Society for Music Theory
Tonality and Form in Debussy's "Prelude a 'L'Apres-midi d'un faune" Author(s): Matthew Brown Source: Music Theory Spectrum, Vol. 15, No. 2 (Autumn, 1993), pp. 127-143 Published by: University of California Press on behalf of the Society for Music Theory Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/745811 Accessed: 23/06/2009 15:21
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Arnold Whittall. Most of these criticisms are general in nature. he announced that "tonic and dominant had become empty shadows of use only to stupid children.' "3 Sometimes.5
1See chapter 1 of Arthur Wenk's book Claude Debussy and TwentiethCenturyMusic (Boston: Twayne Publishers. especially Jennifer Williams Brown. 336. why the other chordshave to bear the stigma of being dissonant. both old and new. Claude Debussy: Monsieur Croche et autres dcrits (Paris: Gallimard.
3See Debussy. ed. in Lesure."4 Similarly. 1 June 1901. Debussy is often remembered as "the quiet revolutionary. Debussy denounced accepted notions of chord function. 76-77. eds. For example. in a letter to Pierre Louys (22 January 1895). why it is consonant. Debussy did much to promote this radical image of his music. 23 March 1903. 75." who breathed new life into musical art.
. and ridicule what Debussy saw
as a "silly obsession with overprecise 'forms' and 'tonality. MarieRolf. Francois Lesure and Roger Nichols. so one is justifiedin saying that modern music was awakened by L'Apres-midi d'un faune.. MonsieurCroche. 4FrancoisLesure. ed. first. 129-30. throughout his letters and journal articles.and Form in Debussy's Tonality d'un faune" "L'Apres-midi
Seventy-five years after his death. 70-73. 1977).ed. David Grayson. 155. To quote Pierre Boulez: Just as modern poetry surely took root in certain of Baudelaire's poems. 2PierreBoulez. 1980).and the two anonymous readers for this journal.-Au ConcertLamoureux.2 For his part. 41. they address concrete musical issues. Notes to CBS Record 32 11 0056. Debussy rejected the traditional distinctions between consonance and dissonance. quoted in Glenn Watkins. however. SDebussy.1 He is credited with challenging the authority of nineteenth-century tonal and formal practice. Claude Debussy: Lettres1884-1918 (Paris: Hermann. 1-19. 1983). I have changed the translationsof the words parfait and imparfait. he launched a bitter campaign against the musical establishment and conventional compositional practice." La Revue blanche. Debussy on Music (New York: Knopf. Relevdsd'apprenti.. Soundings (New York: Schirmer. 1987).."A propos de 'Muguette'. and second. ed. Paul Thevenin (Paris: Seuil. in Francois Lesure. Lesure and Smith. Debussy Letters (Cambridge:Harvard University Press. and Pierre Boulez. I would like to thank various people for helpful suggestions. and with pushing music gently into the twentieth century. and trans. 1988). Francois Lesure and Richard LanghamSmith. 45. 1966).. With typical panache he insisted: Nothing is more mysterious than a consonant chord! Despite all theories. "Musicin the Open Air. we are still not sure."Gil blas. Debussy on Music. and trans. 1971). eds.
Op..29. 21. any answerto this question depends on the way in which we decide to explain tonality and on the kinds of analytical priorities we make in assigning formal functions. of the past?Has not its wornout gilt merelybeen replacedby a orchesplatingof shiningcopper. 8Lesure. Debussyon Music. Lesure and Smith. in Donner. Debussy censured his colleagues for imitating the stale symphonic forms of Franz Liszt and Richard Strauss:
the symphony-in all its elegance and formal order . such as Mussorgsky. Lesure and Smith. 1933). MonsieurCroche. fallend ja auch in anderenGerauschen(z. 101. You have merelyto listen.."6 Just as Debussy debunked many basic tenets of commonpractice tonality. Schenker would have disapproved. 16. 1970). Lesure and Smith. It is not constant. but certainlynot as art. 7Debussy. In an essay for La Revue blanche (6 March 1901). Debussy: Prelude to "The Afternoon of a Faun. Minor thirds and major thirds should be combined. Monsieur Croche. dort sagt die 'Linie' des Tongerauschesgewiss nicht mehr die Linien als die steigend."10 Intentions are one thing. the barbs were no less pointed.B. in Lesure.. The mode is that which one happens to choose at the moment. he dismissed a recent orchestral work by Witkowski. Debussy on Music. -is a thing
6In Debussy's conversationswith his teacher Guiraud. La Revue blanche. but actualities are often quite another matter. 25." These conversationsare translatedin William Austin. 26." Norton Critical Scores (New York: Norton. Wo aber. so Debussy also praised composers. Tischriicken."1'Else9Lesure. he complained that the sequences of sounds found in impressionistpieces are valuable as "an acousticphenomenon.
. die Wirkung sogenannterimpressionistischer erst auf ein Tongerauschhinauslauft(das wie jedes Gerauschnur als akustische Erscheinung. he questioned the rules prohibitingparallel sonorities. it contradicts the prevailing view that Debussy's music cannot be analyzed by strict Schenkerian paradigms."7 He added: at that Mustwe conclude despiteso manyattempts transformation.. wie in diesen. 241. trans. Did Debussy really create symphonic forms fit for "the century of aeroplanes"? Obviously. claiming that "there is no theory. so he also questioned conventional approaches to musical form. Surely. 1 April 1901.the shoddyfinishof present-day tration?8 Some ten years later. 'oLesure. 84." In the same conversationsDebussy also declared: "Music is neither major nor minor.) sich
He likewise scoffed at those who prohibitedthe use of parallel chords and proposed that tonality should be fully chromatic and "enriched by other scales.128
MusicTheory Spectrum Is it not our duty . Debussy on Music. so comof mittedas theyareto progress? century aeroplanes a right has The of to a musicof its own!9 Besides disdaining textbook formal stereotypes. Debussy on Music. In the preface to his edition of Beethoven's Piano Sonata in A Major. especially those found in symphonic repertories. 128-31. For a facsimile of Maurice Emanuel's original transcription. aber noch nicht als Kunst gilt).he made no secret of his dislike for Debussy's music. 297. 15. claiming that it provided "only further proof of the uselessness of the symphony since Beethoven. modulation thus becoming more flexible. ed. to try andfindthe symphonic formulae best suitedto the audacious discoveries our moderntimes. Claude Debussy: His Life and Works. Although there are many possible theories of tonality. This decision. Lesure and Smith. however. see Leon Vallas. Maire and Grace O'Brien (London: Oxford University Press. While Debussy's radical goals are hard to deny. In particular. we may still wonder whether he succeeded in freeing himself from common-practice tonality and nineteenthcentury formal conventions. Pleasureis the law.MonsieurCroche. ""Von einer gewissen 'Linie' sprechen heute gern auch die Verfertiger Stiicke.Wagenrollenusw. Writing for SIM (1 November 1913). requires some explanation.. this paper will use Schenkerian theory.MonsieurCroche. whose works "are impossible to relate to (the) accepted forms-the 'official' ones.
Challengeto Musical Tradition(New York: Knopf.13 Some.. non-speculative ba-
Similarly. 101. For example. For example. fn. such as Felix Salzer.15 Most recently. der ware demnachnicht einmal noch ein Talent."12 For the most part. "9Edward Laufer. StructuralHearing. 3 (1930). as all the specific techniques Schenker describedmust all go by the board or be diluted into an indistinct
blur . such as Adele Katz. once the distinction is abolished. Parks. have ever defined these limits in a systematic
17Ibid. 154-55. he also condemned Debussy for pandering to the "mediocrity of French taste.and nineteenth-centurymasters. 478. there are problems with both of these responses. 4. then anything goes and likewise nothing. and that many of them require some new type of explanation. Richard Parks has claimed that. "SchenkerianAnalysis and Post-Tonal Music. Schenker's notion of transformation becomes seriously weakened. 13AdeleKatz. as is the multilayered concatenation of contrapuntal-harmonicrelationships which normally accompaniesthem. Debussy's piano Prelude "Bruyeres" is generated from a background progression built from a chain of parallel fifths -I-3 in A ....4. Salzer contradicts Schenker's claim that in tonal music there is an absolute distinction between the behavior of consonances and that of dissonances. 1889) conform in any consistent way. Linear progressions are far less common than in the works of eighteenth. In Schenkerianterms. "Esotericismas a Determinant of Debussy's Harmonic Language." The Musical Quarterly75 (1991): 146. all theories must have boundaries-neither they. linear progressionstend to be of the simplest sort and only of local significance. The Music of Claude Debussy (New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Felix Salzer. chap. acknowledge that only a few of Debussy's pieces follow strict Schenkerian paradigms. ed.
sis. StructuralHearing (New York: Boni. 248-93. expanding the notion of tonality in music. 293). Schenker's followers have accepted the limitations of their methods for explaining Debussy's music.'7 He adds that structural levels are "few and uncomplicated. this means that bass arpeggiationis not an integral feature of underlyingstructure. 1921). have seen these limitations as grounds for modifying Schenker's original model and. as both harmonic analysis and the Schenkermethod were evolved out of the tonal techniques. Salzer claims that. Aspects of SchenkerianTheory (New Haven: Yale University Press. To quote Edward Laufer: By and by one asks what is left. In Debussy. Cited by David Paul Goldman. This distinction is crucial to the way in which Schenkerian theory connects the rules of harmony and voice leading." See Schenker'sErliuterungsausgabe Sonate der Op. while Katz and Parks are justified in restricting the scope of Schenkerian theory-to be explanatory. 1945). '5According to Katz: "Therefore. instead of being derived from a Schenkerian Ursatz.d'un faune" Tonalityand Formin Debussy's Prelude a "L'Apres-midi
After the early works especially. also schon aus diesem Grunde allein als ein Erneuerer nationaler Musik gelten" (Schenker.16 As he puts it:
bemerkbarmachen konnen. Das Meisterwerkin der Musik. his revisions modify Schenkerian theory to such an extent that they erode the entire foundation of the model. 1989). 20. '6RichardS. 108). "Review of Free Composition. s8Ibid. mag er auch dem Mittelmassin Frankreich geniigen und dort aus Grtinden kunstpolitischerNatur-Frankreich treibt Politik und Ranke auch in den Kiinsten-sogar als ein UberwinderWagners. 1983). For a convenient summaryof Katz's position see James Baker."14 Others.. it is probablethat a new system of analysis is needed to understandthe new concepts" (Challenge. nor any other Schenkerians."MusicTheorySpectrum 3 (1981): 161. ein Musikeriiberhauptzu nennen. 18. Ludwig van Beethoven(Vienna: Universal Edition. fig. vol. 20. in so doing." in David Beach. by classifying chords according to their degree of dissonance. only Debussy's early scores (up to ca.
Nevertheless. 23. 1952). In Salzer's case. 4Salzer. one rarely finds tonic-dominant closure in a structuralsense." and that the richness of Debussy's music lies mostly in the
[I]f there is no technically consistent. '2"Undgar ein Debussy. with some exceptions.
On the one hand.79. 1 April 1901.Lesure and Nichols. Debussy on Music. Debussy's Orchestral Dille. see Matthew Brown. "Schenker's 'Motivic Parallelisms. Lettres." (Ph. "Musik aus dem Bannkreis einer literarischenAesthetik: Debussys 'Prelude a l'Apres-midid'un Faune. ed. 126-27). "Inleiding tot het vormbegripbij Debussy. Lenormand(Lesure. Debussy occasionallyrebuked specific theorists: Riemann (Lesure.it's in a modewhichis intended containall of the nuances-I can give you a perfectlylogicaldemonstration
this. motivic compression. 145ff. Letters. 13640. it simply means that the model can help us determine. 21). Lesure and Nichols. "A Rational Reconstruction of SchenkerianTheory. free dissonances. Letters. diss. It
which knowhow' for a alsodemonstrates disdain the 'constructional Thenagain. 85-91. how and why partially. and that allowed him to move away from nineteenth-centuryformal models. Lesure and Nichols. case by case. MonsieurCroche.For example. parallel chords and many other anomalies in Debussy's style. in an essay for La Revue blanche. Music (London: BBC.. John Crotty..Debussy (Paris:Seuil.22These
spotting. this paper will examine the Prelude a "L'Apres-midi d'un faune" (1891-94).'" Journal of Music Theory22 (1978): 155-58. ed.modal or exotic harmonies. Lettres. Lettres. 22For analysesof the Preludesee: WilliamAustin. .130
MusicTheorySpectrum On the other hand.. and the Images for orchestra(1905-13).we will see how he developed four techniques-incomplete progressions. 71-96.29-30. 13). Lesure and Nichols. ed. ed. And yet they still insist on poking their aestheticnoses into thingsthat don't concernthem! Withouttheir dolls to break open. Dubois (Lesure.118. 1976). Monsieur Croche. musicianshave tried to explain the elusive logic alluded to by Debussy. He especially abhorred "theme
. Debussy on Music. eds. Barraque. The UnanNineteenth-Century swered Question (Cambridge: Harvard University Press. "FormulaicOpenings in Debussy. "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun and Jeux: Debussy's Summer Rites. 84-85. upon to for tonality! Rather." ed. 183).128-30). . "Towardan Analytical Appreciation. To show how Schenkeriantheory helps us understandthe tonality of Debussy's music. 23-24.. or even marginally. 102-4. The work is an
Societe nationale on 22 December 1894. It is hard to imagine what this demonstrationwould have looked like because Debussy was extremelyskepticalabout the value of musicalanalysis." Music 3 (1980): 225-38. 1962).227. .. Charles Burkhart. Lettres. Peter Gilke. 21Lesure ed. LaurenceBerman.. 1989).it has no respect is a burden ourfinestintellects." In Theory Only 11 (1982): 17-30."in Debussy: Preludeto "TheAfternoonof a Faun. La Mer (19035). Louis (Lesure. 268-69). 1974). Aufsatze zur Musik 1. It is hard to imagine a single work that captures the spirit of Debussy's style more obviously than the Prelude a
"L'Apres-midi d'un faune". "SymbolistInfluences in Debussy's "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun.. In particular.' "Jahrbuch Peters1978.259-60). 1986). Leonard Bernstein. Debussy specifically drew attention to the novel tonal and formal properties of the Prelude. Lesure and Smith. Claude Debussy (Paris: Champion. ed.. they still try to explain things. ever since its premiere at the
manner. In fact. by graphingthe Prelude. Austin.... James Music 8 Hepokoski. 9-18.20Of course. . Letters." as he made clear in an essay for Gil bias.D. ed. we can answer some of the intriguingformal questions posed by Debussy's orchestralmusic. ed. ed. E." Nineteenth-Century
appropriatetest case for several reasons.21
20Forfurther details. Lesure and Smith. In a letter to Henri Gauthier-Villars(10 October 1896) he observed:
The Prelude a "L'Apres-midid'un faune. parentheticalepisodes. this does not mean that Schenkeriantheory can explain every aspect of all works by Debussy. Klemm (Leipzig: Peters. 103-46. 238-59. 23 February 1903 (see Lesure." cher Monsieur. is it perhaps the dream left over at the bottom of the faun's flute? . MonsieurCroche. both of them consistently underestimatenot only the extent to which Debussy's mature music contains orthodox tonal material. eds. 212. Debussy on Music. and tonal modeling-that feature prominentlyin the Nocturnes(1897-99)." in Melanges: Homage a Charles van den Borren (Anvers: De Nederlandsche Boekhandel. Debussy on Music.. Lesure and Smith.. 1979). tonal pieces sometimes sound tonal and sometimes do not. and Emile Durand (Lesure. but also the degree to which Schenkerian theory can cope with extreme chromaticism.165. ChristianGoubault. ed. Denijs David Cox. he wrote: "Grown ups tend to forget that as childrenthey were forbiddento open the insides of their dolls-a crime of high treason against the cause of mystery. Lesure and Smith. 1945). . dismantlethem and quite heartlessly kill all their mystery" (Lesure. Cornell University. MonsieurCroche.
(3) While the B section (mm.d'un faune" Tonalityand Formin Debussy's Prelude a "L'Apres-midi
analysesgenerallyagree about the location of the work'smain formal divisions. 3 (mm. A' (mm. 209-10 and vol. Salzer. 1976). Var. 39-40.
does not appear until m. 79-106). the opening phrases are extremely abstruse tonally. (New York: Norton. 13. The latter apparently acts as a German sixth to the D7 in m. 1-30). 79. 55-78). 1983). To resolve these dilemmas. Hepokoski then proposes that the bass tones D (m. As shown in Example 1. 1. B (mm. A' (mm. 86-93). Albert Jakobik. when we try to explain the motivic significanceand tonal properties of each section. 1 to the D seventh in m. (2) It is not obvious how mm. 94-106). 263-67. 13) are neighbors to the root E (m. 37-54 serve both as a transition to the Db theme and as a development of the flute theme. have been reluctantto make functional ascriptionsof any sort. A Guide to Schenkerian Analysis (Englewood Cliffs. 1-30 adds a virtual tonic chord in parentheses and treats the opening Ct of the melody as a neighbor tone to the following B (m. the whole-tone chords (mm. Barraqueand Howat regard the work as an arch form: A (mm. Meyer. and is not confirmedby a closed progression until mm. and D (mm. Var. Var. 1. 1-30 center on E. 1992).7 (V7 of D# or V7 of V in Gt). Ex. 21-26. Var. Debussy and Twentieth-Century Music. Bb. Hepokoski likewise marks a tonic at the opening. 55-78.Dille. At first sight.
Other writers. John Crotty regardsmm. and 106. 4 (mm. Harmony. 55. 149-53. 1-30. 5 (mm. again in E. Structural Hearing. Opinions differ widely about the tonal function of these harmonies. 79-106 are better regarded as two segments (mm. the piece is clearly articulated at mm. 1-13
. Debussy oder der lautlose Revolution in der Musik (Wirzburg: Konrad Triltsch. Var. rev. A' development (mm. Leonard B. the tonic E
(1984): 56-57. 106-10). Few passages in the standardrepertory are more obscure than the opening of the Prelude. 13 is a notable exception). 455. 2. The famous flute theme is presented in mm. NJ: Prentice-Hall. propose that the tonic chord is implied from m. 11. 79-93 and 94-106) or as a single span. 30-54 relate to their surroundings. 1). the sinuous flute theme and its shimmering accompaniment seem quite removed from the familiar world of common-practicetonality. 51820. 1-30). 30-54). presumably with an elision to its normal resolution (V7 of D). Although Salzer marks very few roman numerals (the V-I progression at m. 7 (mm. and Wenk. 4-12) prepare the tonic. 30-37. 79-94. 106-10). 30-44. A contrastingtheme in the new key of Db is developed in mm. especially 36-38. Some. 55-78). The coda presents a simplified version of the flute theme. such as Felix Salzer and James Hepokoski. let us examine the four sections in depth. 1977). 37-54). 31-54). 94-106). Variation 1 (mm. 13. Crotty offers a two-partreading:A (mm. 11. Parks treats the Prelude as a variation form: Theme (mm. 94-99). Salzer's graph of mm. 94. 1989). 1-10). 23Berman. Var. 1. 79-93). 106-10). Debates arise. A' (mm. 2 (mm. Coda (mm. 6 (mm. Coda (mm. transition (mm. Music of Debussy. 30. 223-25. 8 (mm. 4th ed. 79-93).23Four problems stand out: (1) Although mm. Style and Music (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 148-70. Arthur Wenk. but it is unclear how the seventh chords on At. (4) It is hard to decide whether mm. and Goubault claim that the Prelude is best treated as a continuous ternary form: A (mm. B (mm. the precise layout of this passage is far from obvious. Walter Piston and Mark DeVoto. 55-78). 100-105). 55-78. Var. These suggest that the A# and Bb sevenths arise contrapuntally and link the virtual tonic of m. 11) and
DO (m. 11-20). 30-37) are particularlyhard to fathom from a tonal perspective. Roy Howat. 4 and 5. he adds two small arrows in mm. A development (mm. 55-78) establishes a new theme and key area. 1976). Parks. Measures 30-37 contain whole-tone diminutions of the flute theme. pp. 106-10). 240-43. vol.30 end in V of E). Coda (mm. and suggests that the opening flute arabesque expands the apparent "contradiction"between A#07 (VII of V in E) and B. and mm. 21-30). 57-61. 79-85) and Eb (mm. however.. 1-30 and 94-106 on Cf in E major (mm. while mm. however. Debussy in Proportion (Cambridge:Cambridge University Press. 224-25. 37. 13). Eventually E emerges as tonic in m. Claude Debussy and the Poets (Berkeley: University of California Press. David Neumeyer and Susan Tepping. 79-93 present sequential statements on E (mm. 30-54).
Whole-toneepisode ( (min.
(mm. -.. 1-30)
ri .... 31 -36)
_____ ______'-.________J--__. rt
._ _ __ _ __ _
_ __ __ __
A' ----~ -_-.o)
( ^A^ ^ i ^. Debussy. Prelude a "L'Apres-midi d'un faune": main formal divisions _--__
Music Theory Spectrum
25Wenk. 11-13. while 5-1 is embedded prominentlywithin the sixteenths that
descend to pc
7. Debussy and Twentieth-Century Music. etc. of they can only be derivedindirectlyeither from transformations other Stufen (for example. however. 156-57. 26Parks. meanwhile. IV of II. Tonal analysisof the Prelude. or from interpolations.
A.). and partly results of the anomalies inherent to Debussy's score. However. claiming that the passage reflects Debussy's shift away from functional harmony to "static" or "circular" successions. as Dave Headlam and I showed in our paper "Schenkerian Theory and the Limits of Tonality: The Problem of fIV" (Annual Meeting of the Society for MusicTheory. "Toward an Analytical Appreciation. The resulting progression VII7-V9 is very similar to those described by Schenker in
24Austin. 1-13.27 This progression is given in Example 2a. the passage is interpreted as a transformation of the progression VII7 of V-V9-I in E.
Lt." 84-85. 1990). Oakland. 56-61. presents an alternative Schenkerian analysis of mm. 4 is suspended over the D and B to form seventh and ninth chords in mm. Here."24Arthur Wenk takes a similar tack. and how the Ct in the upper voice in m. dispenses with tonal concepts altogether and asserts that the Prelude "opens with a complement relation: the flute melody's pcs form set 7-1.25RichardParks.d'un faune" Tonalityand Formin Debussy's Prelude a "L'Apres-midi Example2. D. --Nb
VII7 of V V9 I
27It might seem that this sonority might be more conveniently labeled lIV7. William Austin simply shows the bass motion A#-Bb-D-B-E. 1-13
as part of a double-tonic complex E-C# that Debussy worked out during the rest of the Prelude. Schenkeriantheory assumes that #IV Stufencannot be generated directlyfrom I in tonal contexts. III of III. and notes that although roman numerals could be added to some progressions.
VII 7 of V
V 9$-8 I
. Example 2b shows how the dominant is arpeggiated in the bass through its mixed third. the differences between these interpretations are partly matters of emphasis or context. VII of V.. instead. It is perhaps testimony to the work's ambiguitythat so many readingshave been advanced. "the effort to label every chord seems out of proportion with any resulting insight."26
A ii H. Music of Debussy. Example 2.
with a stepwise descent in the bass. especially par. . To complicate matters further. For example.
. 30-54. 76-78. 9 very slightly.28Example 2c then shows how the initial VII7 of V in m. the graphssuggest that the tonal function of the opening four bars is indeterminant. the chromatic inner lines found in Example 2c recur later in the Prelude. as Charles Burkharthas demonstrated. Ex. 1-13) actuallycuts across two distinctstatements of the flute theme in mm. and even controls the middleground of entire works such as the song "C'est l'extase" (Ariettes oubliees. 163-64. alto and tenor F complete a chain of parallel thirds extending from E parts Debussy's draft and two-piano reduction than in the finished score. 2). 31Forelaborate accounts of the complex motivic connections see Austin.Debussy. the oboe theme at m. Debussy veils our sense of tonality by manipulatingthe way in which melodic phrases intersect with their harmonic foundation. let us now turn to mm. 1-10 and 11-20. 88. 11 by a passing the Bb7. See also Matthew Brown. Derfreie Satz (Vienna: Universal. along with the expansion of the dominant Dt-B in m. such a change always occurs when the theme is harmonized. fig. Example 2d adds the overall motion--C B-AO -of the opening tune. 46-47 (see Ex. see WallaceBerry.31 Indeed. mm. Finally. Indeed. In m. mm. 1935). Exx. Fourth.'" 156.see Burkhart. 4). 1887). and 120ff. the goal of the opening phrase seems to be A# rather than B.this chromatic figure is embedded within the main flute theme (see Ex. 3a and 3b). and 5). Burkhart's
30Barraque. B seems to pass between C# and At. see "Musikaus dem Bannkreis.). Jean Barraque has rightly observed that this segment functions as some sort of development."Schenker's 32I have adaptedBurkhart's 'Motivic Parallelisms. In fact.29Third. ed. Ex."especiallypp. 30-37 offer a "double presentation of the principal theme harmonized by chords from the whole-tone scale". He suggests that it can be divided into three discrete phases: mm. mm. 3c). Second. 1979). the links between this section and its predecessor are reinforcedby the fact that the oboe theme appears with fragments of the main flute theme in mm. 3. 100-101). 37. 3d). See Heinrich Schenker.
(m. Ex. and with a series of nested repetitions of the chromaticfigure B(C. Longman. 1-2) implies that the harmonies probably change in these bars. The progression VII7 of V-V9-I (mm. 1. this gesture is derived from the pentatonic motive in m.
37-50 introduce "the second theme . 5b). More remarkably. 37 (Gtilke. and the Db theme (Giilke. 111 (fig.32 Significantly. translated by Ernst Oster under the title Free Composition(New York.134
Der freie Satz. The latter chord arisescontrapuntally. This chain is perhaps more obvious in
ogous chains of parallel thirds." Journal of Music Theory 30 (1986): 1-33. As we will see. 4 is joined to the VII chord in m. 1989).)-C-Ct1(Db) in the upper parts (see Ex. 1-3 are ambiguous. MusicalStructure a and Performance(New Haven: Yale University Press. 37-55 form a single span. 50-54 sustain "a pedal on the dominant of Dk. First. 3. and mm. the G (mm. although the oboe theme does not appear before m. both mm. the rather strikingprogression bVII-V is actually quite common in Debussy's early compositions. 4-13 can be derived by orthodox tonal transformations. 28 (see Exx."30When we look more closely at the wider tonal and motivic context of the passage. Peter Gilke has stressed the significanceof pentatonicfiguresboth to the opening flute theme (Gilke. 13)." 114ff. . 1llc shows how VII7 can occur with V9). 20-30 and 79-106 are bound together by anal28Schenkerdiscussed VII-V progressions in various places in Der freie Satz. Prelude. 246. Having discussed the opening of the Prelude. 29For differentanalysisof this song. 13. translated in Austin. "The Diatonic and the Chromaticin Schenker's Theory of Harmonic Relations. 144-216. and only in later statements do CKand AO serve as neighbors to B. "Towardan Analytical Appreciation. in the oboe" and
modulate towards the key of the middle section. its role is obscure. several other details seem significant. Example 2 clarifies several important issues. even when it raised to GO(mm. 4) to E (m.. from B (V of E) via Bb and A to Ab (V of Db.althoughthe pitch Ct is clearly emphasized. whereas mm.
. Prelude a "L'Apres-midi d'un faune. I ~! d .." mm..B#-Co
.. a__ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
I L_ N 1 IBBI
1 A 3
Af i -
b. b'4 *..
.. .:%. "t .
11--N .Tonality and Form in Debussy's Prelude a "L'Apres-midi d'un faune"
The inner parts mostly ascend by step: the viola part moves up from B through Cl (m. rather than two. C-D-E-Ft-Gt-Af however. retardationsof all kinds.Schenkerbelieved that when composers use exotic scales in tonal contexts. reverses. Schenker described such "delays" very beautifully in Der freie Satz:
In the art of music.and. rived from tonal transformations. 69. The notion that whole-tone harmonies stem from altered dominantsis. 20 (Vienna: Universal. 36Schenker.. disappointments. Therein lies the source of all artisticdelaying. Carterunder the title Theory of Harmony (Berkeley. 28."35Besides providing a tonal derivationfor mm.from complex passing motions in the inner voices. 1. and involves great distances. 5. F.
35HeinrichSchenker. p.On the contrary. Prelude a "L'Apres-midi d'un faune. one that has been advancedby many writers.chap. 31-33) to D and E (mm. detours. 1978). chap.
.. "Harmony. 34-36). The bass part simply shifts from G (mm. expansions. A."reprintedin The Forms of Music (Cleveland: World Publishing Co. See also Donald FrancisTovey. for example. Example 4 also implies that this passage does not advance the tonal flow of the Prelude. from Schoenbergto Tovey. The upper line is created by a motion from the inner voice: the Ft in the alto part (m. and C to Cf (m.Der freie Satz. separate spans. and trans. rather. but. 1965). 30-37. in short. University of California Press. Example 4 shows that mm. translatedby John Rothgeb and Jurgen Thym under the title Counterpoint (New York: Schirmer. 1922). Kontrapunkt. 30-37 arise contrapuntally. 37-54 to mm. 34-36). 157. and bassoon parts move up from Ct through D and Dft (mm. The final sonority at the end of m. interpolations.vol. 30-39
? ?4 9 b
(Vb5 of V)
the basic tenets of Schenkeriantheory. the cello. 44. to use [the] major-minor system to express the foreign element. 37).. 1911. 37).36
33Ibid. motion toward the goal encounters obstacles. 3d ed.. on the contrary. 30) ascends by step through G. 390-98. 34-36) back to B (m. 1 (Stuttgart: Cotta. B .136
readingnot only connects mm. Oster ed. it acts as an aside or parenthesisthat delays the modulation to Db. from which the creative mind can derive content that is ever new. the second violin part moves up from F through G (mm."33 how the passage is built from the two whole-tone setsIt would be and Ct-Dt-F-G-A-B. 1-30. 36 (F#-A#-Et-C~) functions as an altered secondary dominant (V 7 of V). 34-36). Arnold Schoenberg. 34See. As becomes clear near the beginningof volume 1 of Kontrapunkt. but it also shows how the transition functions as one. and F# (mm. they are a good deal more orthodox than mm. to conclude that this passage cannot be dewrong. bass. While mm. 31-33) to E. 31-33) Gt and A# (mm. 1910). 1987). that resolves to V9 of E.34It is also consistent with
Example 4. 18. Burkhartis surely correct to state that the latter contains "the work's most radical His analysis shows departure from traditional procedure. 30-37. section 3. as in life. of course. Harmonielehre. 37-54 are certainly unusual. 32-33) via Bb (mm. translatedby Roy E. they do so "not to loosen [the] system in order to incorporate a foreign one." mm.
39 (Ex. The short codetta (mm. 61-62 (Ex. "ClaudeDebussy: Contrapuntiste MalgreLui." 75-78. and the Db theme.ed. as nature requires. Austin. meanwhile. Schenker.d'un faune" Tonalityand Formin Debussy's Prelude a "L'Apres-midi
In the case of the Prelude. where the syncopated and flowing motives both return in counterpoint with the main flute theme (Ex. however. 5c) and becomes the progenitor of the oboe theme at m. Debussy on Music. who still have not grasped the fact that as long as the fifth determines the natural sonority-and that will always be so-a voiceleading technique based on the fifth. First. 94). We have already seen how the thematic
38Lesure. it is combined with the opening flute motive (Ex. of course. the latter appearswith the flowing motive beginning in m. 94-99. Debussy on Music. In the Prelude. 37. All attempts to deprive nature of her rights will shatter against the wall of her resistance" (Oster. 74-78) then combines the syncopated motive in counterpointwith the B theme and flowingmotive (Ex. find to a less cluttered kindof music. Example 5 highlights three essential features of thematic working in Debussy's music. 5a). 5e). it is worth examining them closely.
. 20.see Peter DeLone. For example."39 Before leaving the B section. and trans. 11). and 278. 241. (New York: Norton. in an essay for SIM (1 November 1913) he declared:
37Austin. 5d).our spirit. 5g). 4. and because Schenker traced the downfall of music in the twentieth century to a "decline of counterpoint. it helps to erode the boundaries and autonomy of each section. especially at critical moments in the form. identifies two other gestures. it often includes very intricate motivic relationships. So far. 5 and 13. 297. Musicin the Twentieth Century. and WilliamAustin. Almost immediately. Since this process cuts across the main formal divisions of the Prelude. Debussy himself discussed the significanceof counterpointin his music. 28 (Ex.And let us be careful thatwe do not stifle all feeling underneath mass of superimposed a designsand motives:how can we hope to preserve finesse. 1966). p. 5f). motives that initially seem innocuous may end up playing a vital role later. This is the fault of the musicians. ed.. we have seen that the Prelude is built from two main motives-the opening flute arabesque plus its derivatives. see Lesure and Smith.if we our insiston beingpreoccupied so manydetailsof composition? with We areattempting impossible the whenwe tryto organize braying a pack of tinythemes. is first heard in m. especially p. par. the flowing and syncopated motives are both absorbed into the B theme: the former appearsas a continuation of the B theme in mm. to which he refers as the syncopated and flowing motives. Third. This point is doubly ironic because Debussy is often portrayed as the archenemy of polyphony. made frequent attacks on music. 67 (Ex. such as the following in Derfreie Satz: "The present twentieth-century decline of counterpointhas brought about the decline of diatony. in Debussy's music. 5b)." CollegeMusic Symposium 17 (1977): 48-63.all pushing jostlingeach otherfor a bite out of and old sentiment. Example 5 traces the life history of both ideas."Toward an Analytical Appreciation. The flowing motive.38 poor Second.
Let us purify music!Let us tryto relieveit of its congestion. the densest textures occur at the climax (beginning in m. This fact apparentlycontradicts Debussy's frequent claims to simplifying symphonic composition. Although the origins of the syncopated motive can be traced back to the horn parts in mm. MonsieurCroche. 94. this brief delay helps to evoke the mysterious. we must briefly consider its harmonic structure. dreamlike atmosphere that permeates Mallarme's eclogue. this gesture first becomes prominent in m.. 39Forpublisheddiscussionsof Debussy's contrapuntalpractices. 84. In the Db section. Lesure and Smith. cannot lead to any diatony other than the diatony which our art has exhibited up to the present day.37Since these ideas play a vital role in the subsequent unfolding of the piece and help to clarify the formal function of the B section. Debussy's music is often extremely complex polyphonically. This example of presenting themes simultaneouslyor in close succession-what we might term "motivic compression"sets up the climax of the Prdlude in mm.
-j n0"g n -J gem -'ig
| I I ?[ f\
Syncopated motive B theme
Flowing motive Flowing motive
F rFr vi fr.
Syncopated motive Flute theme
"c )11 'c*1_-
F. Motivic compression in the Prelude
^~(g)D-~ __a* -I e'r
A -\ ro 'i
. rm _:^Trr
I rr r.
B theme __ )
(6 7)I A
Flowing motive I.138
Example 5. I
is more complex (see Ex. 6a). The firststatement. Here. These measures present a diatonic descent throughthe D octave in the upper part that is supported by the simple progression I-IV-II-V-I. Example 6 shows that this change coincides with a remarkableshift in the theme's harmonic support." mm. j
J A . 6b).
t) bbbb P 6*^k
b 6 . Prelude a "L'Apres-midi d'un faune. however.l. 6 I
IV VII 1Iof
content changes between the first and the second statements of the Db theme. To understand this transformation it is best to begin with the
second statement (see Ex.< "bL
'b.d'un faune" Tonalityand Formin Debussy's Prelude a "L'Apres-midi
The soprano C# in m. foreshadows the chromatic excursions found in Debussy's later works.the scherzandocharacterof the flute theme (mm. 20-30. Prelude. translated in Austin. 29-30 and 103-6 are connected motivically. 1904-5).. violin 2). Example 7b also indicates that the final section is built from the same tonal transformationsas mm. 23). Here the upper line moves from I via
thirds finally shift up to meet the upper line for the cadence. Although the flute theme is transposed to E in m. 94-106 restore the main theme to Ct for the start of the final section proper. mm. such as the piece "Reflets dans l'eau" (Images. 96) before
and t 3i to v and }. No one would deny that the tonic 6 returns in m. G (m. it provides a subtle reminiscence of the B section. A (m. arises as an expansion of the chromaticmotive B-B -C that is projected from m. 79-106. with its mixed subdominant. this reading is less convincing.
We now come to the final sections of the Prelude. long-range connections that invariablybind Debussy's music together. 164. but is an ingenious composing-out of a small segment." 231. Debussy. This line then descends to E (m. Instead. LaurenceBerman.
42Meyer. it is not restored to the original startingpitch COuntil m. 94. 25). experts disagree about the formalfunction of mm. 79-93) recalls the whole-tone variations (mm. 79-106 into two spans.42The significance of this reading is twofold. G (m. we find an E13identical to the one in m. "Debussy's Summer Rites.there are good reasons for dividing mm. 20-30. 86). Denis Dille. mm. Style and Music. then. Tonally. ed. can we explain their presence in m. Berman. such as Barraque and Howat. 79-93 develop the flute theme sequentiallyon E and Eb.Bb -Ab-Gb-Fb -Elb-C-Db. 41Dille's view is summarized by Austin in "Toward an Analytical Appreciation. 26. the supportingprogression. mm. Furthermore. 26).I
less do they initiate the final section of a piece. marked x and y in Example 7c.41 Whichreadingshould we prefer?Certainly. It suggests that the final A' section is not a simple repetition of the opening section. and D (m. 94. then.40 Conversely. As Leonard B. Notice how the augmentedsixth chord resolves traditionally:D moves down by step in the bass. flat submediant. 30-37). it no longer supports a simple tonic triad. 149. As with mm. 104. 79. 79106. 96. still
40Barraqu6. Book I. Meyer has noted. 94 are part of a long chain of chromatic parallel thirds that
passes from G#(m. 20) via B (m. 94. 22). As mentioned earlier. both contain the same motives. the cadences in mm. This allusion to the B section unifies the Prelude and demonstrates the complex. 94? Example 7a suggeststhat these dissonancesarise from contrapuntal lines that start in m. however. How. Some. 94).which is even locally tonicized beginning in m. 25) to F (m. 83). Debussy in Proportion. 79) via EC(m. Furthermore. since this passage conflates the main flute theme with the syncopated and flowing motives and inflects COas a local tonic. in m.
shifting direction to join the upper line in m. 104. argue that these measures are built from two distinct spans: mm. 79. 88. The inner parts F. In mm. meanwhile. Tonally. 79. 79. the upper line also expands the motive B-Bt-C# while the inner parts contain a chain of chromatic thirds extending from G (m. while the tritone Ft-C in the upper voice resolves inwards to F and Db (horns 2 and 4. 79-106. Gd (m. 20-30. Besides demonstrating the overall integrity of mm. eventually slides down through Ct and Bb to meet the inner thirds at m. and augmented-sixthsonorities. F 90) to (m. and others suggest that these bars constitute a single span analogous to that of the opening A section." 74.
. but when the bass tone E returns at m. 223-25. Dissonances of this sort do not normally appear at the start of a span.140
the octave descent is transformed chromatically: Db-Cb. The CO. Howat. As shown in Example 6c.
regardedas a continuous ternaryform-A (mm.1
d'un faune" Tonalityand Formin Debussy's Prelude a "L'Apres-midi
Example 7. by developing the syncopated and triplet figures across the formal boundaries. enshrined in texts so hard and laborious to decipher as to discouragethe herd of people who treat it as casually as they do a handkerchief! I'd go further and. especially when judged against the standardsof nineteenthcentury tonal theory. by adding a parentheticalwhole-tone episode (mm. 20-30).--\ L
V6 !2 VV-6
. However. et en outre. they do not represent a complete repudiation of tonal paradigms. 79-106) on part of the opening section (mm. instead of spreadingmusic among the populace.."43
. 3 2 1
79-106 constitute a single unit. they do not subdivide conveniently into two separate tonal spans. au lieu de chercher a repandre Fart dans le public. B (mm.2
43"Vraiment musiqueauraitdfi tre une science herm6tique.c
YI. Perhaps we should view the rather elaborate explanations presented above as signs of Debussy's cultural elitism and his love of the esoteric-concerns that he described in a famous letter to Ernest Chausson (3 September 1893):
Music really ought to have been a hermetical science..1
4.ttIa. What is so remarkable about the Prelude is that Debussy managed to combine these techniques so boldly over such a large span.~ . Debussy's Prelude a "L'Apres-midi d'un faune" is best
. and coda (mm. 106-10). To sum up: When analyzed from a Schenkerianperspective.V. 1-30).. 30-36). . Although these features are unusual in themselves. 55-78). 1
1? I<h H. and by modeling the final A' section (mm. bound together by an elaborate contrapuntal framework.-.gard6epar la des textes d'une interpretationtellement longue et difficile qu'elle auraitcertainement d6courag6la tropeau de gens qui s'en servent avec la d6sinvolture que l'on met a se servir d'un mouchoir de poche! Or. I propose the foundation of a "Society of Musical Esotericism. transition (mm. Tonal models in the Prelude
4 A. 79-106). Helman n'en sera
. 37-54). A' (mm. je propose la fondation d'une "Societe d'Esotericisme Musical" et vous verrez que M. this scheme is obscuredin four ways: by starting with an incomplete progression VII7 of V-V9-I.
However. Although it is beyond the scope of this essay to trace Debussy's use of the four techniques enumerated above in all his subsequentorchestralworks. and he inserted a flashback to one of the main themes in the second movement near the beginning of the third (mm. de Monnieres non plus!" See Lesure. eds. the main theme returns and is combined contrapuntallywith other subordinate themes as well as with its own diminutions and augmentations. 127-28). but it actually ends somewhere else: the movement starts in Eb. 46See Wolfgang Domling. is an elaborate composing out of the contrapuntal frameworkof mm. 92). of Debussy's remaining eleven orchestral movements. A particularly fine example appears at the climax of "Jeux de vagues" (La Mer. the second half of "De l'aube a midi sur la mer" (La Mer. More remarkably. In two long sections (mm. ni M.
.44The latter." We can also find parentheticalepisodes and interpolations in Debussy's later orchestral scores. "Les parfums de la nuit" and "Le matin d'un jour de fete" (Iberia.142
As it happens. ed.second movement) is a giant interpolation: mm.45
Several interesting instances of motivic compression also occur in La Merand the orchestralImages. Claude Debussy: La Mer (Munich: Wilhelm Finck Verlag.." Lastly. 116-73 are actually inserted within an ascending line that spans from m.46In mm. via Gb to Ab. Letters. all but one-"Par les rues et les chemins" (Iberia. 12 and 13) in Debussy and the Theater(Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress. including another folk tune "Do. a few examples are in order. To begin with.
Prelude Debussy actually inserted the main theme from "Le matin d'un jour de fete"! On a largerscale. see my forthcomingbook Debussy: 'Iberia'(Oxford: Oxford University Press). 43-56). Perhaps the most obvious examples occur in the transition between the final movements of Iberia. The former is a classic example of an auxiliary-cadence piece: the bulk of the movement prolongs the dominant of Ft with the tonic finally occurring near the end (m. meanwhile. the insert recalls material from another work by Debussy: at the climax of the fanfare section. Significantly. this letter dates from the time when Debussy was finishing work on the Prelude. As in Iberia. 31-84: both move from Db via BI to Ab and back. 163-218. second and third movements) are more complex. he modeled the final section (mm. This letter is normally connected with Debussy's interest in the occult. not only begins away from the tonic. 170-73) of "Fetes" with Rodrigue's theme. 80-93) on the last segment of the opening A section (mm. Lettres. transcribedby Orledge (Exx.. firstmovement). the entire fanfare section from the middle of "Fetes" (Nocturnes. he inserted two repetitions of a horn motive from mm. we hear Rodrigue's leitmotiv from Debussy's aborted "Wagnerian" opera Rodrigue et Chimene (1890-92). second movement). 52. moves to C. In "Nuages" (Nocturnes. 87-118 and 138-205). 31. first movement). Here Debussy added a subordinate theme from "Le matin d'un jour de fete" near the end of "Les parfums de la nuit" (mm. Lesure and Nichols. In recomposing the earlier material. Similar experiments in tonal mod45Comparethe chromatic motive and Tristan chords (mm. Debussy relied on tonal modeling in several later symphonicscores. and closes in G with material from the middle section of "Par les rues et les chemins. 1982). 44Formore details of this and the following analytical observations. 208. and with other themes. 23-24 and 27-28. first movement)-begin with some sort of incomplete progression. The same phenomenon can be seen in "Rondes de printemps"(Images).51. Debussy develops the folk tune "Nous n'ironsplus au bois" contrapuntallywith itself. these works open with introductions that move to the tonic for the start of the main movement proper. 5-6).the latter has "interruption" connections with Debussy's piano Prelude "La s6ernade interrompue":in mm. do l'enfant do. 27 to m. 1976). 80-84 and 87-89 of the
pas. For the most part.
the final A section and the coda are built from roughly the same set of tonal transformations as the middleground of the entire movement. This essay considers this claim by examining the tonal and thematic frameworkof the Prelude a "L'Apres-midid'un faune. was always a dramatic composer. La Mer. "Tonality and the Whole-Tone Scale in the Music of Debussy. but rather in exploiting established techniques in bold and unusual ways. at his best. a language in which tonality still acts as a basic term. and tonal models-that allowed Debussy to move away from conventional symphonicmodels. what brings tension and dynamism to the music." The Music Review 36 (1975): 271. Indeed. Debussy's harmony functions precisely in the sense that it
gives meaning.d'un faune" Tonalityand Form in Debussy's Prelude a "L'Apres-midi
eling can also be found in "Par les rues et les chemins".47 Even if Debussy was unable to ignore common-practice tonality altogether. it seems that Debussy's path away from traditional composition was gradual." ABSTRACT Debussy is often credited with revolutionizingmusical form by rejecting nineteenth-centurytonal and formalpractice. he did create a remarkable body of symphonic music that was indeed fit for "the century of aeroplanes. His genius was perhaps not so much in creating entirely new principles of harmony and form. In many ways." Although this analysis shows that the Prelude can be explained by traditional tonal procedures.
. The paper ends by showing how he developed these techniques in later orchestralworks such as the Nocturnes. As a language it can best be described as "expandedtonality". To what extent. to this relationship. most of the techniques used in the Prelude have clear precedents in nineteenth-century tonal practice. did Debussy manage to move away from nineteenth-century tonal and formal conventions? From the preceding discussion. giving perspective to all other harmonic activity. is the skilfully balanced relationship between chromaticism and diatonibut cism. it identifies four techniques-incomplete progressions. and movement.parenthetical episodes. then. and Iberia. both of which may show modal characteristics which never lose sight of the triadicconstructionsand progressionsof earliertonal music. at least as explained by Schenkerian theory. here.
47ArnoldWhittall. this essay confirms the conclusions of Arnold Whittall: Debussy. motivic compression. What is dramatized. This suggests that Debussy was not the iconoclast that Boulez and others believe.