Elements of Impressionism evoked in Debussy and Ravel's Reflets dans l'eau and Jeux d'eau: The theme of water
Park, Sun Hye
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Claude Debussy (1862-1918) and Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) were leading figures of the innovative musical language in the late nineteenth century that is known as French <italic>Impressionism</italic>. They developed revolutionary compositional style that departed from classical <italic>Romanticism</italic> and was greatly influenced by Symbolist poets and Asian arts. The piano works on the motive of water, <italic>Reflets dans l'eau</italic> from <italic>Images I</italic> by Debussy and <italic>Jeux d'eau</italic> by Ravel, are selected to analyze their impressionistic components. This dissertation discusses the similarities and differences between the two works and the composers' compositional techniques. In both works, many of technical applications such as <italic>arpeggio</italic>, pedal-point, staccato, <italic>tremolo</italic> and <italic>glissando</italic> are widely used to describe the variable movements of water from small ripples to raising surges or giant cascade. Dissonances (sevenths, ninths and elevenths), <italic>pentatonic</italic> scale and whole-tone scale are also freely used, as well as parallel movements of perfect intervals (fourths, fifths and octaves) and polytonality. All of these new compositional techniques, which were not commonly used in the previous periods, effectively evoke impressionistic images through various sonorities. Nevertheless, the two works are different from each other in several aspects. Debussy's idea on form, structure, melodies and rhythms are more peculiar and vague. Also, abrupt changes of rhythms occur in many places. On the other hand, Ravel's melodies and rhythms in general are traditional and clearly shaped. His idea on form, although not following the classic tonal scheme, is still more classically oriented compared to Debussy's. As used in both works of Ravel and Debussy, water is often chosen as a descriptive theme among the many natural phenomena. Water has optimal possibilities to carry out various imageries due to its fluidity and amorphousness. Debussy and Ravel accomplished the picturesque expressions of variable movements of water in <italic>Reflets dans l'eau</italic> and <italic>Jeux d'eau</italic> through many impressionistic elements and compositional skills.
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