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Ten Books about Debussy

Music is the expression of the movement of the waters, the play of curves described by changing breezes.
– Claude Debussy

    Afternoon of a Faun

    Claude Debussy was the father of the modern era in classical music. His innovations liberated Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and Bartok to write their iconoclastic works, and his harmonic inventions are still heard in American jazz. Though he was among the most compelling figures of the Belle Epoque, his life is little known to all but scholars; and of his considerable musical output, only Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, La mer, and Clair de lune are widely known. Harvey Lee Snyder addresses this cultural neglect by presenting the composer and his music, without jargon or biographical trivia, in a richly detailed, accurate narrative that reads like a novel. Here is the story of a poor, unschooled Parisian boy swept by odd coincidences to the Paris Conservatory at age ten. Here is a brilliant man struggling to invent a tonal language capable of expressing his unique musical vision, finding inspiration not in Bach and Beethoven but in Mallarme's poetry and the paintings of Whistler and Turner; a man determined to end two centuries of Germanic domination of European music. Here is a reclusive, gentle man whose misguided love affairs ended in scandal and scorn. His hard work failed to end decades of poverty and debt, but when he died in 1918, he was and has remained the foremost French composer of the twentieth century.

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    Debussy Redux

    The works of Claude Debussy (1862-1918) had a major impact on the music of the 20th century, influencing a range of figures from Ravel and Stravinsky to Henri Dutilleux and Toru Takemitsu. Less well known is Debussy's influence on the popular culture of the period. Matthew Brown shows how Debussy's music has surfaced in an array of contexts from the film music of the 1940s to the dance music of the 1990s. It is easy to see how Debussy's impressionist soundscapes for orchestra such as La Mer and Iberia could be perfect models for accompaniments to film scenes, but as Brown makes clear Debussy's music and influence cannot by reduced to dreamy imitations of Clair de Lune. As he traces the trajectory of Debussy's stylistic evolution, Brown shows how facets of this style were reinterpreted in a surprising variety of popular musical contexts.

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    The Cambridge Companion to Debussy

    Often considered the father of twentieth-century music, Debussy was a visionary whose influence is still felt. This book offers a wide-ranging series of essays on Debussy the man, the musician and composer. It contains insights into his character, his relationship to his Parisian environment and his musical works across all genres, with challenging views on the roles of nature and eroticism in his life and music. His music is considered through the characteristic themes of sonority, rhythm, tonality and form, with closing chapters considering the performance and reception of his music in the first years of the new century and our view of Debussy today as a major force in Western culture. This comprehensive view of Debussy is written by a team of specialists for students and informed music lovers.

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    Rethinking Debussy

    Composer, pianist, and critic Claude Debussy's musical aesthetic represents the single most powerful influence on international musical developments during the long fin de siecle period. The development of Debussy's musical language and style was affected by the international political pressures of his time, beginning with the Franco-Prussian War of 1871 and the rise of the new Republic in France, and was also related to the contemporary philosophical conceptualization of what constituted art. The Debussy idiom exemplifies the ways in which various disciplines - musical, literary, artistic, philosophical, and psychological - can be incorporated into a single, highly-integrated artistic conception. Rethinking Debussy draws together separate areas of Debussy research into a lucid perspective that reveals the full significance of the composer's music and thought in relation to the broader cultural, intellectual, and artistic issues of the twentieth century. Ranging from new biographical information to detailed interpretations of Debussy's music, the volume offers significant multidisciplinary insight into Debussy's music and musical life, as well as the composer's influence on the artistic developments that followed. Chapters include: "Russian Imprints in Debussy's Piano Music"; "Music as Encoder of the Unconscious in Pelleas et Melisande"; "An Artist High and Low, or Debussy and Money"; "Debussy's Ideal Pelleas and the Limits of Authorial Intent"; "Debussy in Daleville: Toward Early Modernist Hearing in the United States"; and more. Rethinking Debussy will appeal to students and scholars of French music, opera, and modernism, and literary and French studies scholars, particularly concerned with Symbolism and theatre. General readers will be drawn to the book as well, particularly to chapters focusing on Debussy's finances, dramatic works, and reception.

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    Debussy and His World

    Claude Debussy's Paris was factionalized, politicized, and litigious. It was against this background of ferment and change--which characterized French society and music from the Franco-Prussian War to World War I--that Debussy re-thought music. This book captures the complexity of the composer's restless personal and artistic identity within the new picture emerging of the musical, social, and political world of fin-de-siecle Paris. Debussy's setting did not simply mold his style. Rather, it challenged him to define a style and then to revamp it again and again as he situated himself simultaneously via the present and the past. These essays trace Debussy's perpetual reinvention, both social and creative, from his earliest to his last works. They explore tensions and contradictions in his best-known compositions and examine lesser-known pieces that reveal new aspects of Debussy's creative appropriation from poetry, painting, and non-Western music. The contributors reveal the extent to which Debussy's personal and professional lives were intertwined and sometimes in conflict. Belonging to no one group or class, but crossing many, Debussy abjured the orthodox. A maverick who reviled all convention and searched for a music that authentically reflected experience, Debussy balked at entering any situation--salons, musical societies, or factions--that would categorize and thus distort him. Because of this, music lovers still argue over the degree to which Debussy's music is Impressionist, symbolist, or even French. Aptly, the volume's editor reads Debussy's last works as a dialogue with himself that reflects his inherently pluralistic, paradoxical, negotiated, and ever-changing identity. William Austin's description of Debussy as "one of the most original and adventurous musicians who ever lived" is often repeated. This book illustrates how right Austin was and shows why Debussy's unclassifiable art continues to fascinate and perplex his historians even as it enthralls new listeners. The contributors are Leon Botstein, Christophe Charle, John Clevenger, Jane F. Fulcher, David Grayson, Brian Hart, Gail Hilson-Woldu, and Marie Rolf.

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    Debussy: La Mer

    La mer stands at the centre of Debussy's achievement: described by the composer as 'a seascape without figures', it is arguably the greatest and most original French symphony. In this study La mer is considered in the context of Debussy's personal and musical development, and in the French musical renaissance in general, looking back to Cesar Franck and forward to the orchestral Images and Jeux. The author uses new biographical information and a wide range of sources to reveal the period of La mer's composition as one of intense emotional turbulence. Detailed discussion of performance styles draws on current recordings, and two analytical chapters trace the growth of ideas through the work. Studies of rhythm, motif and tonality show how Debussy generates 'narratives' across the three movements, which give La mer a structural integrity unparalleled in French music at the turn of the century.

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    Debussy and the Theatre

    Debussy and the Theatre means, in effect, 'Debussy and Pellias et Milisande', the only stage work Debussy chose and completed himself without a definite production in view. The opera both established Debussy's mature style and reputation in the forefront of contemporary composers and changed the course of operatic history. But Pelleas was also largely responsible for Debussy's `compulsive inachievement' in the theatre. Before it he delayed completing other works so that Albert Carre's production at the Opera-Comique would be his theatre debut; and then its traumatic dress-rehearsal in April 19o2 left him reluctant to undergo another similar experience. This, coupled with his search for lyrical librettos or scenarios that could inspire the rhythm and colour that he regarded as vital ingredients in theatre music, resulted in a career littered with abandoned projects. The story of this most fascinating of love-hate relationships with the stage is told, as far as possible, in the composer's own words or from contemporary documents.

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    The Life of Debussy

    'That great blue Sphinx', Debussy called the sea. Debussy himself was something of a Sphinx: in the early 1890s he was thinking of 'founding a society for musical esotericism', and although, on the surface, most of his music is instantly engaging and accessible, at a deeper level run currents that are dangerous, unpredictable, destructive. In this biography, Roger Nichols considers the life and music of this seminal figure, charting the currents and the whirlpools in which other humans were sometimes unlucky enough to get caught. Debussy's status is such that no modern composer has been able to ignore him, asking, as he does, any number of riddles to which late twentieth-century music is still searching for answers.

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    Debussy and the Veil of Tonality

    This new book on Debussy's music comprises analytical studies of individual works not widely examined previously, including the Fantaisie for piano and orchestra, La demoiselle elue, Nuages, and Gigues. A discussion of the tonal structure of the first movement of La mer finds new relevance in the overused term symphonic in relation to Debussy's position in the history of French orchestral music. An extensive essay documents Debussy's aural images in his propensity for recycling his own musical ideas and quoting the music of other composers. A final lighthearted chapter, Debussy and Ravel: How to Tell Them Apart, systematically addresses this century-old critics' conundrum.

    Joanna is a Front-End Developer at Bookwitty. You can actually find a coffee cup from the Amsterdam Concertgebouw artist lounge on her desk. She has twice won certificates of honour (and a free ... Show More

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