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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Musical Interlude

(For politics, please scroll down)

La Mer by Claude Debussy (1862-1918):

From the YouTube blurb:
"La Mer" L.109, (The Sea), is an orchestral composition by Claude Debussy. It was started in 1903 in France and completed in 1905 on the English Channel coast in Eastbourne. The premiere was given by the Lamoureux Orchestra under the direction of Camille Chevillard on 15 October 1905 in Paris. "La Mer" is a composition of huge suggestion and subtlety in its rich depiction of the ocean, which combines unusual orchestration with daring impressionistic harmonies. The work has proven very influential, and its use of sensuous tonal colours and its orchestration methods have influenced many later film scores.

While the structure of the work places it outside of both absolute music and programme music as those terms were understood in the early 20th century, it obviously uses descriptive devices to suggest wind, waves and the ambience of the sea. But structuring a piece around a nature subject without any literary or human element to it - neither people, nor mythology, nor ships are suggested in the piece - also was highly unusual at the time.

Debussy called his work "three symphonic sketches," avoiding the loaded term symphony; yet the work is sometimes called a symphony; it consists of two powerful outer movements framing a lighter, faster piece which acts as a type of scherzo.

"La Mer" is divided into three movements:

1. "De l'aube à midi sur la mer" (from dawn to midday on the sea);
2. "Jeux de vagues" (Play of the Waves);
3. "Dialogue du vent et de la mer" (Dialogue of the wind and the sea).

Cover of the 1905 edition of La Mer. The illustration is based on Hokusai's Wave.


  1. Now Breaking: AP is reporting that 3 police have been shot snd killed and 3 others have been wounded in Baton Rouge

    1. The news said the shooter was from Missouri. Has anyone heard from Beamish lately?

  2. https://laughingsquid.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/20140124-11361732-seaisforcookie.jpg

  3. Few would think of Debussy as a "revolutionary" today, –– if they thought of him at all, which very sadly has become increasingly rare ––, but he was. The Sound o the Twentieth Century that lay before him was nascent in all his work. More so than the frankly shocking, more radical efforts of the atonal, "serial" composers, Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, and Anton Webern who appeared in the same time frame.

    The serialists earned a respected place in the pantheon of musical greats, and their influence has been profound, but their work never caught on with the general public as Debussy's did.

    Despite its being in three discernible "movements," I would prefer to think of La mer more as a Tone Poem than a symphony.

    At any rate –– like the sea, itself, –– La mer creates a ravishingly relaxing atmosphere capable of altering the mood of those who let its beautiful, mysterious sonorities and fluid change of textures wash over them.

    1. FT,
      I would prefer to think of La mer more as a Tone Poem than a symphony.

      I agree. Interesting that Debussy himself called it a symphony.

      We're seeing a revival of Debussy here in D.C. area concerts. **smile**

    2. That's very good news, and frankly surprising. Having been a professional pianist devoted almost exclusively to classical repertoire I naturally favor his works for that instrument, but La mer holds great appeal as perfect background music for musing on a pleasant summer's afternoon.

      Thank you for posting it.

      Much of Frederick Delius' work has a similar effect by the way. The great English composers of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries have been too long neglected in our country at least.

      Edward Elgar, Frederick Delius, Gustav Holst, William Walton, Ralph Vaughan-Williams, Hubert Parry, and others associated with or influenced by them produced a whole World of Wonder unit themselves.

      It would take several lifetimes even to BEGIN to know and appreciate everything the realm of "classical music" offers those fortunate to have ears equipped to hear.

      Why most seem to prefer devoting themselves to the worship of out-and-out garbage of any and all varieties instead of the great Smoergasbord of wonders and delights available in all fields I can't imagine.


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