Debussy’s “Études”

by richibi

 Man with a Guitar - Georges Braque
                    Man with a Guitar (1914)
                               Georges Braque 
while we’re on the subject of études, listening to 
hundred years later, 1830s to 1915, would prove
instructive, I deemed 
picture me deeming, August 3, 2012, my brow
just slightly pensively constricting 
if the basis of music as defined by the Classical
period depended on beat, tonality, and the repetition
of the tune, usually of both musical statements, these
apparently essential components of course would be
the first places to bear the scrutiny of probing musical
minds, seeking to find, seeking to set more expansive,
more profound dimensions to the areas of their quest,
that’s what artists do 
and this of course is exactly what happened starting
with Beethoven, by the time of Chopin music had
relaxed its stricter Classical rhythmic precision,
allowing great expansive gestures in the more
malleable tempi, tempos, producing the effect of
more compassion and soulful examination than
the earlier less indulgent, more disciplined code
the fact of having musical tapestries, sound patches,
take the place of melody, narrative, in the musical
presentation of Chopin also suggests a more
diversified, dare I say prismatic, telling, than the 
linear account of for instance Mozart‘s solitary
tuneful wanderer
it also evokes incidentally the vagaries of the
inconstant heart rather than its unflinching
condemnation, a repudiation of atavistic
Christian ecclesiastical intolerance 
by the time the old order was about to be extinguished,
in 1915, at the onset of the First World War, Debussy’s
Études, like Chopin 12 of them per set, had seen
social injustice – see Charles Dickens, see Émile Zola,
see Karl Marx – the improbable discoveries of science –
Darwin, Freud, Einstein – the car, the airplane,
photography were changing everything, the old
paradigms no longer applied, were irrelevant, even
harmful, in this new context, the First World War 
would prove all that 
in the language of music, tempo, melody, repetition
would be inevitably subverted
Debussy produces erratic tempi, foregoes melody for
harmonic exploration, combining incidentally the
musical patches of Chopin with the intellectually
driven investigations of Beethoven for a more
cerebral understanding of music, a music for the
head, with expert displays of pianistic skill, indeed
prestidigitation, for, along with the intellectual
rigour, spectacle  
is this then still music 
is Post-Impressionist painting still art  
what would 1915 have said
above is Georges Braque‘s nearly contemporary, 1914,  
man with a guitar, who’d a thunk it