Epoch: Twentieth century

Country: France

CLAUDE DEBUSSY (1862-1918)

St. Germain-en-Laye, August 22, 1862 – March 25, 1918, Père-Lachaise cemetery, Paris



The French impressionist composer Claude Debussy linked the romantic era with the 20th century, whose harmonic innovations helped pave the way for the musical upheavals of the latter. Like the French impressionist painters and symbolist poets, Debussy was a master at evoking a fleeting mood and misty atmosphere. Inspired often by pictorial subjects and by the elusive and unnamable in nature, Debussy's music develops chords, melodies, and orchestration that are connected more by a single surreal observation than by an overriding logic. His interest in the effects of fluidity, intangibility, and impermanence resulted in his free, spontaneous and almost improvised music. He once wrote: “I am more and more convinced that music is not, in essence, a thing which can be cast into a traditional and fixed form. It is made up of colors and rhythms.”


This stress on tone color, atmosphere, and fluidity is characteristic of impressionism in music.