Dmitri Shostakovich, a 20th century Russian composer and pianist, once said, “A creative artist works on his next composition because he was not satisfied with his previous one." Is this why composers can compose many pieces in such a short life span? Take Claude Debussy for example. He composed 141 pieces even though he only lived for 56 years. And what about the great Ludwig van Beethoven? He composed 138 pieces although he only lived for 56 years and despite the fact that he began to lose his hearing at the age of 29. But how do these two great composers have the inspiration of writing song after song without running out of ideas? Well, the appropriate word to describe all of this is “influence”. Of course, Debussy and Beethoven had their own trademarks in the music world but they do share some similarities in their works.
Many people know that Debussy and Beethoven composed many great classical works but they did compose some ‘jazz like’ works over their music career. Noted composer, scholar, and educator Gunther Schuller wrote an article entitled “Jazz on Classical: Classical on Jazz”. In this article, he mentioned that jazz musicians of today and yesteryear have been attracted to works by classical composers and have drawn upon the inventive usage of harmonies employed by classical composers, including Debussy and Beethoven. Debussy had a profound impact on contemporary soundtrack composers such as John Williams because Debussy's colorful and evocative style translated easily into an emotional language for use in motion picture scores. Unfortunately, Gunther Schuller did not follow Beethoven’s influence on today’s jazz artists. He did not write more about his influences toward jazz (Schuller,2013).
One thing that both Beethoven and Debussy share in common is “jazz-like” compositions. Debussy influenced many important figures in jazz such as Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, Bill Evans, and Duke Ellington. Beethoven, being known as the classical contemporary master, wrote many jazz like pieces. Let’s take Beethoven’s “Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111” as an example. Even though this piece contain fugal elements such as having two movements, this piece has many elements of jazz such as the rhythm of the first movement being close to ragtime and the second/final movement being felt like “proto-jazz” and “boogie-woogie”. In the first movement of the piece which is in C minor, Beethoven used many diminished seventh chords, as in for instance the first full bar of it’s opening introduction.
The second/final movement is a set of variations on a 16-bar theme, with a brief modulating interlude and a final coda. Jazz compositions normally have a standard 16-bar theme with an interlude supporting it. This shows that Beethoven’s piece(as mentioned above) have many elements of jazz writing techniques. Now let’s move on to Debussy’s jazz compositions. We all know Debussy as the genius behind musical impressionism but his influence on jazz...