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Afternoon of a Faun

Afternoon of a Faun

Selected Composition

 

Claude Debussy, Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun

 

 

Program Notes

 

In the run-up to Claude Debussy's birthday (22 August), I want to hear more of his music. So, today, I listened to Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. It was one of the first pieces I analyzed in a music theory class, and it is an old favorite.

 

Debussy wrote Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun in 1894. It is based on a poem by Stéphane Mallarmé, who wrote of a sleeping faun that dreams of chasing nymphs. Mallarmé was, apparently, not pleased: he thought the music inherent in his poetry enough music. But this early piece of Debussy's is considered a turning point in music—Impressionism had arrived. Pierre Boulez, the great conductor, wrote in 1958, for The Oxford Encyclopedia of Music, that ""the flute of the faun brought new breath to the art of music."

 

I do not know when I first heard this piece. It seems it has always been part of my life.

 

Here is Eugene Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra in Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun:



Claude Debussy, Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun

 

 

NOTE: For a more in-depth discussion of Debussy and Impressionism, please see my upcoming post on Debussy's birthday, 22 August.

 

 

 

 

I created "Or Else, Sweet Nymph, Do You But This," the image above, in 2006. It is based on Mandelbrot fractals. The title is from Robert Herrick's poem "To the Water-Nymphs Drinking at the Fountain":


Reach with your whiter hands to me
Some crystal of the spring;
And I about the cup shall see
Fresh lilies flourishing.

Or else, sweet nymphs, do you but this--
To th' glass your lips incline;
And I shall see by that one kiss
The water turn'd to wine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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