Debussy Prelude à L’apres-midi d’un faune (1894)

Compilation of class notes, notes from the Edexcel book and the online Edexcel teaching support material.

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  • Created on: 02-03-13 16:34
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02/03/2013 E. Singh
Debussy (1862-1918): Prelude à L'apres-midi d'un faune (1894)
A type of orchestral music called a tone poem ­ work where the music evokes the poem by Stéphane Mellarmé. Fluidity and
harmonies mainly help to convey the poem's story
Orchestration - full orchestra Melody - more a sense of rhythmic and melodic Harmony - mostly used in a non-functional
variety that motif development manner to create colour
Unusual addition of tuned antique Opening flute solo represents the Bringing colour: b19-21 has an
cymbals Faun's panpipes. unusual shift from a C#7 chord to
String techniques The descent outlines a tritone an E6 chord (this sort of move is
Strings use mutes for extended initially. Expands to 8ve at b3 - not uncommon)
periods here could be described as a minor Much use of 7th chords e.g. B flat 7
All string parts apart from Double pentatonic on C# b5
Bass are frequently divided Melody repeated with tremolo Use of chord extensions
Tremolo is used in strings strings b11-14 Non-resolving V7 chords e.g. b5.
Sur la touche (bowing over the Opening melody is developed to The B flat 7 chord 'should' resolve
fingerboard) is specified to create a b21-23 in the following ways: to E flat major but this dominant
gentler string timbre (eg. Bar 85) elongated first note, opening bar function is not recognised because
Pizzicato and Arco techniques are not repeated, second bar more of a following C#m chord
used, sometimes in rapid rhythmically varied leading to Clarinet and flute parts rise and
succession (eg. Bars25-26) transposed version of theme a fall through whole-tone scales at
Harp glissandi create shimmering major 3rd lower (now outlining a b33-34
effects perfect 4th interval) Interesting use of parallel chords
Harmonics are used on the harp Phrase ended with a fast melody (B7 - D#7 - C#7) at b37
(eg. Bars 108-109) version of the first bar at b26-27 Pedals e.g. b94-99
Wind techniques Melody is slowed b79-82 and b86-89 Half diminished 7th chords e.g. b4
Woodwind are often given Debussy further conveys the
independent solo lines which focus drowsy faun through fluid
on their individual timbres rhythms, pitches lacking a sense of
(isolated flute/oboe/clarinet) tonality (going between tritones on
The clarinet part requires both C# to G natural) and inconclusively
ones in A and in Bb (although this ending the theme on A sharp
is as much about practicality as

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E. Singh
B93 Horn 1 is instructed to play a
note bouché (stopped) to create a
particular tone colour.
Horns are also muted (sourdines)
Texture Tonality ­ a hazy concept! Rhythm and metre
Various types of melody dominated Keys are present but not defined Aurally it is difficult in this piece,
homophony traditionally to discern either pulse or metre
Opening flute solo is monophonic Opening chromatic melody Metre
Doubling of instruments is outlining a triton is disorientating. The opening metre is Compound
common (incl.…read more

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E. Singh
31-36 Transition T.…read more


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