History and Tonal Coherence in Debussy’s La fille aux cheveux de lin and Bruyères Abstract
No music has tested the scope of Schenkerian analysis and indeed of tonality more than that of Claude Debussy. While Debussy was notorious for challenging traditional approaches to musical composition, Heinrich Schenker was intent on preserving the tonal tradition and blamed composers like Debussy for its demise. Despite their differences, however, Debussy and Schenker did share certain beliefs about the nature of musical composition. Both were fascinated by the contrapuntal dimension of music and by the idea that individual motives and chords should be treated within some larger musical context. This paper will determine whether Schenker’s ideas are applicable to Debussy’s music either in their original or in some modified form. It addresses this issue by comparing Schenkerian analyses of Debussy’s La fille aux cheveux de lin (Préludes Bk. 1) and Bruyères (Préludes Bk. 2) by Adele Katz and Felix Salzer with additional readings by Nadia Boulanger and Jeremy Day-O’Connell. In response it will offer alternate Schenkerian analyses of both works, both of which stress the orthodox nature of Debussy’s tonal procedures.