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Claude Debussy

Biography

Claude Debussy (1862-1918) was the first composer to radically break with the Romantic tradition, giving rise to the explorations of sound and form that dominated the twentieth century. In sharp contrast to the Wagnerian attention to leitmotif and development, Debussy's music deals with light, color and mood. Startling dissonances alternate with Eastern-influenced pentatonic harmonies and rich chordal textures that later influenced jazz. His non-linear structures move mysteriously from one sound-image to the next, leaving the listener on his own to find an overall unity or pattern. Scholars have found in his pieces the Golden Ratio, a common pattern in nature which gives Debussy's music its natural, organic quality. Critics dubbed Debussy's style Impressionism after the mysterious, sensuous landscapes of Monet and Cezanne. Debussy believed his music captured the essence of French culture, emphasizing clarity, natural beauty and elegance over the solemnity and over-ripe developments of the Romantic composers.
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