A French composer of piano music, opera, cantatas, ballets, and orchestral and chamber works. His most notable pieces are "Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun)" (1894) and "Nocturnes" (1899). Inspired often by pictorial subjects (Monet's water impressions became "reflections in the water" for piano) and by the elusive and unnameable in nature (footsteps in the snow, still leaves, and the hypnotic, overwhelming sensations of his rare visits to the French coastline), Debussy's
music develops chords, melodies, and orchestration that are connected more by a single surreal observation than by an overriding logic. For example, one note is similar to another in a distantly related, enharmonic chord, but this brief tie is enough to follow, or a single gesture will soon evolve, spreading outward in all directions until a whole orchestral piece is made from a single falling line ("Afternoon of a Faun"; "Jeux"). Not bad for a kid born over his parents' china shop, who loved Lassus
as much as ragtime and Javanese music.