Rethinking Debussy

Rethinking Debussy

Rethinking Debussy

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 si cle 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 Debussydraws 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 Pell as et M lisande";
"An Artist High and Low, or Debussy and Money"; "Debussy's Ideal Pell as and the Limits of Authorial Intent"; "Debussy in Daleville: Toward Early Modernist Hearing in the United States"; and more.

Rethinking Debussywill 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.



Rethinking Debussy brings together leading scholars in the world of Debussy research to offer fresh insights into the composer’s life and music. The following essays are diverse, spanning many compositions, genres, and stages of the composer’s career. What draws these essays together, however, is the desire to offer new perspectives with which to consider and reconsider Debussy’s music. Whether it is the early Prix de Rome compositions, Pelléas et Mélisande, or the late works, each essay endeavors to situate Debussy’s music in previously overlooked and ever more relevant contexts. Despite extensive research into the various milieux in which Debussy’s life and work were embedded, certain lacunae remain to be filled. This volume provides a forum to address such lacunae and hopes to serve as a springboard for future research.

Debussy is a composer who demands regular reappraisal, evinced by the numerous collections of essays that have appeared in the past decade: Debussy Studies (1997), Debussy in Performance (1999), Debussy and His World (2001), and The Cambridge Companion to Debussy (2003). This volume continues and expands upon these antecedents, appearing at an auspicious moment in Debussy research. The recent publication of the composer’s Correspondance (1872–1918) brings together letters that were previously scattered across various volumes, accessible only in archives and private collections, or completely unknown. Access to the entirety of Debussy’s known correspondence has provided a more complete picture of the composer and his career than ever before. In addition the Œuvres complètes de Claude Debussy continue to shed light on the music, in some cases bringing new compositions to the Debussy field; for example, series 1, volume 4 (2004) presented a new piano work, Les soirs illuminés par l’ardeur du charbon, and series 6, volume 3 (2006) made available editions of Debussy’s incomplete theatrical compositions, such as Le Diable dans le beffroi and La chute de la Maison Usher (discussed in this volume). These new materials allow researchers to reexamine different aspects . . .

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