Was Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun the awakening of Modernism?


This semester I have been taking a Music History seminar are music of the 20th century with an emphasis on war and peace. I thought for this month’s analysis we would take a look at the historical analysis, instead of a theoretical lens.

Pierre Boulez described Debussy’s orchestral work “Prélude à L’Après-midi d’un Faune” as “the beginning of modern music”. What is 20th century modernism and does Debussy’s “Prélude” earn the title as the beginning of modern music? We will also be looking briefly at the text that inspired Debussy, Stéphane Mallarmé’s “L’Après-midi d’un Faune”.


Here is a NY Time’s article arguing how Debussy is the first “Modern” composer: x

Sources:

Hearing Debussy Reading Mallarmé: Music après Wagner in the Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune

Tonality as Topic: Opening A World of Analysis for Early Twentieth-Century Modernist Music

Belle Époque or the “Beautiful Age” in France

The rest is noise – Alex Ross


What do you think? Do you agree with Boulez that Debussy’s Prelude the awakening of Modernism during this period?

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