Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
is to music what Claude Monet is to painting. Debussy lifts the painting sensibility
from the canvas and transforms it into musical sound. Obscured rhythms are
not unlike the blurred outlines in a Monet landscape, or a splash of orchestral
"color" not unlike a scumbling of color on a canvas capturing a
bead of light. Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun was based on a poem
by Mallarme by the same title. A faun's erotic dream is captured by Debussy's
lush harmonies and rich timbres.
Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun
(1882-1971) provided a rude awakening to the early
twentieth century: Romanticism was dead. With the performance of his revolutionary
ballet The Rite of Spring the last vestige of Romanticism was swept
aside and a new primitive Expressionism was born. Relentlessly pounding irregular
meters, polytonal ostinatos, and breathtaking dissonances are but a few of
the innovations Stravinsky introduced the musical world to at the century's
opening. The Rite of Spring dances the story of a primitive fertility
sacrifice to the gods. Though its premier would touch off a near riot due
to its unconventional style, it would be mild compared to what later composers
would "subject" their audiences to.
The Rite of Spring
Dance of the Adolescents
Tod Machover (b. 1952) is a
typical modern composer seeking to use the newest technology to form a wholly
new musical sensibility. Staff paper and pen have been replaced with the computerized
synthesizer and programming interface. In Bug-Mudra Machover uses an
electronic glove ("Hand Master") to interact with the software.
Movements of the hand cause a glitch in the program allowing him to create
on the fly.