Debussy repeats this flute melody throughout the piece at different paces against a variety of chords. While the overall form of the piece is considered to ABA, it is important to note how one section of the piece blends beautifully with the next. The piece has a continuous flow and it is so subtle that listeners are not tempted at any point to beat time to any rhythms.
The typical feeling of weightlessness that is associated with Impressionistic music and the simple act of repetition are what make this piece a success. We should also consider that "Prelude de L'apres Midi d'un Faune" was composed with the stage in mind. The intention of the piece was to leave listeners with something profound to think about long after the sound of the music stopped. Debussy was successful in that the piece had an effect that reached farther than any other French orchestral piece of the same era. The piece left audiences marveling at its unique style and manner. The harmonies in this piece are sensuous and its phrases capture elements that leave us wanting more. The colors and sounds of this piece are perfect and delicious and every bit should be savored. The presence of the flute is perhaps the most admired aspect of the piece. In orchestral literature, it is to be celebrated in its excellence.
Debussy's appreciation of the ninth chord can be heard in "Prelude de L'apres Midi d'un Faune," an effort that turns the traditional function of the root harmony into a vague afterthought in that there appears to be movement with no clear direction. This vagueness envelopes the entire piece in that any outlines of harmony are muted and even harmonic progressions are alleviated. It should be noted that this style of composition is one that can be traced back to artists of Debussy's day. He was not concerned with telling the story in a way that clearly defined everything. He was more interested in creating an atmosphere that allowed the listener to find his or her own way into the story. The music does not want to tell the complete story but instead wants to allude to certain moods and tones, leaving the listener to fill in the blanks. There are no hard edges in this piece - only soft lines. This is not to say that Debussy completely abandoned tonality but he did apply his own loose flair to it. He used certain elements such as triads in a different manner, juxtaposing them and forcing them out of their usual elements and functions. In this way, they break free from traditional constraints and, as a result, can serve as separate colors.
Debussy felt a desire to move beyond the traditional constraints of music as his generation knew it. His desire to move beyond the traditional constraints enabled him to create new boundaries that moved music into the twentieth century. He was not a liner thinker and his music came from intuition rather than logic. As a result, his music is the pure expression of freedom without restraint. From his freedom sprang a new musical vocabulary that included whole tone and pentatonic scales that brought a mysterious quality to his work. Mystery pervades "Prelude de L'apres Midi d'un Faune" as it is not something that attempts to reproduce but rather exist on its own, borrowing from imagination. It is this style that helped Debussy carve not only a name for himself but a new direction in music. His ability to juxtapose harmonies coupled with his ability to create the atmosphere of a dream-like state are what make this piece beautiful and historic. He was writing to create a mood - he had a vision in his mind and he captured it with music. The flute motif symbolizing the faun and the repetition of different elements serving as symbols of the faun's experience with the nymphs are beautifully constructed. When we listen to this piece, we can almost see it as well as almost feel the sunlight on our own faces. This attitude of being and feeling is exactly what Debussy intended to create without the constraints of music or history. "Prelude de L'apres Midi d'un Faune" is every bit as much an Impressionistic as music can be with no clearly defined lines and a new approach to organizing pitch and rhythm. The new century was all about dramatic changes and Debussy captured this nuance with dramatic music that was soothing and precisely imprecise.
Lesure, Francois. "Claude Debussy." Oxford Music Online. Information Retreived October 12, 2008. http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com
Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun." The Kennedy Center Online. Information Retreived October 12, 2008. http://www.kennedy-center.org/
Trezise, Simon. The Cambridge Companion to Debussy.…