Impressionism in art is fairly easy to describe: thin brush strokes, obscured edges, the play of light. Impressionism in music is harder to articulate.
Impressionism in art is fairly easy to describe: thin brush strokes, obscured edges, the play of light.
Impressionism in music is harder to articulate. Composer Claude Debussy translated visual ambiguity to music by unrooting time. There are no hard edges. The music is dreamy. It’s often hard to find the beat.
The Impressionist composers — Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel in particular, but also Erik Satie and Gabriel Faure — took their inspiration from many of the same places that Impressionist painters did: nature. Debussy was particularly inspired by water.
Symbolist poets of the day also influenced Impressionist composers. Paul Verlaine’s “Clair de Lune” and Stéphane Mallarmé’s “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” were beautiful, but obscure, as is Debussy’s music based on these poems.
And finally, Impressionist composers paid attention to how music vibrated in the body. You’ll hear the lowest notes on the piano played in conjunction with the highest notes. Feeling the music was almost as important as hearing it. LISTEN HERE
Clair de lune de Claude Debussy, arrangement pour la guitare de James Edwards.
Interprété par Roxane, Paris 2016.