Clair de Lune
Uploaded on Aug 5, 2012
Claude Debussy (1862-1918) composed Clair de Lune, the third movement from the Suite Bergamasque in 1888 (first published in 1903). It is important to note that with the exception of the poetically titled Clair de Lune, suite Bergamasque is created exclusively from Baroque movements. The choice of compound triple meter for this movement shows the contrast to the dance movements and helps allow Debussy freedom to articulate the music differently.
In addition, Clair de Lune is compositionally, the most adventurous piece of the suite. The positioning within the suite is important; it is the suite’s third movement, and is the lyrical climax of the suite. The use of structure and proportion within the movement is significant;
Most important of all, they show ways in which the forms are used to project the music’s dramatic and expressive qualities with maximum precision.
The opening theme of Clair De Lune is derived from music heard in the preceding movements of the suite. This is worth mentioning, as while Debussy has composed a movement that may itself warrant detailed analysis, it is important to remember that care has been taken with both compositional material and structure on a macroscopic level.
While the overall structure of the movement is ambiguous, the form best fitting the movement is ternary form, extended by a coda created from material originating in section B. On a superficial level, the overall structure of ternary form; A B A, fits the structure of the movement well. In ternary form, the first and third sections (A) are normally identical, although commonly, the third section will feature more ornamentation than the first section; while the middle section (B) contrasts sharply with it. The thematic material in the A and B sections would sharply contrast; which they do here. An alternative to ternary form could be rounded binary form, again with an added coda. While the general structure ABa fits the music, the form is less likely to be rounded binary because two main themes are used, therefore the music is not monothematic, nor are the sections harmonically open. The movement remains mostly in the tonic, the only modulation occurring in bars 37-42, which means the sections are harmonically closed.
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