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Tonality and Form in Debussy's "Prélude à 'L'Après-midi d'un faune"

Matthew Brown
Music Theory Spectrum
Vol. 15, No. 2 (Autumn, 1993), pp. 127-143
Published by: on behalf of the Society for Music Theory
DOI: 10.2307/745811
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/745811
Page Count: 17
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Tonality and Form in Debussy's "Prélude à 'L'Après-midi d'un faune"
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Abstract

Debussy is often credited with revolutionizing musical form by rejecting nineteenth-century tonal and formal practice. This essay considers this claim by examining the tonal and thematic framework of the Prélude à "L'Après-midi d'un faune." Although this analysis shows that the Prélude can be explained by traditional tonal procedures, it identifies four techniques--incomplete progressions, parenthetical episodes, motivic compression, and tonal models--that allowed Debussy to move away from conventional symphonic models. The paper ends by showing how he developed these techniques in later orchestral works such as the Nocturnes, La Mer, and Ibéria.

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