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(year 1875 to 1925)
Impressionism is a late 19th century and
early 20th century artistic movement
that began as a loose association of
Paris-based painters whose independent
exhibitions brought them to prominence in the
1870s and 1880s.
The name of the Impressionist movement is
derived from the title of an
1872 painting of Claude Monet,
Impression, Sunrise.
Impression, Sunrise (1872)
Claude Monet
As with most artistic movements,
the Impressionist movement in music was a
reaction to the previous era of music, namely
the Romantic era, in which the music of many
composers is heavy and overly dramatic
by comparison.
Characteristics of Impressionist Music
Music conveys atmosphere and subtle emotion in contrast to the strong
emotions expressed in music of the Romantic period
A departure from traditional major/minor harmonies to include the use of
whole tone and pentatonic scales, advanced chromatic harmony, and
Planinga series of parallel harmonies (all voices of a chord move in identical motion)
Tertian harmonies (based on thirds) extended past the triad and 7th
A departure from traditional musical forms, such as the symphony,
concerto and sonata, in favor of shorter musical forms, such as the
prelude, nocturne and the song
Great emphasis on orchestration as a form of art in itself
Activity: Comparative
Impressionist Styles
Debussy Ravel
Claude Debussy
Born in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France
Mother fled with him to Cannes to escape the Franco-Prussian war
While in Cannes, he began piano lessons
Entered the Paris Conservatoire at age 10
Studied with prominent teachers of the era
Often challenged the teaching of the Conservatoire
Received support from a few patrons
Won a scholarship to the Acadmie des Beaux-Arts for his composition, LEnfant Prodigue
Engaged in several turbulent relationships with several women
Had a daughter, Claude-Emma, whom he called Chouchou
Disliked the term Impressionism to describe his music: "I am trying to do 'something different'an
effect of reality ... what the imbeciles call 'impressionism', a term which is as poorly used as possible,
particularly by the critics, since they do not hesitate to apply it to Turner, the finest creator of
mysterious effects in all the world of art."
Works by Debussy
La Mer:
Clair de
Maurice Ravel
Born in Ciboure, France (near the Spanish border)
Was influenced by the Basque-Spanish folk songs his mother sang to him as a child
Began piano lessons at age 6
Studied at the Conservatoire de Paris
Won first prize in a student piano competition
Was expelled in 1895 (for failing to earn a competitive medal), but readmitted in
Switched his major to composition, but was expelled again for failing to win a prize
for his compositions
Known for being meticulous in appearance, with a reserved personality
Loved Jazzits influence is found in some of his work
Heard Jazz in Harlem with Gershwin and in New Orleans
Works by Ravel
Jeux dEau:
Trois Beaux Oiseaux du Paradis from Trois Chansons: