Music History Wednesday : Debussy, Les Estampes No.1 Pagodes

I found an interesting read recently on musical influences in the colonial times. To read the complete essay, you may access it here. In the upcoming Music History Wednesday I will post music compositions which are mentioned in the essay.

From the essay : “Solo’s gamelan is certainly different from Sundanese gamelan such as Sari Oneng. The instruments are different, requiring different kinds of tuning and the Solo’s ensembles have more instruments distinguishable by their very different repertoires. Debussy was, however convinced of his own musical language after listening to Sari Oneng and his compositions matured by incorporating these impressionistic influences, which are clearly audible in his work Les Estampes No.1 Pagodes. In this composition for piano solo, published in 1903, Debussy’s accords are floating and never resolve. He achieves this by employing a pentatonic scale, which happens to be the scale of gamelan.”


More on Estampes you can read here:

From Wikipedia : “Pagodes evokes images of Asia. It makes extensive use of pentatonic scales and mimics Chinese and Japanese traditional melodies while also incorporating hints of Javanese Gamelan percussion.

As this is an Impressionistic work, the goal is not overt expressiveness but instead an emphasis on the wash of color presented by the texture of the work. Debussy marks in the text that Pagodes should be played “presque sans nuance,” or “almost without nuance.” This rigidity of rhythm helps to reduce the natural inclination of pianists to add rubato and excessive expression. Note that rigidity of rhythm within measures does not mean rigidity of tempo in the work; the tempo gradually fluxes quicker and slower throughout the piece, which is also common in gamelan compositions.”


2 thoughts on “Music History Wednesday : Debussy, Les Estampes No.1 Pagodes

  1. Pingback: Music History Wednesday : Debussy, Les Estampes No.1 Pagodes | Kurt Nemes' Classical Music Almanac

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