Okay. So. I pondered for quite a while about where to start in this new food/music adventure. I finally settled on sticking with something extremely well-known, but maybe less mainstream than Gaga (let's face it, we're not quite ready for Gaga yet).
Thus, Debussy came to mind! If you haven't heard Clair de lune before, I would be very surprised, but you are in for quite a treat, if I do say so myself. In an effort to keep myself from getting too wordy, I'll just go ahead and share one of my favorite recordings of the piece. Please feel free to hit Play and take a listen while you scroll! The pianist in this video is Thomas Labe.
I think one of the biggest challenges for me is going to be keeping myself from being too wordy when I talk about music. It's hard! There's so much I want to say! However, if you're anything like me, you probably don't want to read pages and pages of monotonous rambling, especially if it's something in which you're not quite as interested as I may be. Therefore, I'll just share a couple of tidbits about this piece and its composer.
About the Composer
Claude Debussy (1862-1918) was a French composer and pianist, most often known for his "Impressionistic" style of writing (though he actually hated being referred to as an Impressionist). Russian composers, such as Wagner, Borodin, and Mussorgsky, have been cited as his some of his strongest musical influences. He spent most of his life in France, though he did live in Rome for a few years. In addition to Clair de lune, a few more of Debussy's most famous pieces include Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun (1894) and La Mer (1905). Debussy's music is quite often linked to the paintings of Claude Monet, both evoking a sense of smeared concepts rather than strictly outlined images (hence the "Impressionist" description).
An excerpt from the Britannica Encyclopedia:
"During the latter part of his life Debussy created an alter ego, 'Monsieur Croche,' with whom he carried on imaginary conversations on the nature of art and music. 'What is the use of your almost incomprehensible art?' Monsieur Croche asks. 'Is it not more profitable to see the sun rise than to listen to the Pastoral Symphony of Beethoven?' Elsewhere Monsieur Croche supports the cause of the musical explorer: 'I am less interested in what I possess than in what I shall need tomorrow.'"
Here is another recording of Clair de lune! Angela Hewitt is the pianist, performing live at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. It's so fascinating to hear multiple performances of the same piece, in my opinion; each musician interprets notes on a piece of paper in very different ways. Angela's interpretation is noticeably faster than Thomas's, and she uses the sustained pedal on the piano much more liberally (the notes tend to blur together more). Do you prefer one performance over the other?
About the Piece
Clair de lune is the third of four movements of the Suite bergamasque, which was started in 1890, but revised and published in 1905. "Clair de lune" translates to "Moonlight," and is a vast contrast to the two livelier movements that sandwich it. Brittanica says, "The title refers to a folk that was the conventional accompaniment of scenes of the love-sick Pierrot in the French pantomime, and indeed the many Pierrot-like associations in Debussy’s later music...show his connections with the circus spirit that also appeared in works by other composers..."
I think Clair de lune has a very bittersweet quality to it, which exudes a somber beauty of sweetness and sting. I created some Lemon Ginger Cookies which I think pair perfectly with the piece! The bite of the ginger and slight tartness in the lemon flavor are coupled with the sweetness of the cookie, which makes eating them while listening to Debussy all the richer.
Before I share the recipe, here are a few links to some different arrangements of Claude Debussy's Clair de lune for you to peruse -- the LSO one is my favorite, though I have to say the jazz arrangement is pretty cool:
Lemon Ginger Cookies
makes 1-2 dozen, depending on size
- 1/2 C vegan margarine, such as Earth Balance
- 3/4 C brown sugar
- 1 flax egg (1 Tbs ground flax + 1/4 C water)
- 1 Tbs unsweetened almond milk
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 1/4 C flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- zest from half a lemon (about 2 tsp)
1. Mix flax and water in a small bowl. Set aside.
2. Beat the margarine and sugar until fluffy. Add the flax and mix.
3. Add in the almond milk and lemon juice.
4. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, and ginger. Mix into the batter. Stir in the lemon zest.
5. Place the dough in the fridge while the oven preheats; set to 350 F.
6. Roll the dough, a spoonful at a time, into a small ball and set on lightly greased baking sheet. Press down slightly to flatten. Repeat for the remaining dough.
7. Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
These would be delicious with a nice hot cup of black tea! Maybe some chai? Don't forget to listen to some more Clair de lune while you bake/eat them, too!