\"\"
Piano Forum logo

How did impressionist composers such as Ravel and Debussy compose? (Read 582 times)

Offline ranjit

  • PS Silver Member
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 200
Of course, one could go into the music theory behind it all, but at a deeper level -- how did they "translate" a painting or scene into a composition? I'm thinking of, say, Ravel Jeux D'Eau. It's really impressive how Ravel conveys the impression of flowing water here. How did they do it?

Offline aclaussen

  • PS Silver Member
  • Jr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 47
Re: How did impressionist composers such as Ravel and Debussy compose?
«Reply #1 on: October 02, 2019, 02:22:36 AM »
Of course, one could go into the music theory behind it all, but at a deeper level -- how did they "translate" a painting or scene into a composition? I'm thinking of, say, Ravel Jeux D'Eau. It's really impressive how Ravel conveys the impression of flowing water here. How did they do it?

Seems like a loaded question cause I don’t think ravel or Debussy were thinking visually and trying to translate a visual scene into music. If someone has an example to prove me wrong here, I’d love to see it. There is evidence however that Scriabin did “see” his music as color, but I haven’t heard about something similar about Debussy and ravel.

Ravel spoke about what motivated him in the particular piece you mentioned https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeux_d'eau_(Ravel)

It seems from his quote that he was modeling it after another piece of music specifically how the water sounded, not how it looked. Also a lot of the pieces seemed to have been inspired by literature (gaspard de nuit for example), not visuals. Also the fact that either or both composers hated using the term “impressionist” to describe their music suggests makes me think the question is a loaded with an assumption that might not be true. The question id ask is how did he achieve this sound and I think one would need to analyze the music at a somewhat theoretical level to get to the point where one understood it enough to mimic the style.
Alexander Ngo Claussen

my tracks on spotify : https://spoti.fi/2r2OhaY

Playing Liszt Rigoletto Paraphrase
https://bit.ly/2QAzKhR

my book- shorturl.at/amEG8

recent news- https://bit.ly/2CM6354

Offline dogperson

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1119
Re: How did impressionist composers such as Ravel and Debussy compose?
«Reply #2 on: October 02, 2019, 02:58:35 AM »
Debussy
The Engulfed Cathedral was written  to capture the  visual image of a cathedral that arises from the water and then submerges again.

https://parkersymphony.org/debussy-the-sunken-cathedral

Ranjit: do an internet search for Debussy’s compositional technique. You will find plenty to read.

Offline ted

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3677
Re: How did impressionist composers such as Ravel and Debussy compose?
«Reply #3 on: October 02, 2019, 04:32:27 AM »
I suggest your man to ask is Neil Martinez, our own "quantum" on the forum. He is a born impressionist, as his numerous posted improvisations such as "The March to School" and "Attack of the Flies" reveal. If any forum member has any clues about impressionism he does.

https://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=31278.msg362838#msg362838

https://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=34498.msg400582#msg400582

https://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=55190.msg595059#msg595059

"We're all bums when the wagon comes." - Waller

Offline ranjit

  • PS Silver Member
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 200
Re: How did impressionist composers such as Ravel and Debussy compose?
«Reply #4 on: October 02, 2019, 07:53:14 AM »
I suggest your man to ask is Neil Martinez, our own "quantum" on the forum. He is a born impressionist, as his numerous posted improvisations such as "The March to School" and "Attack of the Flies" reveal. If any forum member has any clues about impressionism he does.

https://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=31278.msg362838#msg362838

https://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=34498.msg400582#msg400582

https://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=55190.msg595059#msg595059
Nice to see you here. :)

It's interesting that you bring him up. I actually had a post of yours in mind while posting this. You said in a comment to one of his improvisations that you were convinced that to be able to compose impressionistic music is a gift, if I recall correctly, and that it had an aspect to it which couldn't be developed. I would really appreciate it if you could elaborate on what makes you think so.

Offline ted

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3677
Re: How did impressionist composers such as Ravel and Debussy compose?
«Reply #5 on: October 02, 2019, 09:53:52 AM »
...I would really appreciate it if you could elaborate on what makes you think so.

The thing is that the best impressionism seems to attain its effect while avoiding direct imitation, that is to say there are always at least two levels to it. Would the piece evoke some deeper aspect were the associative sensations unknown to the listener ? I suppose it is just opinion like most things musical, but for me, deliberate imitations of birds chirping, lions roaring, storms with thunder and so on are more tedious than transporting; good for silent picture accompaniment perhaps but not something I would sit down and listen to. Quantum's march, on the other hand, sticks some sort of prod into the psyche at once which elicits all sorts of imagery from a listening mind. There is also a certain essential mystique or enigma inherent in the programme itself, and that was recognised by those who commented. What were his feelings on marching to school ? Why is the mood so overreachingly eldritch ? Good impressionism always opens the listening mind to conjecture and implication.

I find some of the twentieth century English composers, particularly Bridge and Ireland, very striking in this regard. The imagery of pieces such as "The Midnight Tide", "Gargoyle" and "Chelsea Reach" is brilliantly impressionistic, but the effect is implicit, never imitative.  If I said the process was a gift it is probably because I am not much good at it myself and I do not fully understand the ability. The only time I have come close to succeeding at it on this forum is here:

https://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=45145.msg492037#msg492037

I find it difficult to operate from some rigid premise or programme, but for Neil it is second nature.

 
"We're all bums when the wagon comes." - Waller

Offline lostinidlewonder

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 5625
Re: How did impressionist composers such as Ravel and Debussy compose?
«Reply #6 on: October 03, 2019, 02:23:17 AM »
Regarding his compositions “Music, I feel, must be emotional first and intellectual second.” Maurice Ravel

Claude Debussy: "Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art."
"The biggest risk in life is to take no risk at all."
www.facebook.com/groups/348933611793249/

Offline ranjit

  • PS Silver Member
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 200
Re: How did impressionist composers such as Ravel and Debussy compose?
«Reply #7 on: October 03, 2019, 02:27:39 AM »
Regarding his compositions “Music, I feel, must be emotional first and intellectual second.” Maurice Ravel

Claude Debussy: "Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art."

Interesting quotes, but hardly enlightening! I doubt any composer thought that music should be intellectual first.

Offline lostinidlewonder

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 5625
Re: How did impressionist composers such as Ravel and Debussy compose?
«Reply #8 on: October 03, 2019, 02:50:07 AM »
It depends how you interpret Ravel, his compositions attracted critique from those who considered themselves the intellectual superiors from the "old school". I remember reading about Mozart how he could hear his entire compositions at once in his head before writing them down. I am sure all the great composers hear the music from within and it flows out, this can be influenced by factors that are separate from actual music intellectual thought and theory. They have this "creative lens" which captures this light of inspiration from art, nature, life experience and condenses it into musical expression. How do they do it?
"The biggest risk in life is to take no risk at all."
www.facebook.com/groups/348933611793249/