2008 Student Research Conference:
21st Annual Student Research Conference

The Musical Imagery of Claude Debussy: A Transformation of Jean-Antoine Watteau's L'Embarkation de Cythere and Claude Debussy's L'Isle Joyeuse
Jessica A. Sommer
Prof. Shirley McKamie, Faculty Mentor

Artists are influenced by the world around them, whether they create mimetic or abstract works. Claude Debussy was highly influenced by visual art in his compositions, preferring to be alone to contemplate art while composing. His piano piece, L'Isle Joyeuse (The Joyful Island) was composed with a direct relationship to Jean-Antoine Watteau's painting L'Embarkation de Cythere (The Embarkation from Cythera). Both pieces exhibit classical form: in the painting, each couple is refined in dress and carriage; and in the music, elegant rhythmic and melodic design is reflected in the lulling second theme and waltz section. Even with classic form, each piece displays ecstatic passion within: in the painting, one sees the closeness of the couples on the island in the sultry summer sun; in the music, the chord progressions become more complex and the dynamic contrasts increase. Debussy's piece shows a connection to both human nature and the natural world through his impression of Watteau's painting.

Keywords: Claude Debussy, Jean-Antoine Watteau, L'Isle Joyeuse, L'Embarkation de Cythere, classic form, passion, human nature, natural world


Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 20-2
Location: OP 2117
Time: 10:00

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