‘Music is the silence between the notes…’
was born on the 22nd August 1862 in the small town of St Germain-en-laye. He is one of our favourite composers and it is the exquisite Clair de Lune that he is most noted for. Clair de Lune was composed over a period of fifteen years and Debussy is reputed to have started working on the piece at the tender age of 28! Given the technical skill required to play this immensely difficult piece, we are not surprised that it took him so long! Clair de Lune was first conceived as a poem by Frenchman Paul Verlaine who lived and died in the later part of the 19th Century. The poem itself is quite beautiful and heavily imbued with the romantic ideals associated with the time. It is this sentiment that we wished to keep alive in our 21st Century interpretations.
Debussy had originally named the piece Promenade Sentimentale but changed it shortly before publication to pay homage to the Symbolist movement of which he had become a patron. The symbolists where romantics at heart and they seemed to be reacting against an era where reason and science seemed to threaten the notion of the subjective self and where art-form was no longer accessible to a privileged few. Prior, there had always existed the idea that great art lay outside of culture in the realm of the divine who appointed those most anguished of souls as it’s conduit for expression. The symbolists used powerful, rich imagery and it is not surprising ,then, that the moon became one of their most often used themes.
We have a great fondest for the impressionist composers of the 20th Century and have tried to define why exactly they are so appealing to us. Part of the answer may lie in the explorations into new harmonic territory that composers like Debussy and Satie where experimenting with. What we can hear within the flourishes and arpeggios of Clair de Lune are chord extensions uncommon for the time, but yet can still be seen in much of contemporary music today. The pieces that we have chosen to cover would never be heralded as types of jazz but they contain all the hallmarks and would have undoubtedly had a powerful impact in shaping our current musical language.