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Musical Impressionism

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Musical Impressionism Impressionism implies suggestion. With art, impressionism was to suggest rather than sustain a clear objective or draw a perfect picture. Impressionist music is tremendously similar. It focuses on creating a “sense” of the piece by using chromatic harmony and refined shadings of sound rather than keeping on a steady beat and straight rhythm. Impressionistic music could be thought to be filled with “wonder”.
Impressionism, in the late Nineteenth century and early Twentieth century, was unheard of and had a confusing aura- as it naturally would be as it was not introduced before. Claude Debussy, the forefather, if you will, of impressionism, created his music through suggestion [rather than statement]. He took Mallarme’s poem Prélude À "L'après-midi d'un faune" and turned it into a song, which later he would (finally) “win acclaim”. Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun expresses impressionism in the finest state with his use of chromatic scales and whole tone scales, and unusual sound patterns. It had an ebb and flow of an ascending and descending scale and but never the same repeating rhythmic sequence. It’s complex rhythms, variations, and subtle textures “con­vey the impression of light and movement, rather than giving an exact representation of shapes”. It focused on feelings rather than a straightforward look at the poem.
Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin is not surrounded with the same sounds as Debussy, however has the Impressionistic qualities such as “extended harmonies, fluidly changing melodic and harmonic content, and an avoidance of strong pulse.” His inspiration for the piece was founded upon his deceased friends in the war. It was considered a memorial piece. Ravel maintained his sound using impressionist harmonies and a light orchestra for a “graceful” sound.
Both pieces tell a story without big theatrics. Ravel’s piece is a sad subject with a graceful light and Debussy had more of a mysterious calming sound. Both pieces were conducted without sounding too lavish to take away from their stories,(or message). They were left up to the listener for interpretation. Impressionism was just that. “Impressionism is "opalescent" and "transparent", shimmering from time to time with showers of sound.”
In conclusion, both pieces were a prime example of Impressionism. They had told a story different from other composers of their time. Their not-so-big sounds and subtle melodies were unlike the Romantic style people were used to. It maintained time, generally modified tonality, and completely changed texture. Impressionism attempted to unify music, painting, and poetry. Musical impressionism seems the peak of romanticism. [1]

Citations:
[1] See C. Palmer, Impressionism in Music (1973)
Raddice, Mark A. "Chapter 4, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, and Impressionism." Concert Music of the 20th Century. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 39-41. Print.
Fletch. "The Student Room: Debussy." The Student Room RSS. Fletch, 4 June 2007. Web. 02 Sept. 2014.
Smith, Timothy. "An Impressive Fugue: Analysis of the Fugue from Le Tombeau De Couperin by Maurice Ravel." An Impressive Fugue: Analysis of the Fugue from Le Tombeau De Couperin by Maurice Ravel. Timothy Smith, 2007. Web. 02 Sept. 2014. .
Kabule, Martin E. "Music History - The Impressionistic Period (1870-1920)."Music History. Piano Studio, 2004. Web. 02 Sept. 2014. .…...

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