Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Practice--Deep Listening Prelude to the Afternoon of the Faun

Photo by Patricia Herlevi, All Rights Reserved
When I was 18 years old, I returned to my parent's house for college spring break and I shuffled through my mother's classical records. I found a recording of Claude Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of the Faun. The title intrigued me so I listened to the composition. I immediately fell into a trance.

Musical trances weren't new to me at that time as I had fallen under musical trances as a child numerous times. But I found myself swooning to Claude Debussy's impressionistic music. I followed the different instruments as they rose and descended then hid behind other instruments such as harps, French horns, oboes, and flutes.

Then, years later, I felt a craving for French Impressionist music. I bought recordings of Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy. And again, I swooned when I heard Debussy's prelude. I spent a summer exploring French Impressionist recordings in my music lab that I created in my Seattle apartment. These songs launched my concept of keeping a musical diary and tracking emotional, mental, and physical responses that I experienced when exposed to certain types of music.

So, now, I'm passing on this concept to you. Get out your music diary and track your responses to Claude Debussy's controversial composition. I'm including a YouTube video of the piece. While this video has imagery, I ask you to close your eyes and listen to the rise and fall of the instruments. Then later, you can watch the video and listen to the music.

Answer the following questions in your music diary:

  • What instruments appear in the orchestra?
  • Which instruments are prominent or tend to take the lead?
  • Do you hear more upward or downward scales or are they equal?
  • What is your mood when the instruments move up the scale?
  • What is your mood when the instruments move down the scale?
  • Do you feel resolution at the end of each phrase or anticipation?
  • Do you feel relaxed listening to the piece or slightly anxious?
  • How does the tempo affect you?
  • How does the timbre of the instruments color your emotions and physical sensations?
  • Do you feel that the piece resolves itself at the end or does it leave you hanging?
Next, I want you to research the composer, the historic period in which Debussy composed the prelude. And how this piece of music fits in with the context of classical music. Was this softer piece of music considered radical and a game-changer? (This is for extra credit).

Please leave comments below for your experiences. Thank you for sharing your personal journey with music. If you haven't already please follow this blog. And subscribe to the YouTube channel Whole Music Experience. You can also support this work by making a donation to my Go Fund Me campaign.

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