Determine whether you prefer Debussy or Mahler, and explain the reasons why. Identify one element within a work that you find interesting or intriguing by either composer, with regard to the manner in which the work is performed or conducted.
I will prefer Debussy in opposition to Mahler because he had almost changed the entire course of music history with introduction of a simple notion that a musical work could or should be a sound picture, an aural snapshot that may also recollect the psychological activity of experience. I think this change in the conception of the musical composition is very important as Debussy was the bridge over which music passed into the tumultuous 20th century.
Debussy’s influences are wide-ranging and he acquired a taste for parallel motion in fifths, fourths and octaves from medieval music and an appreciation for figuration and arabesque from the Baroque masters. He has also started to become immensely interested in non-Western music and its unorthodox approaches to composition. Debussy was just as influenced by other art forms as he was by music, if not more so and he took a strong interest in literature and visual art, and used these mediums to help shape his unique musical style. He was also inspired by nature and the impression it made on the mind, making a pantheistic profession of faith when he called “mysterious Nature ” his religion. Today, Debussy is remembered as a musical legend, whose uniquely structured compositions has served as a base for musicians over the past century, and will undoubtedly continue to inspire musical creation for decades to come.
I think Debussy is a brilliant composer, and one of the best of the 20th century IMO. To sum him up as a inoffensive ‘easy-listening’ composer is, I think, an insult to his brilliance and how forward thinking his music is. His music did much to influence harmonic thought outside of the Germanic tradition of Brahms etc, namely the use of non-functional ‘color’ harmony. There is an incredible amount of depth to his composition, so I encourage you to listen again with new ears. There is a bit of a misnomer that his music is just ‘pretty and dreamy’ impressionism, however, looking beyond the surface there is an incredible amount of detail and thought into every aspect of his compositions.