Claude Debussy, who is one of the most important French composers that represent the early twentieth century, he composed the prelude to “The Afternoon of a Faun”. He wrote this Prelude based on an inspiration of a poem that was written by Stephane Mallarme, who was a prominent French writer. There are some historical contexts and stylistic contexts that can be seen and discussed from this. And, these factors made this piece the best-known orchestral work of Debussy.
Debussy was born in 1862 in the town of St. Germain-en-Laye , a town near Paris. When he was eleven, he entered the Paris Conservatory. Instead of following music ideas and structure that done by his predecessors, he started to compose and play harmonies that defied the rules. These strange, peculiar sounding harmonies shocked his lecturers. By that time, he already started trying on new harmonies that was something different.
The year 1890 was Debussy’s most glorious time of his career. He composed two operas, Pelleas and Mellisande. Because of the new things that Debussy wrote, Pelleas was rejected at first, for the lack of melody, form and substance. But, this work has also made him famous, and he started to conduct his works in the capitals of Europe.2
As a French composer, Debussy declared that French music is always clear, elegant and simple. Not only that, Debussy’s works is always new and fresh, as he always wanted to try something different. Also with Mussorgsky’s encouragement to disobey the scholastic rules, and to be more daring in creating harmonies, he will often break the traditional rules and patterns, and try out some new elements.
We can see a lot of use of exotic scales such as chromatic, whole tone and pentatonic scales, we can hear that dissonant chords are not resolved in his works, and the rhythms are often more free compare to those works of previous era. This is why he was against the sonata- allegro form that is used in Classical and Romantique era because he considers it as an old-fashioned formula. Debussy has his own distinctive new style of writing which used the instrument’s resources to the maximum and compose songs with wide range of notes. Also, he was also interested in new sounds and instruments. We can see that there are
many non-Western scales and instruments are used in his works. This new style is called impressionism.
His Prelude to “An Afternoon of a Faun” is also one example of impressionistic music, and it was his first symphonic work of this kind.
As he was a French composer, when he went to London and played his music to the audience, they thought that the music is remarkable, but no one liked his playing style. So, no English firm would choose to publish his music on their own risks as there is no commercial value in England. When he came back to Paris, life was leading him elsewhere. Instead of his old friends in the music circle and their conservative ideas, he like to mix with his friends who are mostly writers and who...