Composer of the Month–Claude Debussy
Claude Debussy was born in a suburb of Paris, France. His father owned a china shop and his mother was a seamstress. Debussy’s aunt noticed his musical talent and arranged for his first piano lessons when he was 4 years old. When he was only 10 years old, he started studying at the Paris Conservatory. Claude did not always make his teachers happy because he liked to experiment instead of practice what his teachers assigned. In addition to studying in Paris, Debussy also studied in Russia for two years.
Debussy loved art and composed in a style called “Impressionism” (however, Debussy did not like it when people referred to his music as “Impressionistic”). Impressionistic painters were less worried about how realistic their pictures were, and instead focused more on the shapes, light, and shadows of the painting. They would get a bunch of paint on their brushes and just dab it onto the canvas instead of painting strict and careful lines. Debussy applied this to music by composing pieces that created images in the audience’s mind instead of depicting a story that developed and changed throughout the piece.
Another trademark of Debussy’s style came from his experience at the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris. He was walking around and heard some musicians from Indonesia playing their percussive instruments. He was very inspired by this exotic sound, and some of his music actually sounds like Indonesian gamelan.
Some of Debussy’s most famous works are “Clair de Lune,” “La Mer,” and “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun.” “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” was particularly revolutionary to music at the time it was written—some say it marked the beginning of modern music.
Click here for a playlist of some of Debussy’s most popular music!