Debussy Redux

Debussy Redux

The Impact of His Music on Popular Culture
Brown, Matthew
Distribution: World
Publication date: 04/09/2012
Format: Hardback 8 color plates, 41 music exx.
ISBN: 978-0-253-35716-8
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The works of Claude Debussy (1862-1918) had a major impact on the music of the 20th century, influencing a range of figures from Ravel and Stravinsky to Henri Dutilleux and Toru Takemitsu. Less well known is Debussy's influence on the popular culture of the period. Matthew Brown shows how Debussy's music has surfaced in an array of contexts from the film music of the 1940s to the dance music of the 1990s. It is easy to see how Debussy's impressionist soundscapes for orchestra such as La Mer and Iberia could be perfect models for accompaniments to film scenes, but as Brown makes clear Debussy's music and influence cannot by reduced to dreamy imitations of Clair de Lune. As he traces the trajectory of Debussy's stylistic evolution, Brown shows how facets of this style were reinterpreted in a surprising variety of popular musical contexts.

Author Bio

Matthew Brown is Professor of Music Theory at the Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester. He is the author of Explaining Tonality, Debussy's Iberia, and articles in Integral, Music Theory Spectrum, Understanding Rock, and Journal of Musicology, among others.


In a study that is both scholarly and highly entertaining, Matthew Brown explores pop culture’s appropriations of Debussy’s music in everything from '30s swing tunes, '40s movie scores, '50s lounge/exotica, '70s rock and animation, '80s action films, and Muzak. The book, however, is far more than a compendium of fascinating borrowings. The author uses these musical transfers to tackle some of the most fundamental aesthetic issues relevant to the music of all composers, not just Debussy. A very stimulating and provocative book—and a great pleasure to read.This is a model work of impeccable scholarship; it explores a vital topic with an original approach.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Debussy’s Legacy
1. From Parisian Salon to Billboard Phenom
2. The Medium and the Message
3. Lights, Camera, Soundtrack!
4. In the Moog
5. "Yo…Baudelaire!"
6. The Schlock of the New
7. Assez Lent or Allegro non troppo?
8. Other Cultures, Other Sounds
Afterword: High and Low

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