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Impressionism: Painting in Sound

The late 19th century was a time of great artistic experimentation in France. Painters such as Claude Monet and August Renoir were searching for new ways to capture the luminous haze of the changing light on natural scenes, while poets such as Charles Baudelaire and Paul Verlaine were seeking a more suggestive mode of expression in their free verse.

A similar spirit of innovation was found in the music of French composers Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, and others. Their works, which emphasize atmosphere and suggestion, express ideals similar to those to which artists in these other artistic domains aspired.

What inspired the experimentation that marked this fascinating period, in music and beyond? What key characteristics unite the music of these composers, and in what ways does their music represent a departure from what came before?

This course will examine the artistic currents that led to what is now called Impressionist music (a term that was rejected by those to whom it was applied), including Impressionist painting and Symbolist poetry, and the principal composers and their most important masterworks.


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