On This Day: Debussy and His Rêveries

 Claude Debussy was born on August 22, 1862 in a western suburb of Paris, Saint-Germain-en-Laye. A musical prodigy, Debussy was inspired by the art and literature of his time to create emotional and inspirational compositions that are still studied and enjoyed by musicians today.  

Claude Debussy started to show promise on the piano at the young age of nine. He was enrolled in the Paris Conservatory to study piano and composition. Debussy loved art, music, and poetry and was inspired by them in his works. He drew inspiration from Richard Wagner, Dante Rosetti, Edgar Allen Poe, Claude Monet, Paul Verlaine, and Arthur Rimbaud. Much like the Impressionists and the Symbolists, Debussy’s music rejected traditional modes of composition and uses of instruments. In doing so, Debussy penned iconic works of music such as “Clair de lune,” “La fille aux cheveux de lin,” “La mer,” “Rêverie,” and “Pelléas et Mélisande.”  

In 1910, Debussy was interviewed by a New York Times reporter. In their conversation, Debussy asserted, “. . . there will always be an enormous breach between the soul of the man as he is and the soul he puts into his work. A man portrays himself in his work, it is true, but only part of himself. In real life, I cannot live up to the ideals I have in music . . . Everything about [art] is an illusion . . . it neither represents the man who produced it, nor life as it is. Art is a most wonderfully beautiful lie, but it is a lie.” The writer ended the piece by saying, “The interviewer looked at M. Debussy and had great difficulty in not shouting, ‘But M. Debussy, you are the absolute contradiction of what you have been saying!’ For as M. Debussy said that the artist and his work were entirely separated, he spoke with such warmth, he was so carried away, that one felt how the work of the French composer is exactly a reproduction of his soul—a sensitive, delicate soul, yet determined and firm. And at that moment, Debussy the man and Debussy the composer, were but one being.”   Learn more here:

  1. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Claude-Debussy/Evolution-of-his-work
  2. https://www.claudedebussy.org/2022/06/claude-debussy-biography.html
  3. https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1910/06/26/104941892.html?pageNumber=21