Analysis of Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun

Gain a deeper understanding of the musical language of this marvellous composer

by Clemens Kemme

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Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun (1894), often considered as the first ‘20th-century’ piece, is a good starting point for a course entitled ‘Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky’, that explores the new musical language that was developed in the two decades before the outbreak of first World War. This short period produced an unnumerable amount of masterpieces that seem to fascinate us now more then ever. Somehow these three composers managed to create an ideal new mixture of the Western classical musical language and a number of new devices like extended and parallel harmonies, patterns based on equal division of the octave (whole-tone and octatonic series, minor- and major-third circles), and all kinds of modalities that had lived on for centuries in folk musics from around the world. These composers created this new style in Paris simultaneously with the earliest developments of another highly successful new fusion of different musical cultures, one that took place in the USA: jazz. They were also among the first composers to be influenced by early jazz styles. A little later, in the 1920s and -30s, the inspiration became reciprocal, when Ellington and Strayhorn started to enrich early jazz styles with the new harmonic findings of Debussy and Ravel (e.g. in Strayhorn's Chelsea Bridge).
The level of complexitiy of the music requires that participants have at least two years of ear training, harmony and analysis behind them.
 
Video's: 3 hours

Skill Level: Intermediate-Advanced

Language: English