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Classical 101

Google Doodle Highlights Debussy's Clair de Lune

If you've visited Google today, you might have noticed that today's Google Doodle honors the great French composer Claude Debussy on what would have been his 151st birthday. The doodle showcases a glowing moon over a nighttime panorama of the lights of Paris flickering to the rhythms of Debussy's Clair de lune ("Moonlight"). Debussy is known today as the composer who more than any other brought "Impressionism" into music. Impressionist painters of the second half of the 1800's sought not to capture static scenes, but instead to convey movement and other fleeting realities of life. Their canvases sparkle with sunlight reflected off ocean waves and swirl with the effects of wind rustling through the leaves of trees. After early years of writing music influenced by the work of contemporary French composers Jules Massenet, Georges Bizet and César Franck, among others, Debussy developed a unique style that communicates the feeling of the movement of water and the recreates the play of light in sound. Debussy's "Impressionist" style inexorably advanced the language of musical style toward modernism. Debussy's music had an enormous influence on Igor Stravinsky's musical aesthetic. And it's difficult to imagine how the music of other French modernist composers, like Olivier Messiaen and Pierre Boulez, might have sounded without Debussy's contributions.