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Claude Debussy is the most important French composer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was a revolutionary who created a school of music called Impressionism. The shimmering tonalities in his music, with their vague, blurred outlines, are a counterpart to the goals of the arts in Paris at the turn of the 20th century. They evoke the mysterious, dreamlike world of the unconscious, the luminosity and suggested shapes of fantasy. Debussy said, “Music has this over painting: it can bring together all manner of variations of color and light – a point not often observed though it is quite obvious.” The facts about his life and academic training cannot by themselves explain how Debussy developed his musical language. There were many influences, both musical and non-musical. Some of them are so profound that their effects are clearly noticeable. Paintings by the French Impressionist painters were one of them. There is no doubt that Debussy was strongly drawn to visual imagination: "J'aime les images presque autant que la musique" (I love the images almost as much as the music) as he wrote to Edgard Varèse in 1911.

This presentation discusses the relation of music and visual art. It will examine the source of Debussy’s musical inspiration in art works and show how those inspirations were expressed on his piano music. Audience will undoubtedly benefit from learning about these thought-provoking findings, which they should be able to apply towards their own performances of Debussy’s works.

Key words:

Debussy, piano performance, piano pedagogy, impressionism, French music


This is a metadata-only record.



  • Subject
    • Visual Arts

  • Institution
    • Gainesville

  • Event location
    • Robinson Ballroom B

  • Event date
    • 1 April 2015

  • Date submitted

    18 July 2022