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Clair de Lune

by Claude Debussy

Clair de lune by claude debussy

Claude Debussy was born as Achille-Claude Debussy. He is one of the most notable and influential French musical composers that has ever lived. At the turn of the 20th century he was one of the most prominent figures in music and his contributions to the world of music are still enjoyed today.

Debussy was born in 1862 in St. Germain-en-Laye, near Paris, France. His father was a salesman and a china shop owner. His mother was a seamstress. It was clear at a very early age to everyone that he was gifted musically. The gift was recognised and when he was seven years old Debussy started taking piano lessons. In 1872, when he was just ten years old, Debussy entered the Paris Conservatoire and remained a student at the Conservatoire for 11 years. Debussy’s piano teacher, Mme. Maute, claimed to have been a student of Frédéric Chopin. During his time at the Conservatoire he studied composition with Ernest Guiraud, music history/theory with Louis-Albert Bourgault-Ducoudray, piano with Antoine François Marmontel, organ with César Franck, and solfège with Albert Lavignac/harmony with Émile Durand.

A great influence on Claude Debussy was his close friendship with Marie-Blanche Vasnier, a singer he met when he began working as an accompanist. The two embarked on a lengthy eight-year affair together.

Debussy was the recipient of many notable awards over the years including the Prix de Rome twice, in 1883 and 1884. He was able to use the money he won to help pay for his studies at the Villa de Medici in Rome where he would stay for the next four years. In Rome he met Franz Liszt and Giuseppe Verdi and heard more of Wagner’s music, which made a strong impression on him.

Claude Debussy was one of the first people to ever challenge the typical and traditional way that orchestras used their instruments. He also noted that woodwinds could be used in a variety of ways and were being underused as accompaniments in most pieces. The brass sections, he also noted, could be used in entirely different ways as well. By thinking outside of the box and changing some of the ways of the different sections of the entire orchestra was used he became famous for his musical creations. He made each musician feel as though they were a soloist within an ensemble.

His final works, the piano pieces En blanc et noir, (1915; In Black and White) and in the Douze Études (1915; “Twelve Études”), leave admirers feeling a great sense of loss at Debussy’s death at such an early age and most long for all of the work he could have yet contributed to the world had he lived longer.

Debussy’s work has been well respected for decades and when described it is often likened to poetry. He is known for so many of his great compositions that admirers often have a hard time deciding which piece he created is their favorite. Included in his most popular works are Clair de lune (“Moonlight,” in Suite bergamasque, 1890–1905), as well as Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (1894; Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun), the opera Pelléas et Mélisande (1902), and the famous La Mer (1905; “The Sea”).

In his musical theories and his life lessons, Debussy was credited with many notable quotes. Some of these are, “I love music passionately. And because I love it I try to free it from barren traditions that stifle it.” “In opera, there is always too much singing.” “Music is the arithmetic of sounds as optics is the geometry of light. Music is the expression of the movement of the waters, the play of curves described by changing breezes.” and “Music is the silence between the notes.”

Claude Debussy spent his later years writing as a critic, composing music and traveling internationally performing his own works.

Debussy died tragically and too young, when he was only 55, in 1918.

I have been waiting for a good piece to talk about whistle tones and here it is Clair De Lune. Because of the dynamics and colours of this gorgeous piece, whistle tones are absolutely essential for all registers.

 I practice them every day without fail, they are the very first thing I do and I don’t move off them until all registers have a very clear, beautiful and resonant tone on all notes. Especially the third register all the way to 3D. Sometimes I can spend half an hour or more on them as I see no point in going any further until these little devils are under control. I have a section on them in Foundation Tools with a video guide and my sound file .I make sure I can do the opening of the Schubert Introduction and Variations in whistle tones with a clear, resonant and even sound and at the written pitch (my sound file) It is easier to get them up the octave and harmonically but eventually aim for the written pitch ( picture of music attached). I also practice the low note chromatic exercise in whistle tones. It can get quite difficult around low E but keep persevering no matter how long it takes you. If you can get to low E you are doing very well indeed. Push it one more note each day or two don’t rush it. Rome wasn’t built in day, aim for control and quality, do not compromise ever.


The reason why whistle tones are so great is they relax the lips , really focus the air stream and control the air speed. Absolutely fantastic for the third register. I also wanted to mention that playing softly on the flute doesn’t mean blowing softly or getting less of a tone and expression. I unfortunately hear this a lot. It is crucial the harmonics are in tune and the speaking point is clearly ringing. You will hear the tone all around you when this happens and there is no effort required. It takes all guns firing at the same time to pull off the tone but so worth working at it until you have it as it will project to the end of any hall and have so much warmth and depth.