Tuesday, February 15

mutatis mutandis

In a letter to André Caplet, Debussy says he has "vacillated for three days between two chords." ... And when he answers Proust's questionnaire (yes, Proust's), he declares that his "favourite activity" is: "dreaming while smoking complicated tobaccos." Dreaming, yes, no surprise there: no need to go and hear La mer or Ce qu'a vu le vent d'ouest, it's enough to listen to C'est l'extase langoureuse to have proof of that ... Following Verlaine, Debussy devised new relationships: especially between poetry and music ... His music is never, or hardly ever, wedded to the text. His harmony is not imitative. Debussy asserts himself ... and superimposes his thoughts on the poet's – his atmosphere, his memories, his world ... and Verlaine was not the worst practitioner of rhythm in French literature ... They were made to understand one another, to go together. Even so, in his songs with piano Debussy crosses swords with the text ... The more regular the verse, the more he maltreats it – instinctively.

-- Jacques Drillon "Mozart, Debussy and the law"
Translated by Roger Nichols