Monday, July 30, 2012

Music Monday: Debussy's Suite Bergamasque

Each Monday, I share a piece of music I really enjoy. This week, I've chosen the beautiful piano movement "Clair de lune" from Debussy's Suite bergamasque.

Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
Suite bergamasque (1905)
"Clair de lune"

I realized that I hadn't yet really featured any piano music here, and when I think of piano, I think of this piece (well, either this or Billy Joel). It's probably one that you've heard before. "Clair de lune" -- French for "moonlight" -- is the third and most well-known movement of the Suite bergamasque, and it's been worming its way into popular culture for years.

There is just so much beauty in this piece that it's hard to put it into words. The simplicity, in the beginning, but then also how it builds. And I love that even in the more active sections, the focus is still on the melody. I think a lot of what I often don't like about piano music is that it seems technically challenging for the sake of being technically challenging. It sounds impressive, and makes you think, "Wow, I could never do that" (assuming of course that you don't play piano). But here, there is just this lush sound, without any conceit or arrogance to it.

Debussy was inspired by a poem of the same name, by French poet Paul Verlaine. The interesting thing is that the Suite bergamasque was originally composed in 1890, but it wasn't published until fifteen years later. When he went to publish it, Debussy changed some of the names, as well as some of the music itself. How much, I'm not sure, but apparently the movement that would become "Clair de lune" was originally inspired by a different poem of Verlaine's. It makes me curious as to what the first incarnation sounded like, and also what it was that inspired him to change it. Verlaine's "Clair de lune" was published in 1869, well before Debussy began his composition; one would assume that he would have known of it then.

I did want to share one other video that I came across. It's a version of the piece arranged and performed by a classical guitarist (along with a fun visual effect). I mentioned earlier this month when I featured "Hoedown" how much I enjoy hearing familiar music with a twist, and this is another great example.

Thanks for reading my latest Music Monday, my little way of sharing something I'm passionate about while introducing you to music you may be unfamiliar with. Let me know if you've enjoyed it, and let me know if there's something out there you think I should listen to.

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