Claude-Achille Debussy

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The task of giving an overview of the life of Claude-Achille Debussy is not easy. Without hesitation, this dynamic character made courageous strides that pushed the limitations of music to another level. His ultimate goal was not to be glorified through fame but to find his own unique voice, or the ‘musique a moi’. Even though his goal was to create his own unique sound, he had many influences, such as art, literature, and Wagner, that guided him in the creation of his style. Regardless of his teachers protestations and fellow peers’ critiques, he experimented with different sounds in music. When listening to Debussy’s music, one can clearly tell that it belongs to Debussy because of his use of different harmonies, rhythms, the pentatonic and whole tone scale, and his instrumentation.

Claude Debussy was born in Saint Germain en Laye, France on August 22nd, 1862 the oldest of five children. His father, Manuel-Achille Debussy, had dreams for his son to be a sailor. Those dreams were dashed aside when Claude-Achille took his first piano lessons. With help from his aunt Clementine, Claude-Achille received piano lessons with an Italian violinist Jean Cerutti. When his father saw that he could play the piano, Manuel’s dreams quickly changed to hopes of Claude becoming a virtuosic pianist. From there he was entrusted to Verlaine’s mother-in-law, who enrolled Claude into the Paris Conservatoire at the young age of ten years old.

Claude’s years at the Paris Conservatoire not only taught him the fundamentals of music, but it also provided an environment where Claude could experiment with different dissonant chords and techniques which can be heard in his compositions. “In Marmontel’s piano class he used to astound us with his bizarre...

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..., who would invent characters belonging to no particular time or place; who would not despotically impose on me actions to be depicted and would leave me free, here and there, to surpass him in matters of art and to fill out his work.”

Works Cited

Berry, Wallace. Musical Structure and Performance. New Haven: Yale UP, 1989. Print.

Briscoe, James R. Debussy in Performance. New Haven [Conn.: Yale UP, 1999. Print.

"Claude Debussy." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 04 July 2012. Web. 08 Apr. 2012. .

Lockspeiser, Edward. Debussy: His Life and Mind. Vol. 1. New York: Macmillan, 1962. Print.

Lockspeiser, Edward. Debussy: His Life and Mind. Vol. 2. London: Cassell, 1965. Print.

Lockspeiser, Edward. Debussy. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1966. Print.

Nichols, Roger. The Life of Debussy. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998. Print.

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