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Connecticut College President Katherine Bergeron is quoted by The New Yorker’s Alex Ross in his piece, “The Velvet Revolution of Claude Debussy.”
The piece is about the “reclusive Frenchman [who] created some of the most radical, beautiful music of the modern era.” While discussing Debussy’s “Pelléas et Mélisande,” Ross cites “Debussy’s Resonance” (University of Rochester Press) from which Bergeron is a contributor.
Ross argues that Debussy’s opera is “so unlike its predecessors that it effectively inaugurated a new genre of modernist music theatre.” He writes that “‘Pelléas’ engenders its own world on the first page of the score.
“In the first four bars, bassoons, cellos, and double basses make a stark, columnar sound that conjures the forest in which the drama begins,” Ross writes.
Ross then quotes Bergeron, who explains how this takes place.
“It is, Bergeron writes, an evocation of ‘dim antiquity, carving out a fragment of plainsong in stolid half notes.’ She continues, ‘The figure suggests an immense murmur, or an ancient cosmic sigh, whose sheer weight draws it to the bottom of the orchestra. Then it vanishes. A different music takes its place, sounding high in the winds, its bass voice a tritone away. With its more articulate rhythm and brighter timbre, the melody sounds a sort of anxious trill: indecisive, edgy, almost dissonant.’”