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
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 this video Machover explains how he is seeking to use information technology to form a unique interface with the performers of his recent opera Death of the Powers.