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Homework answers / question archive / 1) Exordium (Introduction) In this case, the best way to introduce the subject is to look at it from a different approach and using a quote

1) Exordium (Introduction) In this case, the best way to introduce the subject is to look at it from a different approach and using a quote


1) Exordium (Introduction) In this case, the best way to introduce the subject is to look at it from a different approach and using a quote. I will briefly describe the word ‘impressionism’ and shed some light on its use in the music and art industries. Then I will give a quote by Claude Debussy that counters the views of people who refer to his work as art that employs impressionism. He chooses to regard his work as symbolic music rather than work that portrays impressionism. 2. Narratio (Background Information, History) The background information relevant in this case includes: • The artist being discussed in this case, Claude Debussy • The work being discussed is “Reflets dans l’eau” (Reflections in the water). I will indicate the year in which the work was written, which is 1905. • I will point out the aspects of reflection in the water that make it more of a symbolic piece of art than an impressionist. This forms the paper's thesis, which is how Debussy employed symbolism in "Reflets dans l’eau” (Reflections in the water). 3. Partitio (Essay Body) I. The music created by Debussy aims to convey symbols to our ears. A. The artist uses the music to depict water that is in motion. Example: The opening of the piece establishes a peculiar tempo. Example: As the piece continues, the tempo speeds up. Example: The sound fizzles, and momentum reduces towards the end of the piece using whole-tone scales. B. Debussy tries to create the picture of a fountain in the audience’s minds. Example: He uses brief melodies in the point of the piece showing the fountains. Example: He employs glimpses of melodic statements Example: He uses very peculiar climaxes. C. Claude Debussy tried as much as he could to create the sounds of water and reflections in the water. Example: Using floating images with calm notes since the images do not necessarily make noise. Example: Sounds that entice the audience to think of raindrops Example: Sounds that trigger thoughts of dribbles in pools. II. Debussy's art aims to create music that is image-dependent rather than merely creating mood and atmosphere. A. There are numerous impressions of light reflecting from the water. Example: Use of very rapid arpeggios. Example: Use of shimmering sound waves. Example: Use of resonating tones. B. He creates a very intriguing ending of the piece, which creates an atmosphere and mood aligning to the images. Example: There is an exotic build-up that starts at minute 3.00. Example: By minute 3:56, the sound fizzles into very lush chords. Example: He uses a pattern of alternating high and low chords while employing motifs similar to those of the beginning. It is ending in the same three-note theme. C. Debussy creates music that explores his tools in-depth and uses both extremes of the keyboard. Example: A very low bass is played using the left hand. Example: A rather high treble is played by the right hand. Example: He combines the two extremes to create a feeling of a very vast space like that of water. III. Debussy used specific characteristic motifs and exotic scales. A. Debussy used whole tone scales in his work. Example: He does not have any leading tones in some parts of the music. Example: There are no tones that stand out in some parts of his piano piece. Example: The opening uses a rich motif of three notes. B. He also employed the use of non-functional scales to cast the desired musical image upon the listener. Example: He often uses the harmonic minor scale. Example: He uses pentatonic scales. Example: He also uses chromatic scales. C. The author in question used unusual harmonies that was more ancient and non-traditional and different rhythms. Example: Use of eastern scales. Example: Use of undetermined chords Example: Large scale use of instrumental timbre. 4. Peroratio (Conclusion) The ultimate aim is to give a more comprehensive and detailed discussion of Claude's use of unique styles. The styles such as whole-tone scale and impressionism and how they are used in contemporary cultural arts. Debussy - “Reflets dans L’eau” Debussy – Life and Times • Debussy was born in 1862 into a poor family in Saint-Germaine-en-Laye. His pianistic talents were in evidence from an early age (he was taught by Verlaine’s mother-in-law), and by the age of 10 or 11 he had entered the Paris Conservatory. Though his ability was recognized here, his eachers were far from convinced though by his innovative musical style. • In 1880 Debussy was hired by Nadezhda von Meck (Tchaikovsky’s former patroness) to teach her children the piano. With her he also visited Russia and much of Europe and became familiar with the music of Russian composers that would influence his own compositions. • In 1884, at the age of 22, he won the Prix de Rome, the conservatory’s top composition prize, which allowed him to study for three years in Rome – though he returned after only two years. While there, he met Liszt and also became acquainted with the music of Wagner, and, though in later years he rebelled against the German’s musical style, Wagner’s influence on Debussy was profound and lasting. • In 1889 Debussy attended the Paris World Exposition, where he heard a Javanese gamelan orchestra, with its variety of gongs, bells, metallophones and xylophones. These sounds, along with the music’s pentatonicism, were soon incorporated into his own music. • Debussy’s association with painters and poets, however, were to influence him more than his friendship with musicians. His life was spent as a composer, performer and critic. He died in Paris in 1918 during the First World War. • Debussy occupies an important position in musical history in the transition from Romanticism to Modernism at a time when Impressionism and Symbolism were emerging in fin de siècle France. (Though these were two distinct movements, they shared a number of artistic ideals). At first, commentators tended to consider Debussy as being influenced by Impressionism, a genre associated with art. Debussy intensely disliked this label, writing, in 1908: “I’m trying to write something else, what imbeciles call impressionism”. More recently, the importance of Symbolism on Debussy and his music has been recognised. This was a poetic movement that reacted against naturalism and realism in favour of spirituality and imagination. The poems of Baudelaire, Mallarmé and Verlaine, the leading poets of the movement, attempted to evoke rather than describe, so having much in common with Impressionism. The term itself was coined in 1873 (originally intended pejoratively) in a review of Monet’s “Impression: Sunrise”, though the negative criticism was aimed exactly at that which Monet intended to achieve – a vague and unfinished state. Similarly, Symbolism tried to “create a sensuous world of ambiguous and evocative psychological experiences and intense sounds in order to evoke rather than depict”. Symbolist poets often used words for the sake of the music contained in them rather than for their meaning. [Verlaine’s poem “Art poétique” begins “De la musique avant toute chose… ” (“Music before everything else… ”)] Debussy’s use of non-functional sonorities like parallel dominant 7th/9th chords could be considered a musical counterpart to this. Debussy - “Reflets dans L’eau” Debussy’s Musical Style • One of Debussy’s most important contributions to Modernism is his treatment of harmony, specifically his role in the “emancipation of dissonance”. His harmony tended not to restrict itself to the progressions typical of those in the common-practice period of the Western tonal tradition. In contrast with later 19th century harmony, Debussy eschewed traditional chord functions, and, instead, used sonorities that did not resolve or relate to each other in the usual way. As mentioned above in relation to the Symbolist aesthetic, the individual effect of a chord and the overall effect of a section became emphasised at the expense of the familiar tension-resolution pattern. Harmonic function is not entirely eliminated, of course, but cadences become increasingly rare and dissonances tend to “resolve” to other dissonances. In a Debussy cadence, the final chord frequently functions as a point of repose not because it is consonant, but because it is less dissonant than what came before. • Chords are often chosen for their sonority, in which both scoring and registration can become important elements. Most chords are based on 3rds (tertian harmony), with 7th and 9th chords being common. (Chords are sometimes extended even further). Sometimes, the 3rd of a triad is omitted, leaving a bare 5th, an important departure from the norm that was to have an influence on his contemporaries and followers. Sometimes, these intervals were used in parallel, this organum-like style sometimes being used for archaic effect, as in “La cathédrale engloutie” (“The submerged cathedral”). These intervals were also frequently used as pedal points, with the harmony above creating dissonance with the sustained pedal notes. [Pedal points occur frequently in Debussy’s music, not only as a source of dissonance, but also as a means of creating tonal stability in a passage in which there is harmonic ambiguity.] Debussy’s parallelisms went against the prescribed rules of traditional harmony, which prohibited the use of parallel 5ths and 8ves. • Debussy’s use of modes had an effect on his harmony, too. Modality is often cited as an important feature of Debussy’s music, and many passages can be found that contain notes that are reminiscent of Dorian or Phrygian rather than minor, or Lydian or mixolydian rather than major. Debussy acquired these pentatonic and modal characteristics mostly from the Russian nationalist composers, though his initial interest in pentatonicism was inspired by the Javanese gamelan music he heard at the Paris Exposition. The use of these modes had the effect of breaking down the traditional tonal system and of forming a new one based on new scale formations. In the whole-tone scale (a favourite of Debussy’s) there was no differentiation at all in its constituent intervals, while the pentatonic scale also restricted the notes available to the composer. The subdominant tends to have a more important role in Debussy’s music than the dominant. • It is only relatively recently that analysts have come to identify the use of the octatonic scale in the works of composers such as Debussy and Ravel. This is partly because, unlike Stravinsky, who employed the scale for large stretches of a composition, Debussy tended to use it for shorter passages and juxtaposed its use with other harmonic styles, taking advantage of notes shared between the different types of modes. “Nuages” from the “Three Nocturnes” provides a good example of this compositional method. Debussy - “Reflets dans L’eau” • From early on Debussy was aware that his harmonic concepts demanded new forms and that the traditional forms that relied on former tonal practices were not adequate in this respect. Throughout his letters and essays from the turn of the century onwards, Debussy constantly wrote of his desire to break away from both the standard harmonies and rigid formal types of earlier music to attain a more intuitive art with more freedom for the artist. In 1907, for instance, he spoke of his aversion towards the mere mechanisms of “rigorous, traditional forms”. He considered sonata form to be an outmoded formula, “a legacy of clumsy, falsely interposed traditions”. The working out of themes and motifs he regarded as a species of dull “musical mathematics”. Instead, Debussy tended to employ short lyric forms – preludes nocturnes, arabesques. His forms, too, tend to be a series of waves, whose principal themes recede into the background and continue as ostinatos while other versions of themselves or new material is superimposed. Although the thematic content of even large-scale works is fairly limited, alterations in texture and rhythm disguise motivic shapes to the point that they often become mere suggestions of themselves. Juxtapositions are not prepared; bridge passages may be entirely absent or only briefly suggested. Many of the early pieces have a symmetrical shape with an emotional peak about two-thirds the way through, usually in a central section that is based on its own thematic material. This is followed by a return to opening material. Rarely, though, does the return function as a literal recapitulation. Instead, the material continues to transform itself. Some analysts (like Howat and Parks) have identified what they consider to be the use of the Fibonacci (and Lucas) series in several of Debussy’s works; Boulez went even further, remarking that Debussy “overthrew not so much the art of development as the very concept of form itself”. • Another formal type sometimes employed by Debussy was “through-composed” form, a continuously developing form that lacks ternary form’s symmetrical shape and rotational (cyclical) form’s regular alternation of material. Debussy’s “additive” approach to form building, in which typically 2-bar units are combined through an arch-like process has been both criticised and praised by commentators. • The subtle harmonies of the Impressionists demanded complementary timbres. Debussy usually employed a large orchestra, but loud passages tend to occur infrequently. The strings are often divided and muted; harps are used subtly to add a distinctive colouring; in the woodwind, flutes, oboe and cor anglais are often used for solos, their lower ranges being exploited; horns and trumpets, also often muted, are heard in short pianissimo phrases; percussion instruments are another source of unusual timbre, such as the use of antique cymbals in the “Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune”. The expressive scope of the string section is augmented, with all manner of combinations of arco and pizzicato, divisi part writing, “sul tasto” and tremolo, resulting in a new variety, flexibility and beauty of string sound. In his solo piano music Debussy exploits the instrument’s wide range to create timbral juxtapositions of deep, dramatic bass registers in contrast with the higher register’s more “glittering” sonorities. The complex resonances of Debussy’s piano writing require careful use of the pedals, the damper pedal in particular. Sometimes, in his orchestral works, timbre assumes an almost structural importance. Works such as “Jeux” or “Jeux de vagues” (from “La Mer”) exhibit a pointillist orchestral technique, which was further developed by composers such as Webern and (later) Boulez. Debussy - “Reflets dans L’eau” • Like timbre, rhythm and tempo in Debussy function to characterise entire pieces or individual passages. Often, accompaniments consist of nervous, propulsive ostinatos, while the melodic material appears in languorous, rubato-like rhythms. While changes in time signature occur with nothing like the frequency they do in the music of other contemporary composers (Stravinsky in particular), even in passages with an unchanging time signature, rhythms are so subtle that it is often difficult to determine the first beat of the bar. Elsewhere, when textures do possess regular rhythms, they are often overlaid with ornamental melismata that seem to contradict them. On the other hand, changes of tempo can be frequent in Debussy’s music, as is the directive “rubato” – “Reflets dans l’eau” adds “tempo rubato” in brackets after the work’s opening “Andantino molto” direction. This preoccupation with creating a sense of rhythmic freedom is also evident in the tempo direction for “Jeux de vagues” (“La Mer”) - “dans un rythme très souple”. Debussy distrusted metronome markings, remarking in a letter to Durand: “You know what I think of metronome marks: they’re right for a single bar … There are “those” who don’t hear music and who take these marks as authority to hear it still less!” • Debussy’s early compositions (such as the slow movement of the String Quartet) were characterized by a highly personal, intimate lyric style such as that found in the music of Gounod. Other works, such as “Nuages”, can have minimal melodic content. Reflets dans l’eau – Debussy Introductory notes Composed in three days in Eastbourne just after Debussy had completed “La Mer”, “Reflets dans l’eau” (“Reflections in the water”) is the first of three piano pieces that make up the first set of “Images” (1905). (The remaining pieces are “Hommage à Rameau” and “Mouvement”; a second set was composed in 1907). Though positioned first, “Reflets” was actually the last of the three pieces to be written. An earlier version of the piece dates back to 1901, but Debussy was dissatisfied with this and decided to write another version, based, he remarked, “on different idioms and in accordance with the most recent discoveries of harmonic chemistry”. [Other than their connection with water, “Reflets dans l’eau” and “La Mer” both share the same D flat major tonic key; in addition, motif B of “Reflets” (see below) is the “cyclic motif” of “La Mer”, while motif A (see below) is the retrograde inversion of the motif that is the basis of the first and last climaxes of “La Mer’s” first movement. In contrast to earlier musicologists, who were content to accept what was considered to be Debussy’s uncomplicated use of traditional simple forms such as ternary and rondo, more recently, analysts have devoted considerable time and effort in uncovering the more complex layers that underlie these apparently simple structures. Howat’s identification of the use of the Golden Section/Fibonacci series in certain works by Debussy will be mentioned briefly at the end of the analysis, but even when musicologists agree on the “basic” form being employed in a work, there can be as many ways of dividing up sections/subsections as there are analyses. For instance, it is generally agreed that “Reflets” is in a simple rondo form, but analysts have come to different conclusions over the number of principal sections and/or the letter designations appropriate for each section. Debussy’s method of what has been called “additive variation” is often at the heart of the discrepancies in analyses. In this process, new musical ideas are combined with previous material that is then gradually eliminated, resulting in a continuous transformation of ideas. This sometimes happens at the point of two formal sections, so that the new section appears to begin Debussy - “Reflets dans L’eau” almost before the previous section has ended. This has been likened to a “cinematic dissolve”, in which one visual image gradually shifts into another. “Reflets” contains a number of examples of this, which partly accounts for the discrepancies in bar numbers allotted to different formal sections as identified by different commentators. For the purposes of this analysis, Howat’s rondo divisions and section nomenclature will be employed, in part because they can then be used to illustrate his interesting theories on Debussy’s use of the Fibonacci series, but other possibilities will also be suggested. Howat writes: “In orthodox terms the piece’s construction is irregular, best described as an unusual species of rondo form built on two recurring motifs, A and B. A begins and ends the piece, defining a rondo outline with principal returns in bars 35 and 71. It then returns in bar 81, marking the beginning of the coda. B is a more melodic development of A, beginning with A in retrograde. B’s appearances form contrasting episodes in the rondo scheme, with principle entries in bars 24, 50 and 78. Of those three episodes the final one is very short and the central one much the more important; after its entry in bar 50 B dominates the entire climactic section until bar 70.” (See Ex.1) This gives the following formal outline: Section A B A B A B A [Coda] Bar 1 24 35 50 71 78 81 Howat, however, adds the following: “In itself this thematic ABABABA sequence in not indistinct; what blurs the form is that the tonal plan and dynamic shape, especially in the later part of the piece, follow a course quite independent of the thematic sequence, marking a series of separate musical turning points, particularly important at bars 43, 48, 56 and 69. This is the reason why the term “rondo” by itself is an inadequate description of the piece’s processes. What is much clearer about the piece is its shape – dramatic and dynamic shape – as opposed to its more academic formal aspects.” Concerning the piece’s use of tonality in the overall structure, he writes: “In “Reflets” the actual keys enunciated form a surprisingly classical sequence of D flat (D flat) - E flat – A flat7 – D flat. However, the brevity with which some of them are defined draws attention to the bars where the tonality is discernible (mostly bars 1-8, 15-16, 35-42, 56-58 and finally 69 onwards), setting the intervening chromaticism off in dramatic fashion. The piece’s climax manages to combine the best of both worlds, starting with a surprise modulation to E flat before making a further crescendo into some of the piece’s most intense dissonances.” [It should be noted that some editions give incorrect bar numbers due to the insertion of a bar-line inserted in the middle of the cadenza-like bar 23. This is not present in the autograph copy, and is not reproduced in the Durand edition recommended by the WJEC. This means that page 2 ends with bar 25 (not 26), with the total number of bars in “Reflets” being 94 (not 95)]. Debussy - “Reflets dans L’eau” Included in these notes are questions related to the particular passage just discussed. Some of these provide an opportunity for teachers/students to delve more deeply into the matters mentioned in the notes, while others call for those concerned to consider musical features that are important but beyond the scope of a brief analysis such as this. These questions can either be answered individually or form the basis of group/ class discussion. Analysis Bars 1-23 [A1] Bars 1-8 consists of a repeated 4-bar phrase in a diatonic D flat major, all of which occurs over a drone-like (double) pedal in the bass. The RH states rising and falling, disjunct 3-part chords, the uppermost line of which states a 3-note motif (“x1”) that, after an immediate repetition an 8ve higher in bar 1, is immediately subjected to modification, both metric and melodic, in bar 3 – see Ex.2. The pitch content continues to rise in bar 3, but the semiquaver rest that precedes “x1” is eliminated, with “x1” now beginning on B flat rather than D flat; and, instead of being repeated, it continues on its downward path in a series of repetitive 4ths/5ths, making a new motif (“y”) - see Ex.2. Bars 3-4 mostly repeat the previous material’s format, but the change of chord (and its cadential function) requires an overall change in pitch content. Howat’s A motif adds a further 3-note motivic layer to bars 1-2, this motif actually being related to “x1”, a relationship that becomes apparent in subsequent bars. [The pianist Marguerite Long, who asked Debussy for advice on playing his music, reported that Debussy referred to the opening motif as “a little circle in water with a little pebble falling into it”.] Howat states that “the asymmetrical rise and fall across bars 1-2 sums up the piece’s overall shape” • In what way is “y” related to “x1”? (Look at the constituent intervals). How should we understand the harmony of bars 1-4? The disjunct nature of the RH chords obscures its harmonic basis. If we disregard “x1” and arrange the underlying chords in a more conjunct voicing, we end up with something like that shown in Ex.3 (i), which indicates that beneath the surface of these “musical ripples” (notwithstanding the tonic pedal) lies a quite static harmonic foundation. The apparent Fm (or D flat major7) chords are mere embellishments of the prevailing A flat-based harmony. Ex.3 (ii) illustrates the harmony of bars 1-8. The chord in bars 5-6 is common in Impressionist music (as well as 20th/21st pop music – it was a favourite of 10cc, for example) and can be described in more than one way: as a dominant 11th with the 3rd omitted or as a chord that in some ways combines both dominant and subdominant characteristics – in pop terms it would be labelled here as Gb/Ab or Ebm7/Ab. The chord’s dominant function is given greater significance by the anticipatory A flat in the bass at the end of bars 2 and 6, and greater import still by the A flat on the first beat of bar 5, the start of the second phrase. So the underlying harmony in bars 1-8 is merely a repeated dominant-tonic progression. Debussy - “Reflets dans L’eau” The process of motivic modification continues in bars 9-11, with a re-ordered version of “x1” in bar 9 (“x2”), to which is appended an additional falling major 2nd, so making the new version sequential – see Ex.4 (i). This is answered by “y’s” falling 4ths/5ths (bars 93-101), while bar 10 extends bar 9’s version of “x2” to 6 notes, adding another repetition of the falling 2nd. “y’s” answer is similarly extended to 6 notes (104-11). But bar 10 introduces yet another new motif (“z1”) – see Ex.4 (i) – which is almost immediately inverted in an inner voice in bar 13 (“z2”) – see Ex.4 (ii). (In this instance a retrograde version of “z” gives an identical shape to its inverted form). But even this is not the end of the network of motifs Debussy has constructed, with the appearance of yet another version of “x” (“x3”) in bar 12 – see Ex.4 (iii). • Is there another example of motivic connection in bars 9-14, this time involving the interval of the falling major 2nd? (Look back at bars 1-2). Bars 9-14 have introduced new harmonic material, too. Though the melodic m aterial has remained diatonic, the harmony has become chromatic, with bar 9 consisting of a chromatically rising bass line that (mostly) supports dominant 7th/13th chords. (The second chord, on A natural, is a French 6th chord; this is the result of Debussy’s preoccupation with maintaining the integrity of the melodic motif at this point, which necessitates a slight change in what would usually be a chain of parallel dominant-type chords, though these chords have no real dominant function, of course). Mark DeVoto has this to say on Debussy’s use of parallel dominant 7th/9th chords: “Instances of parallel chords are certainly colouristic, but it is important to recognize that they nevertheless are essentially melodic events, whose specifically harmonic function is suspended; moreover, they are guided by the chromatic scale, almost never the diatonic.” Here, then, the important element is the melodic motif that the chords support. Bar 10 extends the “sequence” by two notes (C and D flat), the final chord being D flat13, which resolves onto G flat6 at the end of bar 11, making a dominant-tonic progression on the subdominant – V13 of IV-IV(6). (The subdominant is a tonal area that is exploited later in the piece). Another dominant 13th in bar 12 (on A flat) leads us to expect a tonic D flat major chord, but, instead, the harmony in bar 13 is slightly ambiguous, though it retains the RH notes from bar 12 (in a different order), so making the new motif “z1”. This chord is an example of Debussy’s use of a sort of “buffer” harmony, a chord that links two passages with a distinctly different harmonic basis that functions as a connective “transitional” chord, i.e., one with characteristics of the harmony on either side. (There is another example a few bars later).The bass note in bar 13 is an unexpected D natural, which is retained in the next bar and which introduces the piece’s first octatonic Debussy - “Reflets dans L’eau” harmony). Melodically, bar 14 builds on the falling major 2nd motif as used in both “x2” and Howat’s A motif, extending it sequentially. There is a harmonic sequence, too, with bar 141-2 being repeated a perfect 4th lower at 143-4 (actually notated as an augmented 3rd.) The types of chords used in bar 14 (diminished and dominant 7ths) along with the minor 3rd partitioning (141-2 and 143-4) suggest the use of the octatonic scale here. [See “The octatonic scale – a brief note” at the end of this analysis]. Ex.5 shows how bars 14 and 15 relate to the octatonic scales. The B flat (“soprano”) and F double-flat (“tenor”) on beats 1&2 and the F (“soprano”) and C flat (“tenor”) on beats 3&4 are “chromatic” embellishments (suspension, passing notes). The dissonant A flat in bar 15 does not belong to the octatonic scale. Rather it functions as a type of dominant to lead into the next passage (16→), which returns to D flat major. The A flat attracts to itself pentatonic figuration (G, D and E flats), which also pave the way for the pentatonicism of the next bars, the rit. indication also suggesting that a “structural” event may be on the horizon. • What else is interesting about the pentatonic figuration in bar 15? Indeed, what links the motivic network Debussy has constructed thus far is that it consists of individual motifs that are all pentatonic, even if their harmonic setting has been otherwise. This is exploited in bars 16-17, where the RH continues to concern itself with the falling major 2nd; this time repeated a minor 3rd lower. In so doing, Debussy also refers to Howat’s A motif – see Ex.6. • Discuss the LH part in bars 16-172. • How does this employ/extend Debussy’s motivic network? • Can you think of a (programmatic) reason for Debussy’s use of motifs in these 2 bars? In bars 16-172 the “harmony” becomes more linear, the bare 4ths/5ths in the RH sounding organum-like – cf. the composer’s “La cathédrale engloutie” for a similar harmonic effect. Alternatively, there is also a strong gamelan feel to the music here, as, initially; the LH’s contrary motion semiquavers present a slightly different, but related, pattern of intervals, the music becoming almost heterophonic. [You should have touched upon this use of intervals in your Debussy - “Reflets dans L’eau” answers to the last questions above.] LH&RH converge “harmonically” in bar 17, both coming to rest on a bare 5th (F-C). This, too, could be considered as another example of the type of “buffer” sonority we encountered in bar 13, since, though it breaks free of the prevailing pentatonic scale, its bare 5ths continue to refer to the musical content of bars 16-171, highlighted by the RH&LH playing the same notes. This process of “synchronization” began at the start of bar 17, where the hands shared the same two notes (A flat and E flat) but in slightly different “voicings”. The addition of a D natural in bars 173-182 turns the bare 5th into a type of half-diminished 7th chord (D-F(Ab)-C), introducing a different sound world from the previous bars. This “interruption” forms the basis of the material in bars 20-21, and is another example of a figure that first appears near the end of one section/passage only to feature prominently in the next. Howat says the following about this short passage: 2Bars 17-20 show Debussy dovetailing contrasted material across a transition so that the new material first arrives like an interruption, then returns more solidly to take over a few bars later.” The “half-diminished 7ths” in bars 173 and 191 are perhaps like more little pebbles being dropped into the water. If so, the answering triplets in the second half of bars 18 and 19 could represent tiny ripples; both the dynamics and the melodic outline here are in keeping with this image. Harmonically, they begin like another half-diminished 7th chord (F-Ab-Cb-Eb) but the D flats turn them into closely voiced inverted dominant 9th chords (on D flat). (Note how Debussy creates momentum by “eliminating” a quaver beat before and after the repetition of the triplet figure in bar 194). Bars 20-21 take up this triplet figure and extend it in ascending minor 3rds (“quasi cadenza”). This minor 3rd partitioning, however, suggests the use of the octatonic scale. Howat comments: “Reflets” has a bass line rising by minor 3rds from bar 20, over which the RH’s arpeggios effectively mark out a combination of half-diminished “Tristan” chords and major triads linked by octatonic scales.” (The “Tristan chord” is another name for the half-diminished 7th, the derivation of which will be explained in the notes on “Colloque sentimental”). This description, however, stops short of explaining exactly what happens in this passage – and which octatonic scales are used. In fact, bars 20-23 could be analysed as being based on just one octatonic scale, Collection II. The partitioning by minor 3rds in bars 20-21 is quintessentially octatonic, but not every note belongs to this Collection, the rogue “note” being the last of each of the RH’s five demisemiquavers on each quaver beat, which is a “chromatic” passing note that links the first note of each group of five demisemiquavers in the RH – see Ex.7 (i), which reduces the passage onto one stave. [Interestingly, if these passing notes are taken together they make another (different) octatonic scale (Collection I), another example of Debussy’s “harmonic chemistry”, perhaps – see Ex.7 (ii)]. The piano RH figuration becomes both more conjunct and also wide-ranging in bar 22. The harmony here begins on an F half-diminished 7th chord, while contrary motion through another Debussy - “Reflets dans L’eau” minor 3rd in the outermost voices – a further reference to the “reflections” of the piece’s title, perhaps – transforms the chord into a half-diminished 7th on A flat – see Ex.8. The second (improvisatory) half of bar 23 retains the final 4-note motif of the first half of the bar (Bb-Ab-Gb-Cb), the B flat being a chromatic passing note, and this leads directly into Howat’s B section (bar 24). Here is yet another example of Debussy’s “overlapping technique”, linking sections with similar musical material, since the RH figuration from bar 24→ continues that used in the previous bars. (The hemidemisemiquavers are now grouped into two sets of 13 notes, while the half-diminished 7th on A flat is now transformed, with the addition of an F double-flat, into a (first inversion) F double-flat9 chord). • Discuss Debussy’s use of the piano and texture in bars 1-23. Bars 24-34 [B1] In “La Mer” the motto (cyclic) theme (see Ex.9 (i)) undergoes various transformations and appears against a variety of harmonic backdrops. Ex.9 (ii) shows its first appearance in the last movement of “La Mer”. Its original statement in the first movement was harmonically ambiguous (in two parts only), while here, in the last movement, the motto theme itself is transformed into a whole-tone melody against a “static” whole-tone chord – B - D sharp - F natural – A. Howat’s B motif in bars 24-26 in “Reflets” has a similar melodic outline to the first part of the “La Mer” motto. [Like the “La Mer” version, “Reflets’” Motif B appears in different guises throughout the piece, its rhythms, intervals, length and harmonic background subjected to various alterations. Also remember its relationship with Motif A – see Howat’s comment above.] Dotted notes are a feature in the “Reflets” version. The harmony is at first based on that of the previous bars. There are two slight differences, however: the first is a low pedal A flat, its pitch being at some distance from the remaining material; the second is the addition of an F flat in the music, which alters the previous half-diminished 7th chord in bar 222, turning it into a dominant 9th on F double-flat. (Dominant 9ths in first inversion are another favourite sonority of Debussy). Motif B, however, ends on a slightly surprising E flat (bar 27), which is harmonised with an unambiguous dominant 9th chord (in D flat), the persistent C flats in the RH figuration becoming C naturals. The end of Ex.8 shows the change in harmony from A1 to B1. Debussy - “Reflets dans L’eau” In bars 292-302 the A flat dominant chord changes to the form found at the start of the piece – i.e., Gb/Ab, so omitting the C. Under this dominant chord Howat’s B motif returns in an unambiguous diatonic form, its pitches now changed to accommodate the prevailing harmony. (Note the increased movement in the RH figuration in bars 24-302 - effectively 13→14→15→16 notes per half bar). This increased momentum (and harmonic stability) is cut short in bar 303-4 by a statement of motif “z2” (mf crescendo to f, so contrasting considerably with the dynamic level in the piece up to this point). As in bars 9-10, the harmony consists of what is essentially a series of parallel dominant 7th/9th chords that require some “harmonic adjustments” (on D flat and C) to comply with the shape of motif “z2”. • What exactly are the chords that underpin the D flat and second C of motif “z2”? The pedal A flat adds dissonance here. “z2” appears in bar 313, preceded by an arpeggiated version of the final chord in bar 30 in the RH figuration. Bars 32-33 repeat the process, but the chords beneath “z2” are eliminated, not only highlighting the motif itself, but also clearing the chromaticism of the previous bars. An incomplete statement of “z2” in augmented form in bar 34 (C–Db–Bb, over the A flat pedal) faintly recalls the Gb/Ab harmony left “suspended” in bar 301-2 by the chromatic interruption based on “z2”, and the first return of Howat’s A material returns in the tonic key in bar 35. (Note the rit. direction, again implying the imminent arrival of a “structural event”). Bars 35-49 [A2] Bars 35-42 repeat bars 1-8, but now the RH chords are transformed into arpeggios, their rising and falling outline slightly changing the metrical/rhythmical placement of the original melodic line. Note the reinforcement of the dominant chord in bar 351 by delaying the D flat pedal until the second quaver beat (as had happened in bar 5). Bars 43-47 continue with RH arpeggio figuration – it actually becomes more persistent since the previous rests on beats 1&3 are eliminated – though it no longer has any real melodic content, having become mere “harmonic filling”. Instead, the bass takes over this responsibility, stating a new, partly syncopated, stepwise line based entirely on the whole-tone scale. It completes its ascending scale content within the first two bars, then repeats it an octave higher in bars 4546. Another statement (bar 47) remains incomplete, interrupted as it is by a flurry of whole-tone arpeggio-like figuration between the two hands. Harmonically, bars 43-47 alternate half-diminished (octatonic?) and whole-tone chords (one each per bar), and the whole-tone figuration returns in bars 48-49, taking off on B, which, instead of continuing the previous bass “melody” now sustains that note, pedal-like, until bar 53. Debussy - “Reflets dans L’eau” Bars 50-70 [B2] Over continued whole-tone figuration, in bars 50-52, the RH, in the piano’s high register, states Howat’s B motif, its penultimate note changed to fit in with the prevailing whole-tone scale. Again, though, the final note (F sharp, bar 52) brings something of a melodic/harmonic surprise, with the F sharp forming part of a B9 chord. This initiates a passage of octatonic writing (bars 52-55, with the 9th of the B9 chord (C sharp) the only “foreign” note). Perhaps we can consider this chord as the “buffer” chord between the two different scales, since, though the B9 chord is something of a surprise, it retains elements from the previous bars – the pedal-like B and the A. B9 is followed by D7 (54) and G sharp7 (55) – again, note the typical partitioning into minor 3rds – G# - B - D. (See Ex.10) Motif B (now in 8ves) appears over the D7 and G sharp7 progression, its intervals dictated by the accompanying chords. The increased texture and mf cresc. molto direction (54-55) herald a f statement of an E flat major chord in bar 56 – again an unexpected chord, and one that, in earlier music, would have typically functioned as a dominant of the dominant (V of V in D flat). (This is actually the case here, too, but the resolution of the chord does not occur immediately). A bar of ascending and descending arpeggios in both hands leads to the work’s short-lived climactic passage (a dim. and rit. begin as early as bar 62). Over continued arpeggios, motif B appears in its most effusive form (still in 8ves). • Compare the statement of motif B in bars 57-59 with previous statements. Comment in particular on bar 58. Is this a new motif or is it based on material heard earlier in the work? A dominant 7th is added to the E flat chord in bar 57, so heightening the effect of E flat being the dominant of the dominant, but the harmony becomes increasingly chromatic in bar 58, with octatonically–tinged diminished 7th chords on E and D, all over a dissonant pedal E flat. Thereafter, bars 59-64 consist of the following chords: E flat9 (59 and 61), whole-tone based figuration (60 and 63-64) and D flat7 (with A flat bass) (62). (The whole-tone scale figuration in these bars effects a smooth transition with the dominant 7th/9th chords on either side, since the choice of both the chords and the whole-tone scale is determined by the notes they have in common: four of E flat9’s notes are part of this whole-tone scale, B flat being the only discrepancy; similarly, three of D flat7’s notes are contained in the whole-tone scale, A flat being the “rogue” note. This similarity even extends to the F sharp minor chord in bar 65, since it shares it’s A and C sharp with the preceding whole-tone scale). The arpeggio/scalic figuration is a backdrop to 1-bar melodic fragments, the first (59, 61) the “head motif” of Howat’s B motif (used over the E flat9 chord), the second what appears to be a new motif characterised by dotted rhythms (beginning with a scotch snap) which is used over the other chords. This motif, however, is actually a variant of “z2” – “z3”; the dotted rhythms are new, and so is the addition of an extra note at the start. [See Ex.11] “z3” is repeated in bars 62-63, an 8ve higher and, of course, reharmonised, the progression resembling that in bars 51-52, with the chords reversed. Debussy - “Reflets dans L’eau” The choice of a D flat7 chord in bar 62 is interesting. It suggests resolution to G flat major/minor, “Reflets’” subdominant, and, once again, we are treated to an example of Debussy’s “delayed resolution”, since the resolution of the D flat7 chord comes three bars later, written enharmonically as F sharp minor – see below and Ex.12. (The change of key signature (for four bars only) is purely to avoid the “correct” accidentals, which would have involved too many double flats. The A major(7) chord in bar 68 acts like a chord on the flattened 6th in D flat (Bbb–Db–Fb–Ab) and slips down (resolves) a semitone lower to A flat, the dominant, which supports the work’s opening dominant 9th or Gb(Em7)/Ab harmony, minus the tonic pedal. It also prefigures the importance of the subdominant in the coda. The bass 5th motion heard in bars 24-3 and 5 is now transposed from A flat – D flat to E flat – A flat. From the climactic ff crescendo in bars 57-61, the music quickly subsides in both dynamics and tempo, reaching molto rit. and piú p directions in bar 64, the music consisting of only wispy, repeated whole-tone scalic figures. All this creates a sense of expectation, and in bar 65, pp, Howat’s B motif returns, its fourth to sixth notes stated first in diminution (661) then in augmentation (663-4), its outline thickened by parallel triads. In fact, the harmony in bars 66-68 is completely triadic, though chromatic, with an octatonic feel in bars 6668 (A major and C minor (a minor 3rd apart) both being part of Collection III). Also note the bass motion (E-A) in bars 663-4 and 683-4 (from, for instance, bar 5 of A), faintly heralding the imminent return of that section’s material. Over the dominant chord in bars 69-70, Debussy states more fleeting reminders of the 3-note fragment from Motif B. Howat writes: “After the main climax, Debussy’s efforts seem to be concentrated on stretching the remainder of the piece out, delaying the expected return to the tonic key as long as possible, and making it as gradual as possible. The home tonality returns audibly enough at bar 69, with the return of the five flats and a dominant-ninth chord; but the expected tonic chord in bar 73 has the ground pulled from under it by an echo of the descending run that had dominated bars 67-70. Not until bar 77 is the tonic triad held steady, and even then it is immediately garnished with added sixths, sevenths and ninths. Effectively bar 77 is the piece’s final tonic resolution, since the coda’s deliberate plagal meanderings are merely decoration and confirmation of this, not a new tonal departure.” Debussy - “Reflets dans L’eau” Bars 69-94 [A3-B3-A4 (Coda)] Howat considers bars 69-94 as comprising three sections – A-B-A[Coda] – probably influenced in part by his preoccupation with the dimensions of the piece being connected to the Fibonacci series (see below). Other readings of these final bars are possible. As mentioned earlier, Kerman wrote that in a number of Debussy’s works in an outwardly simple ternary form (ABA), the final A section is “not a “real” return of A but only of selected elements standing in for A”. Such a final A section often includes elements of the B section, “Nuages” from Debussy’s “Three Nocturnes” being a good example. Bars 69/71-94 in “Reflets” could, therefore, be considered as one final A section of the rondo structure, which includes reference to fragments of B, with a similar function to the second A section in ternary form. (Another alternative would be A plus a coda from bar 81). • Other than harmony, compare bars 71-78 with bars 1-8. Describe and explain any “new” motivic material. In bar 79 “z3” is tagged onto the end of the semiquaver triplet figure of Motif B, suggesting, perhaps, an alternative explanation for the derivation of “z3” – as a sequential extension of B’s interval of a 3rd (see, for example, bars 253-26). This repeated motif is highlighted both by its repeated monophonic statement and the “Rit.” direction. Bars 81-94 certainly have the feeling of a coda. Melodically (motivically) they are restricted to Motif A and a fragment of “y” (in the form of a descending perfect 4th in augmentation and in triplets), while harmonically, as Howat mentions, the bars are strongly plagal (ii/IV), with a distinctly pentatonic content in bars 83 and 87-92, where the repetitions of “y” add mild dissonance to the underlying subdominant and tonic chords. Bars 783-80 allude to Motif B’s first five notes plus a repeated statement of “z3” (the latter monophonic) (similar, then, to the melodic material in bars 59-63). The C flats suggest a dominant 7th on D flat (V7 of IV/iv) as well as hinting at the whole-tone scale. An extra major 3rd is added to the sequence in bars 79-80 extending it into bar 81, and the final major 3rd is sustained to form the basis of an initially ambiguous Bbb-Db dyad (doubled in three separate octaves) that supports the first statement of Motif A, this, too, with a further 8ve doubling. This chord is perhaps best considered an incomplete subdominant/supertonic chord from D flat minor (i.e., use of mixed mode) – (Gb)-Bbb-Db-Eb (Gbm6) or Eb-(Gb)-Bbb-Db (Ebm7 (b5) – Debussy’s favourite halfdiminished 7th chord). [Remember that, in harmony of the common practice period, ii, either as a minor or diminished chord, is considered a substitute for IV/iv – i.e., it functions as a subdominant chord.] This means that the A flat and F in Motif A are now dissonant with the supporting chord while E flat is the “chord note”. The Bbb-Db in bar 81 is an aural link to both the F sharp minor and A major chords in bars 65-68. The Gb6 chord in bars 83-84 is another subdominant chord, this time without the modal mixture from D flat minor. (See Ex.13) After further repetitions in bars 8587, the harmony changes slightly in bars 88-90, though retaining the subdominant function. The increased dissonance in bars 88, 90 and 91-92 is the result of (black key) pentatonic additions to the subdominant and tonic chords, these dissonances only resolving on the final D flat major chord in bar 93. Note the high B flat falling by step to A flat rather than falling a 4th. The pentatonic harmony in these bars is reminiscent of that in bar 16. Even the bass participates in the motivic interplay. Ex.14 shows its persistent reference to Motif A (in augmentation), at first partial (first two notes only) then complete in bars 89-92. The transposition of the motif to G flat in bar 87 means it can descend to the piece’s tonic rather than dominant as in previous statements. Debussy - “Reflets dans L’eau” • Briefly describe the use of dynamics throughout the piece. Do they relate in any way to the piece’s structure? • Below is the formal outline of “Reflets” as given in a paper by Keith Waters. Compare this with the version by Howat given above. Do you find one more convincing than the other? Do you hear the form of the movement in a different way? A1 (1-8) B1 (9-34) A2 (35-42) C (43-70) A3 (71-80) Coda (81-end) Debussy - “Reflets dans L’eau” TONAL OUTLINE Below is a tonal outline of “Reflets dans l’eau”. This shows that each statement of A begins firmly in the tonic key. B, however, apart from the very brief allusion in bar 78, always begins ambiguously. In B1 and B2 it eventually settles on the dominant in preparation for the subsequent return of A. It also alludes to the subdominant in B2, and manages to prepare for it again in B3. Section A1 [1] B1 [24] Tonality • • • • • D flat major but includes: brief chromaticism (9-13) octatonicism (14), pentatonicism (16-172) and further octatonicism (20-22). • Begins tonally ambiguously by extending the final harmony of Section A1 but over dominant pedal → dominant 9th in D flat (27-302); pedal persists with chromatic (possibly octatonic) traces in bars 303-332 → dominant 9th again briefly suggested in bars 333-34. • • • A2 [35] • • D flat major till bar 42; half-diminished 7th chord (octatonic?) and whole-tone elements alternate till bar 49 → B2 [50] • • • • • Continues whole-tone harmony from previous section → octatonic (52-55) → E flat major (56) (= II or V of V); resolution to V delayed by whole-tone elements and presence of strong subdominant component in bars 65-68 (with hint of octatonicism) → V(9) (bar 69) • • D flat major - note how tonic is delayed; coda returns to subdominant flavour of bars 65-68. A3/B3/ A4[Coda] [71→] Howat’s theories on Debussy and the Fibonacci series Roy Howat is not the first to discover what appears to be the use of the Golden Section in musical composition. Other analysts have claimed to have found evidence of its use in works of composers from Bach and Mozart to Bartok, for instance, while its use in art has long been acknowledged. The Golden Section (GS) is the way of dividing a fixed length in two parts in such a way that the ratio of the shorter portion to the longer portion equals the ratio of the longer portion to the entire length. This value approximates to 0.618034. Howat divides a work by bars, beats or even smaller durations, and then looks for proportional relationships based on important musical events such as dynamic climaxes, return of thematic ideas or important tonal events. In many works, such as “Reflets”, these formal divisions appear to conform to the GS as expressed through the Fibonacci series (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34 ……) “Reflets” consists of 94 bars, which, when multiplied by Debussy - “Reflets dans L’eau” 0.618, can be divided into a 58:36 ratio. The point of loudest dynamic in the piece (its climax) reaches ff in bar 57, followed by a crescendo to the beginning of bar 58. These overall proportions based on the numbers 36, 58 and 94 conform to the Lucas summation series (a series similar to the Fibonacci series but starting in a slightly different way and yielding a different set of numbers 1, 3, 4, 7, 11, 18, 29, 47, 76 …….). An example of the use of the Fibonacci series in “Reflets” is in the points of “diatonic definition” in the key sequences (I-I-II-V7-I), with each point marking a GS (usually to the nearest quaver) en route to the next one: 34:21 bars, then 21:13 and finally 13:8. Likewise, the piece’s first large-scale departure from the tonic, after 16 bars, forms a GS en route to the next one after bar 42 (16:26 bars = 8:13); the latter in turn marks the point of GS between the start of the piece and the final return to diatonic stability at bar 68 (42:26 bars = 21:13). Howat also describes many other Fibonacci series relationships in formal divisions, individual phrases and melodic motifs. The numbers 55, 34 and 21 are articulated through the larger form, with Debussy returning to A material in bar 34 and modulating to E flat in bar 55. On a much smaller scale, the opening material of the piece lasts for 8 quavers, reaching its melodic peak on the 5th quaver. The 3-note motif (A) in these bars consists of a descending minor 3rd and major 2nd – intervals made up of 3 and 2 semitones respectively. (It must be mentioned that there is no evidence that Debussy purposely used these theories in his compositions). Howat also claims that “The hollow wave off Kanagawa”, the famous print by the Japanese artist Hokusai, which appeared, at Debussy’s request, on the cover of the first edition of the score of “La Mer”, also displays GS proportions. (Howat’s theories are explained in great detail in his book “Debussy in proportion” – a musical analysis”). The octatonic scale – a brief note The octatonic scale consists of eight steps of alternating semitones and tones (or vice versa). Despite traces of octatonic writing having been identified in the music of Liszt (1811-86) (and even, amongst others, Bach and Schubert!), octatonicism is initially most closely associated with the Russian composer Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908). In his stage works in particular, Rimsky tended to use the octatonic scale for magical or supernatural elements, while the human world was characterized by a more diatonic or folk-like style. Stravinsky, Rimsky’s most famous student, followed his example in both The Firebird and Petrushka. Composers have been drawn to the octatonic scale (especially the semitone-tone ordering) because of the wide range of musical possibilities it affords - from tonal to bitonal to dissonant, almost atonal, harmonic colourings. Exs.15-18 give some idea of these possibilities. As in tonal music, octatonic writing can use “chromatic” decoration in the form of appoggiaturas, passing notes etc., as in Ex.15 (from Rimsky’s famous Scheherazade). This can make octatonic passages more difficult to identify and analyse, particularly when, as was often Rimsky’s practice, one form of the scale (semitone-tone ordering) is used for the harmonies while the other (tone-semitone ordering on the same note) is used for the melodies – enabling the use of all 12 notes of the chromatic scale within an octatonic framework. Unlike major and minor scales, the octatonic scale is symmetrical, meaning that its interval pattern is regular. Just as a whole-tone scale can only be transposed once (C to Db, for example), transposing an octatonic scale more than twice will result in the same set of notes, though starting on a different pitch. The octatonic scale is the second of Messiaen’s (1908-92) so-called modes of limited transposition – see Ex.18. As such, the scale is often partitioned (grouped) into harmonies separated by minor 3rds or tritones (either vertically or horizontally). Exs. 15, 16, 18 and 19 all demonstrate this. Music based on the octatonic scale integrates well with a tonal idiom, since it contains both major Debussy - “Reflets dans L’eau” and minor chords (sometimes with the same root), as well as dominant 7ths, added 6ths etc. Indeed, in terms of harmony, the characteristic octatonic sound is formed by combining triads (or dominant 7ths) either a tritone or minor 3rd apart – as in the famous “Petrushka chord”, which combines two major triads a tritone apart (C and F#). The octatonic scale is also used in modern jazz, where it is known as the diminished scale – see Ex.19. William Mathias seems to have been drawn to the octatonic scale, possibly because a number of its constituent elements, such as the variable minor/major 3rd and diminished 5th were already features of his own musical style. Exs.20 & 21 are taken from Mathias’ Flute Concerto (1992). It has become the practice to refer to the various forms of the octatonic scale by the three “Collections” designated by Peter van den Toorn in his book on the music of Stravinsky, and it is this form of nomenclature that has been used in these notes – see Ex.22. The octatonic scale was also used by French composers such as Debussy, Ravel and Poulenc, sometimes only briefly. In the final bars of his La désinvolture et la discretion from Les Soirées de Nazelles, Poulenc, for comic effect, briefly interrupts a mostly diatonic passage with a 2-bar octatonic fragment. Note the typical minor 3rd partitioning of the scale (E flat → F sharp → A → C), as well as the rhythmic dislocation and contrasting pitch content with the surrounding music. Also note the pedal direction, which blurs the whole of the “chromatic” 2-bar phrase. All notes belong to Collection II. See Ex.23. Debussy - “Reflets dans L’eau” Debussy - “Reflets dans L’eau” Debussy - “Reflets dans L’eau” Debussy - “Reflets dans L’eau” Debussy - “Reflets dans L’eau” Debussy - “Reflets dans L’eau” Debussy - “Reflets dans L’eau” In this paper, I argue that Debussy, through his work titled “Reflets dans l’eau” (Reflections in the water) from book one of Images, pioneered a new form of music, which he called “symbolic” music rather than “impressionism” because it had definite musical features and techniques that departed from previous musical forms in that it aimed to create a different musical image dependent rather than just creating mood, atmosphere, and a detailed tone picture.

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