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  • Prof: Now today we're going to be talking about

  • musical Impressionism--next time modernism, but today musical

  • impressionism.

  • Impressionism, generally speaking,

  • is a period in the history of music running from 1880 to 1920.

  • It's mostly a French phenomenon although it did expand,

  • as we will see, to England and to Italy and to

  • the United States even to some degree.

  • We have the American Impressionist School of Art,

  • for example.

  • Let's turn to the board here and visit some familiar names

  • and faces.

  • You know of the painters: Manet, Monet,

  • Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro,

  • and the American--interesting enough--American woman,

  • Mary Cassatt.

  • Any time an art museum needs to raise cash, what sort of

  • exhibition do they put on?

  • A blockbuster exhibition of Impressionist painting.

  • That's what brings everybody in.

  • It is the locus, somehow, of what art is

  • supposed to be.

  • Everybody loves these Impressionist exhibitions

  • whether it's Boston, New York, Chicago,

  • wherever it might be.

  • So we have those artists.

  • We also have the poets--though interestingly enough they're not

  • called so much Impressionist poets.

  • They're called the Symbolist poets,

  • and I'm sure in literature classes and in French classes

  • you have studied some of them: Charles Baudelaire,

  • Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud,

  • and Stephane Mallarmé.

  • Turning now to the composers, the most important of these,

  • really, is Claude Debussy.

  • He sort of started this school of French composition,

  • the Impressionist style.

  • We list others up there--Maurice Ravel.

  • We've bumped into Bolero of Ravel;

  • Gabriel Fauré wrote some beautiful

  • Impressionist music.

  • You may have heard of parts of the Fauré

  • "Requiem" from time to time;

  • Ottorino Respighi, an Italian, suggesting that

  • this also got to Italy; and the American,

  • Charles Griffes, who died of the influenza in

  • New York City but wrote some Impressionist piano and

  • orchestral music.

  • In terms of the works of these individuals,

  • we've listed more over here for Debussy than any one else--

  • Clair de Lune, that we're going to be talking

  • about today, that's important,

  • Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun.--

  • we'll be hearing some of that and you have your Listening

  • Exercise 40 on Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun,

  • other orchestral pieces, Nocturnes--

  • sort of night mood pieces, La Mer,

  • a big orchestral composition, Images,

  • more orchestral works, and then preludes for piano.

  • And we'll be foregrounding those preludes for piano here

  • today and a couple of pieces that we listed on the board:

  • the "Ondine" from Gaspar de la Nuit

  • that will be performed for us later in the hour today,

  • and the Bolero that we have mentioned before.

  • So those are the players.

  • Let's take a look now at what this music sounds like.

  • I'm going to start with playing some of this piece that you all

  • know.

  • I'm sure you've heard this before: Clair de Lune

  • (1890) <<plays piano>>

  • And we'll pick it up from there in just a moment.

  • But obviously-- <<plays piano>>

  • we've talked a little about this before--this general

  • relaxation caused by the falling down motive only to rise up

  • >

  • at this point.

  • But also of interest here is the absence of any kind of

  • clear-cut meter.

  • That's, I think, the big-ticket item here.

  • You'd be hard pressed to tap your foot to this,

  • to conduct this in any way.

  • So that takes us through, oh, the first twelve,

  • fifteen bars of this piece.

  • Now a different kind of music.

  • >

  • Let's pause on this for a moment.

  • I'll be emphasizing the phenomenon of parallel motion

  • today--parallelism today--and here is a moment of that.

  • >

  • , all the voices.

  • They probably have six different notes <<plays

  • piano>>

  • in that chord, but the next one <<plays

  • piano>>

  • all six are going in the same direction rather than

  • having--going in the opposite direction.

  • We'll continue to elaborate on that as we proceed.

  • >

  • Okay.

  • Now another idea comes in here, >

  • lovely, really nice, >

  • could be Chopin, right, that kind of rich sound

  • with the <<plays piano>>

  • almost guitar-like accompaniment underneath it,

  • but something really neat happens here.

  • >

  • We have this chord >

  • and then we have this chord >

  • --kind of a surprising or shocking, unexpected chord.

  • So that's something else we get here with this impressionist

  • style: unexpected chords, new chords.

  • We might have normally >.

  • Then we could go <<plays piano>>

  • and that kind of Beethoven-type sound, but here we get

  • >

  • , going to, not chords a fourth or a fifth away,

  • but chords just a third away.

  • >

  • Okay.

  • >

  • Now that's another interesting moment.

  • We've had--we've got this sound here to begin with <<plays

  • piano>>.

  • Well, that's kind of-- >

  • And then the next chord is >.

  • We haven't had those chords before.

  • We've had major triads, we've had minor triads,

  • we've had diminished triads and now we've got the kind of flip

  • side of the diminished triad-- the augmented triad.

  • This is the fourth of our triads.

  • Major <<plays piano>>

  • --we've got a major third on the bottom and minor third on

  • top.

  • Minor, <<plays piano>>

  • changes those around, >

  • a minor third on the bottom, major on top,

  • major, <<plays piano>>

  • minor.

  • Then we could have--we have got this sharp, biting chord called

  • >

  • the diminished if we just two minor thirds.

  • It's the most narrow of the triads, <<plays

  • piano>>

  • but supposing we had two major thirds in this aggregate,

  • >

  • yeah, that kind of sound.

  • Well, it's a little bit weird >

  • so we get once again a new chord here with the

  • Impressionist--the augmented triad, <<plays

  • piano>>

  • --and we might kind of pile them up <<plays

  • piano>>

  • in this fashion.

  • >

  • It's a different sound, kind of a strange sound.

  • All right.

  • Well, that's a little bit of Clair de Lune of Claude

  • Debussy and that introduces us to the Impressionist style.

  • We're going to move on now to first--

  • the first orchestral piece of Debussy and that's the

  • Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun that's listed on the

  • board there.

  • In 1894, Debussy lamented that he had never created a

  • masterpiece.

  • Well, he sort of did with this piece.

  • It's really a wonderful, wonderful composition.

  • It goes about ten minutes and you've got the full composition

  • there on your CD No.

  • 5..

  • What can we say about it?

  • Well, first of all, Prelude to the Afternoon of

  • a Faun: its point of inspiration was a poem by

  • Stephane Mallarmé.

  • Mallarmé was an aesthetic mentor of

  • Debussy.

  • They were close friends.

  • Once a week they would meet and talk about aesthetic issues in

  • Paris in the Boulevard Montparnasse area.

  • So he--Mallarmé--had written a poem called "The