World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Impressionism in music

Article Id: WHEBN0000014566
Reproduction Date:

Title: Impressionism in music  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Modernism (music), Classical period (music), Smile (The Beach Boys album), Impressionist music, Medieval music
Collection: Impressionist Music
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Impressionism in music

Periods of
Western classical music
Medieval c. 500–1400
Renaissance c. 1400–1600
Common practice
Baroque c. 1600–1760
Classical c. 1730–1820
Romantic c. 1780–1910
Modern and contemporary
Modern c. 1890–1975
20th century 1901–2000
Contemporary c. 1975–present
21st century 2001–present

Impressionism in music was a movement among various composers in Western classical music, mainly during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, whose music focuses on suggestion and atmosphere, "conveying the moods and emotions aroused by the subject rather than a detailed tone‐picture".[1] “Impressionism” is a philosophical and aesthetic term borrowed from late 19th century French painting after Monet’s Impression, Sunrise. Musicians were labeled impressionists by analogy to the impressionist painters who use starkly contrasting colors, effect of light on an object blurry foreground and background, flattening perspective to make us focus our attention on the overall impression. [2]

The most prominent in musical impressionism is the use of “color”, or in musical term, timbre, which can be achieved through orchestration, harmonic usage, texture, etc.[3] Other elements of music impressionism involve also new chord combination, ambiguous tonality, extended harmonies, use of modes and exotic scales, parallel motions, and extra-musically, evocative titles such as Reflets dans l'eau ("Reflections on the water", 1905), Brouillards ("Mists", 1913) etc.[4]

Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel are two leading figures in impressionism though Debussy rejected this label (he mentioned in his letter that “imbeciles call ‘impressionism,’ a term employed with the utmost inaccuracy.”).[5] Debussy’s impressionist works typically “evoke a mood, feeling, atmosphere, or scene” by creating musical images through motives, harmony, exotic scales (e.g. whole-tone scale, pentatonic scales), instrumental timbre and other elements,[6] whereas Ravel’s impressionist or symbolist works are essentially represented in a more refined and lucid way.[7] Some impressionist musicians, Debussy and Ravel in particular, are also labeled as symbolist musicians. One trait shared with both aesthetic trends is “a sense of detached observation: rather than expressing deeply felt emotion or telling a story,” as in symbolist poetry, the normal syntax is usually disrupted and individual images that carry the work’s meaning are evoked.[8]

Ernest Fanelli was claimed to have innovated the style, though his works were unperformed before 1912.[9]

Other composers said to have been influenced by Impressionism include Isaac Albéniz, John Alden Carpenter, Frederick Delius, Paul Dukas, Manuel de Falla, Charles Tomlinson Griffes, and Ottorino Respighi.[10]


  1. ^ Michael Kennedy, "Impressionism", The Oxford Dictionary of Music, second edition, revised, Joyce Bourne, associate editor (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2006). ISBN 9780198614593.
  2. ^ J. Peter Burkholder, Donald Jay Grout and Claude V. Palisca, A History of Western Music, eighth edition (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010). ISBN 9780393932805.
  3. ^ Gasser, Nolan. [1]. Accessed 9 November 2014.
  4. ^ J. Peter Burkholder, Donald Jay Grout and Claude V. Palisca, A History of Western Music, eighth edition (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010). ISBN 9780393932805.
  5. ^ Francois Lesure and Roger Nichols, Debussy Letters (Harvard University Press, 1987). ISBN 9780674194298
  6. ^ J. Peter Burkholder, Donald Jay Grout and Claude V. Palisca, A History of Western Music, eighth edition (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010):. ISBN 9780393932805.
  7. ^ Arbie Orenstein, Ravel: Man and Musician (Dover Publication, 2011):. ISBN 9780486266336.
  8. ^ J. Peter Burkholder, Donald Jay Grout and Claude V. Palisca, A History of Western Music, eighth edition (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010):. ISBN 9780393932805.
  9. ^ Adriano, Ernest Fanelli (1860-1917), Symphonic Pictures, Marco Polo, pp.1–4
  10. ^ "Impressionism, in Music". The Columbia Encyclopedia (6th ed. ed.). New York: Columbia University Press. Retrieved 2012-12-25.  (Archive copy from 3 April 2009).

Further reading

  • Burkholder, J. Peter, Donald Jay Grout, and Claude Palisca. A History of Western Music, eighth edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010. ISBN 9780393932805.
  • Fulcher, Jane. Debussy and His World. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001. ISBN 978-0691090429.
  • Gasser, Nolan. "Impressionism". Classical Archives. Accessed 9 November 2011.
  • Machlis, Joseph, and Kristine Forney. The Enjoyment of Music, seventh edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1995. ISBN 0-393-96643-7.
  • Palmer, Christopher. Impressionism in Music. London: Hutchinson; New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1973.
  • Orenstein, Arbie. Ravel: Man and Musician. New York: Dover Publications, Inc, 2011. ISBN 9780486266336.
  • Pasler, Jann. "Impressionism". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001.
  • Thompson, Oscar. Debussy, Man and Artist. New York: Dodd, Mead & company, 1937.
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.