College of Music Program Book 2011-2012: Student Performances, Volume 2 Page: 13
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The French composer Claude Debussy (1862-1918) was one of the most important
composers of his time, particularly considering his harmonic innovation and the
extensive influence it had on other composers. He entered the Paris Conservatoire
at the age of ten, initially studying piano but later abandoning hopes of becoming a
virtuoso due to his inability to win apremierprix. He began composing and studied
with Ernest Guiraud. His music is often evocative of feelings or atmospheres,
creating images through his use of musical materials and then juxtaposing or
interrupting these materials. Often incorrectly labeled as "impressionist," Debussy
did draw great inspiration from visual art, but his music is most closely related to
symbolism; in the late 1880s he associated with a number of symbolist poets and
had similar aesthetic concerns.
The Sonate pour Flte, Alto, et Harpe is the second of three chambersonatas;
Debussy intended to write six in total, but the other three were not completed. The
sonatas are cyclic in design, clearly influenced by the cyclic works of Franck. In
each sonata the final movement is linked to the first by recalling a musical theme,
which is particularly evident and even clearly marked by Debussy in the score of the
Sonate pour Flute, Alto, etHarpe. Despite factors that slowed his creative work later
in life, a summer spent on the coast in 1915 prompted a prodigious compositional
output including both the first sonata (for cello and piano) and the second. The third
sonata (for violin and piano) was completed in 1917.
Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) studied at the Paris Conservatoire from 1919 until
1930 before embarking on his professional life as a composer, church organist, and
educator. After joining the faculty of the Paris Conservatoire in 1942 he taught
many soon-to-be-prominent composers including Boulez, Stockhausen, and Xenakis.
One of the most important French musicians of the twentieth century, Messiaen was
inspired by Debussy, Stravinsky, and Bart6k but developed a highly individualized
sound very early. In 1944 he wrote The Technique of My Musical Language, a
treatise in which he discusses his compositional language from rhythmic, melodic,
and harmonic points of view.
Messiaen's compositions were impacted by his Catholic faith, his interest in non-
European cultures, and the various techniques and influences he describes in his
treatise, including birdsong. Every spring for sixty years he transcribed birdsongs
from around the world for use in his compositions. Le Merle Noir (The Blackbird)
was commissioned in 1951 by the Paris Conservatoire to serve as the final exam
piece for the flute students. It includes Messiaen's techniques of nonretrogradable
rhythms, additive rhythms, modes of limited transposition, and the use of birdsong.
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University of North Texas. College of Music. College of Music Program Book 2011-2012: Student Performances, Volume 2, book, 2012; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc114727/m1/13/: accessed September 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Music Library.