said, “A creative artist works on his next composition because he was not satisfied with his previous one." Is this why composers can compose many pieces in such a short life span? Take Claude Debussy for example. He composed 141 pieces even though he only lived for 56 years. And what about the great Ludwig van Beethoven? He composed 138 pieces although he only lived for 56 years and despite the fact that he began to lose his hearing at the age of 29. But how do these two great composers have the inspiration of writing song after song without running out of ideas? Well, the appropriate word to describe all of this is “influence”. Of course, Debussy and Beethoven had their own trademarks in the music world but they do share some similarities in their works.

Many people know that Debussy and Beethoven composed many great classical works but they did compose some ‘jazz like’ works over their music career. Noted composer, scholar, and educator Gunther Schuller wrote an article entitled “Jazz on Classical: Classical on Jazz”. In this article, he mentioned that jazz musicians of today and yesteryear have been attracted to works by classical composers and have drawn upon the inventive usage of harmonies employed by classical composers, including Debussy and Beethoven. Debussy had a profound impact on contemporary soundtrack composers such as John Williams because Debussy's colorful and evocative style translated easily into an emotional language for use in motion picture scores. Unfortunately, Gunther Schuller did not follow Beethoven’s influence on today’s jazz artists. He did not write more about his influences toward jazz (Schuller,2013).

One thing that both Beethoven and Debussy share in common is “jazz-like” compositions. Debussy influenced many important figures in jazz such as Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, Bill Evans, and Duke Ellington. Beethoven, being known as the classical contemporary master, wrote many jazz like pieces. Let’s take Beethoven’s “Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111” as an example. Even though this piece contain fugal elements such as having two movements, this piece has many elements of jazz such as the rhythm of the first movement being close to ragtime and the second/final movement being felt like “proto-jazz” and “boogie-woogie”. In the first movement of the piece which is in C minor, Beethoven used many diminished seventh chords, as in for instance the first full bar of it’s opening introduction.

The second/final movement is a set of variations on a 16-bar theme, with a brief modulating interlude and a final coda. Jazz compositions normally have a standard 16-bar theme with an interlude supporting it. This shows that Beethoven’s piece(as mentioned above) have many elements of jazz writing techniques. Now let’s move on to Debussy’s jazz compositions. We all know Debussy as the genius behind musical impressionism but his influence on jazz...

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Even though he grew up in France being a painter was more accepted than being a composer. His father thought that he would become a sailor. He had all the tools for a painter but he was said to have, having a musical ear, but of Debussy it could be said that he had the finest musical eye of any composer (Brown 16). Claude Debussy is one of the most influential musicians of the twentieth century, loved by many people of different musical tastes. From his early childhood many people recognized his love of music, knowing that he was ready and willing to be a successful musician. Making people love and appreciate the deeper side of music was one of his personal goal; but not the only goal.

Due to Claude's determination, passion, rebelliousness, and sufferings, he changed the way many people approach music today. Achille-Claude Debussy was born in St. Germain-en-Like, on August 22, 1862. He remained silent throughout his childhood, maintaining a level of secrecy that no one could understand. Many believe that he was ashamed of his background, but no one has solid evidence. He wasnt baptized into the church until 1864, leaving room for some speculation.

Out of the mystery have arisen vague questionings and inferences as to Debussy's parentage, for which no sensible basis can be found (Thompson 34). It wasnt until he reached the age of seven when he began taking piano lessons from Cerrutti, who regarded him as nothing out of the ordinary (Brown 16). Claude was regarded by many of his peers as an awkward and clumsy boy with a short, fat appearance reinforced by fat little fingers. He was even noted to be a shy and sociable outcast (Brown 16). He gave music his all, he never felt satisfied with his music. He wanted to be the best but he could not figure out why he was struggling.

For the nest three years he studied music with Lavignac, making Claude into a better overall musician. Lavignac could see Debussy's talent and his individuality and inquisitive sense of invention. He liked to do things his way, Lavignac admired Debussy's intelligence and that helped him reassure the young man (Brown 19). He was determined to accomplish anything that he set his mind out to do.

Many people said that he would struggle to become a great composer, but Claude knew otherwise. He felt closer to painters and poets that to other musicians (Gilbert 1). He liked to show up people who did not believe in him. For Claude, it was a way of expressing his true talents; no one can stop a determined mind when they are hard at work. Time and time again he would amaze his fellow pupils and disconcert his teachers with improvisations that utilized progressions and harmonies outlawed by the textbooks. However, eventually even such diehard academicians as Marmontel and Durand were won over to Debussy because of his outstanding talent (Hutchinson Encyclopedia 1).

Claude was always willing to give a 110 % into what he composed and into his performances. He disliked being second to anyone and not producing the best material made him feel worthless and confused. His attitude toward the piano was mixed because he couldnt play all that well, producing mediocre music troubled him. Debussy wasnt familiar with the piano, he just liked music (Brown 16). He loved the feeling of accomplishing a work that challenged him, making use of his many different talents made him feel accomplished.

Claude was a very passionate man when it came to his music, and the women in his life, being around both made him feel calm and secure. In his music he wanted to present a feeling of unity, a feeling that they are one with each other, he wants a more personal relationship with his audience so they can understand the hidden meaning behind the music (Gray 95). To be on the same plane, Claude felt that the audience could experience more than just music. He wanted the audience to listen to the melody and picture a beautiful place with someone they truly loved and cared about, presenting a vivid picture for them to feel one with their lover. Its purpose is not to evoke a definite picture, but to suggest the mood or emotion which the particular image in question aroused in the artists mind (Gray 105). Though his intent was to force a mental image through the music, his emotions would normally kick in and guide the audience through their day dream, not intending to take control of the situation.

But he never relaxed for it the perfect command over his emotions; and when he means to excite ours, it is not by the power of feverish passionate inspiration. Opposing his last works forced him to recreate a pleasurable experience rather than just notes (Cotton 22). Many of the women that were involved in Claude's life were extremely important because he adored them and he loved them. He wasnt an extraordinary looking man, proving that the girls in his life were there because they loved him beyond the physical appearance. Claude was very passionate and caring when it came to the women in his life.

He wrote an opera called Rodriguez et Chinese for his live-in girlfriend. They enjoyed a happy life together at the composers most frustrating time caught as he was between awareness that he was on the verge of fame, and not actually having a penny to his name (Brown 44 - 45). Writing an opera or any other music composition was a big step for Claude; he needed to truly love that person before he would come out and compose something on their behalf. Although he didnt have many love interests, he did love women in general.

He loved everything about them, from the way they looked to the way they smelled. Debussy was the man who in that questionnaire had said that the greatest happiness was to love not to be loved nor merely to make love. Debussy needed to feel his own heart beat. With the new decade, however, came new love (Brown 44). Claude loved incorporating his own style, his own way of looking at things, and his own way of differentiating his music from other people. He loved to do things that would provoke a response from other people.

He always liked to be the center of attention, resulting sometimes in harsh punishments. In 1884, while attending the Paris Conservatoire, Debussy rebelliously took over class on a day that the professor was absent, and started playing al...

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