The Sunken Cathedral by Claude Debussy

Claude Debussy is one of the most considerable Impressionist musicians of all times, known and appreciated by many people. At the age of seven, Debussy began to take piano lessons, and thus, made a start on his successful musical creativity. Being a shy and clumsy boy, Debussy was regarded by his coevals as unsociable person. Nevertheless, talent, determination, passion, and individuality of Claude Debussy allowed him to become a musical inventor who changed approaches of contemporary people to music. Debussy is often called an Impressionist composer because his music focuses rather on the feeling of indistinctness than a detailed articulation. Moreover, colorful exotic tones, its ambiguity, and sensual harmonies that were characteristics of Debussy's music reflected the spirit of Impressionist painting. Such Debussy's works as Preludes, Books I and II, were influenced by several aspects of Impressionism – the colorful harmonies, rhythms, forms, and melodies, which were clearly delineated and purposely directed to evoke images of allusions (Hutcheson). Therefore, Claude Debussy was an enthusiastic piano player and outstanding Impressionist musician, who provided his musical pieces with sensual atmosphere and images that could be found in his remarkable solo piano piece The Sunken Cathedral.

After listening to The Sunken Cathedral, various feelings arose in me, but first of all, I was impressed with the colorful motifs and melodies that changed each other throughout musical piece. Debussy's piano solo piece has aroused in me mixed feelings of lightness and anxiety. What also impressed me was its sensitive character, presence of which cannot be doubted. Moreover, Debussy's music forced me to imagine an ancient cathedral with beautiful design, which has been slumbered under the water in a charming silence for many years. An ancient Breton legend inspired Debussy to write this particular piano piece. The legend behind this piano piece is a mythical, fictional one, in which a cathedral rises from the water every morning, and the sounds of bells, organ, and chants of priests can be heard (Hutcheson). Furthermore, one can hear different timbres in The Sunken Cathedral as it unfolds – at the beginning the pianist softly touches the keys of the piano, but gradually the sound changes to more sonorous and powerful in its high point. The harmonies of this musical piece vary from consonant to dissonant, and thus, the piece is executed in a wave-like fashion. Such alternation of harmonies reflects the slow emergence of the cathedral from the sea.

As The Sunken Cathedral unfolds, one can hear several great changes in dynamics. Moreover, the contrasting levels of volume can constantly be recognized throughout the entire piece. Nevertheless, there can be singled out two major changes in dynamics that occur in the middle of the piece. The changes in dynamics are achieved due to the use of contrasting tones and pedaling. The pianist gets a rich, colorful sounding by skillful combination of bass motion and the top notes of the right hand that leads the listener to the climax of the musical piece. In The Sunken Cathedral, Claude Debussy greatly focused on the texture of the piece. This solo piano piece describes two basic textures – rather thick and extremely thin. In the first one, all voices and melodies are in relation with each other and that extends harmonies, and thus, creates loud sound and polyphony in the dynamic point. The second one can be characterized by the large spaces between chords.

In conclusion, Claude Debussy is an outstanding Impressionist musician, whose extraordinary style and splendid techniques can not leave indifferent any connoisseur of music. Impressionistic nature of Debussy's music has found its reflection in the remarkable solo piano piece The Sunken Cathedral. The images, which this music piece evokes, its different timbres, variation of harmonies, changes in dynamics, and musical texture are illustrative aspects of Impressionist music portrayed by Claude Debussy.