Now Playing #30

The original published score of Debussy’s La mer featured a well chosen detail from Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa. Though I don’t know it for a fact it doesn’t seem unlikely that Debussy shared the era’s fascination with Japanese art, and that it informed his musical aesthetic. That he was influenced by Far Eastern music, specifically Javanese gamelan, is well known. That musical impetus eventually returned to the East, where the great Japanese composer Tōru Takemitsu was profoundly influenced by Debussy’s work. Takemitsu’s composition for two pianos and orchestra Quotation of Dream deploys quotations from La mer, while  Takemitsu described the work as analogous to the traditional Japanese garden whereby views of the landscape beyond through careful framing are included in the garden’s composition. One can imagine Takemitsu’s work as a microcosmic garden embedded in Debussy’s broader musical landscape, a novel and highly imaginative formal conception in music. If only one could know what Debussy would have made of it…


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