I couldn’t resist the temptation to embed Bay panoramas in a Debussy soundtrack. It followed my journey along the scenic Amtrak 711 route.
A new set of vistas were framed by a whizzing train’s marred window. Yet the mood paintings managed to sift through an imperfect lens.
Once I had settled into my El Cerrito piano studio, I played the exquisitely formed Arabesque No. 1 on my Hamilton Baldwin in readiness for a music/photo art match-up.
About the Composer:
“Achille-Claude Debussy (22nd August 1862 – 25th March 1918) was a French composer. He was one of the most important figures in music at the turn of the last century; with his music representing the transition from late-romantic to 20th century.
“Debussy’s most dramatic contribution to music history was his disregard for traditional chord structures and tonality. An exponent of the whole tone scale, his pieces would also not adhere to a strict meter or rhythm. They flowed extemporaneously with suggestions of extra-musical images.
“Adventurous harmonies influenced the rise of jazz music later in the 20th century.”
The Arabesque No. 1, Debussy’s earliest composition, together with its companion no. 2, enliven the imagination with an overlay of clouds, mist–a wash of color, and rolling, wavy phrases that intermingle with oceanic currents.
Yet ‘Arabesque’ specifically “referred to undulating, tendril-like ornaments of Arabic and Islamic art which coincided with an age in which this form was in full flower. It obeyed the laws of beauty inscribed in every movement of nature.” (Notes to Barenreiter edition)
(The melody with its improvised character, is richly embroidered. Triplets against four 8th notes in the bass, create a dualism of pleasing contours, though the figures are difficult to realize.)
Finally, Debussy, a harmonic innovator, used the whole tone scale, as well as 7ths, 9ths, 11ths, and more compounded chords to engage the listener and draw him into a universe of rich sonority and color.
My mixed-media sample: