No. 6: Des pas sur la neige

Short Analysis of Debussy's des pas sur la neige
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His musical language suggested new paths to be further explored, while his poetic and sensitive use of the orchestra and of keyboard textures opened still more possibilities. Danseuses de Delphes Dancers of Delphi , a title that suggests the influence of Satie, was inspired by a caryatid seen at the Louvre. Marked Lent et grave, the mystery of Delphi is solemnly evoked in a series of chords that make clear the static nature of the dancers at the oracle.

C. Debussy - Prelude No.6_ Des Pas Sur La Neige

Here comes the time when, quivering on its stem, every flower melts away to vapour like a censer; sounds and scents turn in the evening air; sad waltz and languorous dizziness! The poetic association with Baudelaire indicates something of the mood of the piece, with its the final suggestions of a distant horn-call. The textures evoke through the sea-mist the mystery of the ancient cathedral of Ys, its chant and the sound of its bells, drowned now beneath the waves that have engulfed it long since, according to legend.

The First Book ends with Minstrels, inspired, it has been said, by a black street-band that Debussy had heard in Eastbourne in Apparently he regarded these as of uneven quality, a judgement in which others have concurred, and was apparently not happy to have them played one after the other. The Second Book opens with Brouillards Mists , in which some have seen the counterpart of paintings by Whistler or even by Turner. The atmosphere is at once lightened by La Puerta del Vino The Wine Gate , a habanera suggested by a postcard from Manuel de Falla showing the Alhambra gateway of the title.

La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune The terrace of the audiences of moonlight adapts a newspaper account of the coronation of King George V as Emperor of India, en- dowing the words of the report with an air of oriental mystery. Examples 6a and 7a present the major triad. The notes that do not behave in progressive, stepwise hearings just described, this way in the music ex. But, as ex. The the descending chords in the bass: they palin- low G and the added D give the G-major chord dromically invert into each other in pitch-class considerably more tonal heft than the D minor space.

The center of inversion is once again D, and a stronger root quality. G major also ac- our grounding pitch class. This hearing might crues metric weight by its placement on the seem like a stretch, but it interacts compel- downbeat. The progression may be heard in preceding cadential D minor has served in ret- either D Dorian or G Mixolydian; the latter rospect as a sort of modal dominant, and the hearing is abetted by the various factors dis- entire a1 section as a four-measure anacrusis to cussed above that lend the G chord of m.

Préludes (Book 1) - Des pas sur la neige (No. 6): Triste et lent - Piano

This interacts tonic heft. When we combine this inversional seek to lay claim to tonic status. Most strikingly, in any simple sense. The footsteps, beginning always and bass, as analyzed in ex. The inversion on D4, appropriately sound in the pitch space between the outer voices is realized exactly in directly between the two inversionally wedg- ing registers of mm. The The bass descent stops at D2 on beat 3 of m. David Lewin inversional partner of that D2. I am grateful to Brian Hyer for encouraging step further, to E5, reattaining the melodic apex me to think about the dualistic aspects of the passage.

Notably, this gesture pro- 45 This descending harmonic progression from G to D sug- gests that the operative division of the D octave in the duces the most vivid echo yet of the footsteps piece is a plagal one at G rather than an authentic one at in the upper line: the D5—E5 in the right hand A. The mo- sona, as the strongest iconic marker of its pres- ment is dense with interpretive possibility. The earlier cadence was achieved through a sort of coalescence, a coming-into-focus of the upper part and the ostinato; the latter results from dissolu- tion, a drifting-out-of-focus of the momentarily integrated texture, as the rhythm breaks down and the sustained Debussy, and the ways such varied effects can be heard to chord falls apart into the descending melodic line.

This enact sharply differing affective or cognitive states clo- sensitizes us to the great variety of cadential effects in sure vs. Less abstractly, the expressif descent from E5 explicitly recalls, via rhythm and contour, the descent from the same note in Example 8: Inversional structuring of m.

This similarity draws our attention to whole-tone chord, m. The rich music of b1. The aural character of the cadential fall in m. The the top, with all other material sounding be- avoidance of both in the cadential fall of m. The low register creates a sense of digging creates a conspicuous absence. Stra- tion. Stratum b is the alto and tenor, in oscil- ment in the section, which creates an imbal- lating chromatic semitones.

The alto in mm. As ex. The entire chord in fact ex. In its first two quarter notes in m. This motion is associated with the version-about-D is thus transferred from the collectional progression sketched in ex.

The alto pulls the tenor along with it in these motions, sometimes in parallel, sometimes in contrary 48 The reader can activate the relevant aural impression in motion, but always by semitone, moving within this way. Then, using a note-against-note, first-spe- a chromatic genus. The first hint of harmonic functionality to the mu- first-species verticalities are exactly those white-note pairs that map onto each other under inversion-about-D.

Then sic. We have already heard, in ex.

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While this harmonic functionality in those measures. The note will stick out painfully, seeking its inversional partner bass line in mm. Example 10 illustrates, presenting the two notes sensibles as flagged half notes. Two a2. I have so far developed a narrative in to ascribe sentience to it. It exhibits the directionality of this kind of note, pulling toward resolution on A. This is obvious when we recognize that the other axis of inver- the marking for the ostinato in m.

Thomas Christensen Cam- the inversional formalities of exs. It bridge: Cambridge University Press, , p. In the event, yes and no. The from the frozen present. Recall that we already dis- tion is enhanced by its early metric placement: cussed this collection, in connection with ex. The effect is of a sudden, unex- ent version of the flat-loaded tonic collection. What is achieved, of m. However we choose to thus far: an arabesque. Up to m. Now, in mm. This failure brings about the pro- the footsteps disappear for the second time and nounced caesura and Retenu in m.

The D4 half notes fig- ured above as footprints, blanches also return. The music bears the hallmarks of the De- This underwrites a correspondence with the bussyan arabesque: curvilinear melody, fluid opening measures, signaling the onset of a sec- rhythm and freedom from the bar line, har- ond rotation. This is 53 shown clearly in ex. On the 2 , — Music, pp. The music thus seems shaken into six-flat collection at crux m. The melodic interval in the chic tension. The familiarity of the turn to the bass line is an awkward step indeed: an aug- a2 music in m.

Though the lurch come—a return to the balance and clarity of from the expected D-minor triad to the surpris- mm. The music of mm. We ous slur of mm. The seismic shift thus shunts within which [a] telos is engendered, processed, nurtured, downward along the vertical arrow in ex. William Kinderman and Katherine R. Syer Rochester, N. Again, the as- D—E, E—F ostinato, and treat the mimesis more sociations of the arabesque with vegetal not flexibly. I suggest further half.

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The left-hand harmonies surge upward by that we can interpret it as one footstep—a single semitone, as though swelling with psychic en- physical action—heard seven times. We can thus hear the seven-fold stuck. From the crux of m. In fact, step Above this repeated step, however, we have structuring via S and S—1 is disrupted in various a tune that unfurls continuously over five mea- ways around the crux-moment: the melody vio- sures. If we are to interpret the footsteps as lates the expectation of diatonic ascent by S in indeed reiterating the same moment—the same m.

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David Lewin inversional partner of that D2. The prize included a record contract with Deutsche Grammophon, for whom he recorded three CDs in his late teens. Skip to content fr en. Dynamics and performance directions help to establish points of structural significance. The upper line moves in only harmonic and dynamic note the hairpin , loose coordination with the footsteps: the ev- it is also metric: the note falls on beat 3, align- ery-two-beats impulse of the ostinato is loosely ing with the steps and seemingly closing the maintained one beat later in the upper line. In this view we are left with two tion. Resisting Sonata Form, Gamut.

The now momentarily step out of the chronological stepwise alternation of the footstep motive was narrative in order to think carefully about the last distorted in the stumble of m. That moment encode time. The focus and scope of this article prohibit me from surveying the vast literature on the subject of narra- tive in music pro and con. Thus, if a perfor- hearing. More generally, in this interpreta- picted in m.

The chro- ity are exactly aligned. I drew on such ideas of stretchable or syuzhet exactly onto one another. The story is compressible time in the discussion of the foot- the series of events depicted in the narrative; steps. This is also an eminently familiar idea the discourse is the way in which those events from the world of number opera, in which are told in the words of the narrative itself.

A simple single moment of reflection. And are told in the narrative.

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Consider the sentence events depicted in m. Musical depictions four hours, from beginning to end, on the after- of memory represent a complex, and perhaps noon of July 14; prior to that, the Estates Gen- problematic, instance of anachrony. Lewin Ithaca: Cornell University Mass. Press, , pp. Closer to the present subject, David Grayson has explored possible A temporally indeterminate hearing. This hearing, though radical, is piece and any other depicted or imagined time.

Kern detects the phe- musical and have no relationship to any other nomenon in many artistic works and move- worldly or imaginative temporalities. Several of further. This hearing, radi- point. Then, in mm.

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The effort is only minimally success- tion b2, now rushes back in all of its fullness. This effort ulti- unwilled. The footsteps. The foot- tical arrow in ex. The flat music, as flat-note sentience floods into memory set in motion is only inchoate, how- the previously blank, white-note diatonic space. More Way, trans. Scott-Moncrief and Terence Kilmartin, suggestive is the fauxbourdon accompaniment that even- rev.

Enright New York: Modern Library, , pp. To the extent that we treat the memory way. That idea is given its most into account the caveats already mentioned vivid sonic embodiment in the ostinato, in ways about memory episodes in this respect. The explored above. As Fred Maus notes, we should recog- trudges along, drifting in and out of awareness nize the provisional, heuristic, and incomplete of the physical present, and in and out of nature of any story that we tell about a piece of memory.

We need not specify, for example, the music; the music will always exceed, and in length of clock time that elapses during the some ways elude, any single story. For example, the clock time has passed. This does not mean, of course, that all narra- Proustian ideas further interact suggestively tives will be equally compelling. In Peircean terms, the hermeneutic act—in Musical Meaning, pp. The arrival of the D-minor chord in m. The effect of the epi- ings, as the effects of the moment bienheureux sode, however, lingers into b1' mm.

Appropriately, the The chromatic impulse of the harmony in the D minor in m. The the complete arabesque alone, unobscured by effect is of psychic energy cresting and ebbing footsteps and surging harmonies and filled out away. The connection with of the sequence. Even more triste regret. The moment may be interpreted strikingly, this is exactly the triad expected at as a memory of the crux-moment itself, as the the crux-moment in a2', at m.

A sode. The voicing and register of the D-minor different understanding may be more persua- chord make the connection explicit. Harmonies Instead, the music can be heard to present here proceed chromatically within the parentheses, the remembered arabesque alone and unob- and diatonically outside of them.

The paren- structed. The lack of slipping once again from our interpretive reach. Is it possible that it is now the footsteps tender and regretful, is evident. This redoubling of memo- further detaches the memory from the snowy rial activity—a further regress of the piece into present. In a piece in which the music so often the past—represents a final, anachronous fold in the temporal fabric. It is thus not gagement analysis can provide, leading not to a the memories themselves that are painful; rather, the pain and regret arise from the effortful act of recollection itself.