Tuesday, March 29, 2005

"Nuages" from Trois Nocturnes - Debussy

This piece is a part of a set of three pieces Debussy wrote for orchestra. "Nuages" means clouds, and Debussy portrays them by using a very soft texture - the orchestra doesn't play anything remotely harsh.

He also used parallel chords quite often in his music, and this piece is no exception. Therefore, I rarely felt like a cadence had been reached. My analysis may be incorrect, but one passage has this progression:

i VII i N VII vii(dim7)

This effect creates an undulating sound with little tension or relaxation, though the piece's minor mode does give it a somber feel overall. From the mood, I'd guess Debussy must have had gray, dreary clouds in mind when he wrote this piece. It sounds foreboding and very serious to me.

I read that the Debussy was influenced by a gamelan orchestra, and included a pentatonic melody in this piece as a result of that influence. If anything, it is a subtle reflection of gamelan at most. I've heard gamelan before, and a normal gamelan piece is very noisy and raucous - the instruments are all metallic and they're played with hammers. In "Nuages," the pentatonic melody is played softly by flute and harp.


Ben said...

I was interested in where you saw the i VII i N VII vii(dim7) progession. But I couldnt find it in the piece so I must be missunderstanding what you mean by N..?

Also your right about the Gamelan, Debussy was heavily infuenced by it and used the pentatonic scale in many of his works.

Great work by the way.

Lindsey said...

N should probably mean root position Neapolitan (flat II, for example: in C major, N is Db. and is usually in second inversion and followed by a root position V).

Anonymous said...

N= Neopolitan chord