Friday, October 24, 2014

Claude Debussy, Master of Impressionism

Achille-Claude Debussy was born to a poor family in France in 1862. Debussy is known as the founder and master of the musical style known as Impressionism, even though he didn't like or use this label himself.

Debussy began studying piano at the age of 7, and by age 11 he was considered a prodigy and was admitted to the Paris Conservatory of Music. At age 22, he won the Prix de Rome, a contest for composers and spent the next several years composing in Italy. He became employed by a wealthy woman and travelled all over Europe and Russia as the family teacher and composer.

During his travels, Debussy heard music from all over the world, and this changed the sounds he used when he composed. He used Russian sounds, folk tunes, and percussion sounds in his writing and made his music sound different by using scales and playing notes together that didn't always sound like the music people were used to hearing.

Debussy died of cancer at age 55 on March 25, 1918.

Words to Remember:

Dissonance - Notes that don't sound "pretty" together. Dissonance builds tension or creates sound pictures.

Modes - Scales that move from one white key to the next of the same name without using black keys. (Example: D E F G A B C D)

Pentatonic Scale - A five note scale played all on the black keys (Example: Gb Ab Bb Db Eb)

Whole Tone Scale - A scale made completely of whole steps (Example: C D E F# G# A# B#)

To earn a virtuoso visa this week, play an example of dissonance, a mode, a pentatonic scale, or a whole tone scale at your lesson!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Le vent dans la plaine, by Claude Debussy

Many of our listening selections this year will feature compositions by the most famous Impressionist composer of all time, Claude Debussy.

Do you hear notes that clash? How about big clusters of notes? Notes that are both really high and really low? If you listen really closely, you might even hear some interesting intervals like 4ths.

What do you think this piece is about? (No using Google or asking a French speaking acquaintance!) Why?

To complete this listening challenge, write three things you notice about the music in your notebook, your best guess as to the name of the piece, and three reasons you guessed this.

You'll have the opportunity to write your own Impressionist piece later in the school year!