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Analysis of Debussy Trois Nocturnes Sirnes

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Analysis of Debussy Trois Nocturnes Sir�nes Charles Koechlin, in his book on Debussy, commented that "Sir�nes has a subtle charm, and an irresistible and fatal sensuality that emerges from the slow vocalises. If its construction appears a little uncertain - especially after the precision of F�tes - this uncertainness is surely intentional."1 The apparent "uncertainness" of construction that Koechlin wrote with regards to Sir�nes most probably arises from the absence of a clear tonality which matches Debussy's intentions. This is compensated by skilful organisation of phrase structure and orchestral texture. Harmony Typical of Debussy, this movement of Nocturnes has a sense of movement without direction and this can be illustrated clearly from bars 42 to 55. The lack of clear harmonic progression results in this extract's ambiguous tonality. In bars 41 to 42, the parallel chords moving in cycle of fifths (D - A - E - B) beginning on D at bar 38 (see fig. 1) are replaced by a III - I progression establishing the tonic of B as shown in fig. 2. The III - I progression is a harmonic progression is not typical of the common-practice era and this cadential arrival is largely implied as a Debussy tries to blur the harmonic progression by adding non-chord tones such as F# and D to the E major chord. ...read more.


From bar 42 to 47, the mezzo sopranos, which are standing out from the rests, has melody lines which are created by sustained use of seconds can be seen in fig. 5. The mezzo sopranos here oscillate between C# and B at bar 42 and rises to F# stepwise at the end of bar 43. From bar 45, mezzo sopranos' only two notes are G and A. All these are in intervals of seconds so as to avoid a clear tonality by not using thirds. The strings section also lacks thirds. Instead, they have octaves and seconds as double stops in their parts. The double bass in the whole of bar 42 plays F# octaves and the lower cello part has notes F# and G# played together as a major ninth interval as seen in fig. 6. The fourths exist as intervals both across the string sections and within an instrument part. When the 1st violins' notes (F#, B, D# and G#) and 2nd violins' notes (D#, F# and B) are merged to form a chord as fig. 6, one can see that it basically comprises two fourths intervals, namely, F# - B and D# - G#. The higher part of the viola section also plays the notes D# and G# (again a fourth apart). These harmonic configurations last for two bars until the end of bar 43. ...read more.


The antecedent introduces the material and consequent reemphasises and concludes the newly introduced material. An example would be at bar 42 to 43, where the phrase can be either considered as antecedent to the consequent at bar 44 to 45, or it can be split into an antecedent and consequent within itself. Similarly, this also occurs in bar 46 to 49, which is varied repetition of bar 42 to 45. Even bar 42 to 45 can be interpreted as the antecedent of the whole phrase from bar 42 to 49. The mezzo sopranos' notes from bar 42 to 45 are echoed later by the sopranos starting at bar 46, singing a sixth higher. As the melodic contour of mezzo sopranos in bar 42 to 45 are similar to that of the sopranos in bar 46 to 49, thus it could be a whole phrase starting from bar 42 and ending at bar 49. In conclusion, Debussy deliberately drops the functional harmony by avoiding the thirds. He adds value to the timbre and texture in his music by using notes from wholes tone scale and changing the orchestral texture when needed, resulting in the use of the wide range of orchestral textures and harmonic colour. Word count: 1447 1Charles Koechlin, Debussy (Paris: Henri Laurens, 1956), 18 ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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