Claude Debussy – Clair de lune

About the piece

A few years ago I tried to learn Clair de lune. A grade 4 piece by Clause Debussy. I never mastered it and gave up after a few weeks. Recently My friend Josh Vanjani sent me this arrangement by Robert T. Tarchara. A simplified version of Clair de lune. I couldn’t find a version of it on youtube, so… Here’s my take on it. Enjoy!

Equipment:
Mic: Blue Yeti
Camera: Canon 1200D
Guitar: Miguel Lopez mod 013f
Strings: Savarez 510 AJ

About the composer

Claude Debussy was among the most influential composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His mature compositions, distinctive and appealing, combined modernism and sensuality so successfully that their sheer beauty often obscures their technical innovation. Debussy is considered the founder and leading exponent of musical Impressionism (although he resisted the label), and his adoption of non-traditional scales and tonal structures was paradigmatic for many composers who followed.

Debussy began piano studies at the Paris Conservatory at the age of 11. While a student there, he encountered the wealthy Nadezhda von Meck, who employed him as a music teacher to her children; through travel, concerts, and acquaintances, she provided him with a wealth of musical experience. Most importantly, she exposed the young Debussy to the works of Russian composers such as Borodin and Mussorgsky, who would remain important influences on his music.

Debussy began composition studies in 1880, and in 1884 he won the prestigious Prix de Rome with his cantata L’enfant prodigue. This prize financed two years of further study in Rome — years that proved to be creatively frustrating. However, the period immediately following was fertile for the young composer; trips to Bayreuth and the Paris World Exhibition (1889) established, respectively, his determination to move away from the influence of Richard Wagner, and his interest in the music of Eastern cultures.

After a relatively bohemian period, during which Debussy formed friendships with many leading Parisian writers and musicians (not least of which were Mallarmé, Satie, and Chausson), the year 1894 saw the enormously successful premiere of his Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun) — a truly revolutionary work that brought his mature compositional voice into focus. His seminal opera Pelléas et Mélisande, completed the next year, would become a sensation at its first performance in 1902. The impact of those two works earned Debussy widespread recognition (as well as frequent attacks from critics, who failed to appreciate his forward-looking style), and over the first decade of the 20th century he established himself as the leading figure in French music — so much so that the term “Debussysme” (“Debussyism”), used both positively and pejoratively, became fashionable in Paris. Debussy spent his remaining healthy years immersed in French musical society, writing as a critic, composing, and performing his own works internationally. He succumbed to colon cancer in 1918, having also suffered a deep depression brought on by the onset of World War I.

His works for solo piano, particularly his collections of Préludes and Etudes, which have remained staples of the repertoire since their composition, bring into relief his assimilation of elements from both Eastern cultures and antiquity — especially pentatonicism, modality, parallelism, and the whole-tone scale.

Pelléas et Mélisande and his collections of songs for solo voice establish the strength of his connection to French literature and poetry, especially the symbolist writers, and stand as some of the most understatedly expressive works in the repertory. The writings of Mallarmé, Maeterlinck, Baudelaire, and his childhood friend Paul Verlaine appear prominently among his chosen texts and joined symbiotically with the composer’s own unique moods and forms of expression.

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