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Debussy and the Shift in Manner Around 1905: From Transcendental Individualism to Individualist Distanciation
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Culture and Aesthetics.
2017 (English)In: The 20th International Congress of the International Musicological Society, Tokyo 2017: Program and Abstracts, 2017, 246-246 p.Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In this paper I will argue for an interpretation of a shift in Debussy’s œuvre, from transcendental individualism to individualistic distanciation. The notion of a shift in style or manner, either manifested in La Mer 1905 or afterwards, was common in the contemporary reception. In one version, it is about the substitution of a classical manner for an impressionist one, though perhaps unified by a symbolist attitude common to both. In another version it is about a shift from profundity of a sort to superficiality. There are other interpretations as well. Subscribing to the thesis of a shift in attitude in Debussy’s œuvre, this paper questions the ways in which this shift has been understood. On the basis of analytical study of main works like Nocturnes, La Mer, Images for Orchestra and Préludes for piano book I, put in context and comparison with their critical reception as well as the broader musical landscape of France, this paper identifies two dominant strategies of Debussy. Before La Mer it is a question of transcendental individualism, i.e. a highly individualistic use of given genres for serious expression. After La Mer, it is a question of a more distanciated use of genre conventions and style markers. On the basis of “hidden program-me”-interpretations of these in the cases of Images and Préludes, it is suggested that Debussy’s reaction to the politicized and polemical musical life of France evoked by historians like Fulcher is not so much one of taking actual stand as one of irony and distance, perhaps even alienation. In that he is true to the feature of individualism normally imputed to his works, but sometimes with a qualification for a lack of inspiration in the later work (e.g. Images), a thesis in different ways exposed by biographers like Dietschy and Lesure.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017. 246-246 p.
National Category
Musicology
Research subject
Musicology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-141865OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-141865DiVA: diva2:1089538
Conference
The 20th International Congress of the International Musicological Society, Musicology: Theory and Practice, East and West,Tokyo, Japan, March 19-23, 2017 International Musicological Society
Available from: 2017-04-20 Created: 2017-04-20 Last updated: 2017-08-10Bibliographically approved

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