Music History – May – Claude Debussy

This past month we continued to discuss music history from the vantage point of geography. Students read about and listened to the music composed by Claude Debussy. He lived in France and wrote during the Impressionistic time period. We looked at some paintings that were made during the same time period and discussed how you might musically create an impression of a visual scene. How do you write a musical impression? The students had an opportunity to listen individually to two pieces.

The Sunken Cathedral is a prelude for the piano. This piece is a musical depiction of an island with a cathedral that literally rises out of the ocean. Bells chime, the ocean rolls in and out and then it all sinks back into the ocean and is covered by the tide. The students immediately told me, “like Atlantis” which I thought was great.

The other piece, which was more familiar to many of them, was Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. It is easy to imagine the tiny animal in the woods. You can hear the sun glimmering through the trees and the fish swimming in the brook.

I had them each take turns at a listening station. With headphones on, they were able to listen in peace and draw a picture of what they imagined they were hearing. The older students also were able to follow along in the written music of The Sunken Cathedral.

Many of these pieces can easily be accessed on YouTube. Some of them are actual performances. I would encourage you to play some Debussy in your home. It really does inspire the imagination.

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