Music GCSE: Debussy, world music and impressionism

The World's Fair in Paris in 1889 was an important moment in introducing exotic, global cultures to western audiences.

At the same time, French composer Claude Debussy began to move away from traditional conventions and to explore other musical cultures, notably Javanese Gamelan.

He was influenced by Russian composers such as Modest Mussorgsky to leave behind the typical "development technique" that had dominated western composition for centuries.

Debussy was at the vanguard, experimenting with the pentatonic scale and overlapping harmonics to create an iconic style that had a huge impact on the western canon.

Includes extracts from Voiles by Claude Debussy, Beethoven's 5th Symphony, Estampes - Pagodes by Claude Debussy and Peace Piece by Bill Evans.

This clips is from the series Howard Goodall's Story of Music.

Teacher Notes

Ask students to select a World Music style, perhaps influenced by their own travels or interests.

They could use elements of its features combined with their own Western tastes and style, to compose for their instrument, adapting a song they already know into the new style.

Students could be asked to explain and demonstrate the specific features they employ, and may also make use of images or artefacts from their chosen culture.

Curriculum Notes

This clip will be relevant for teaching Music history and composition.

This topic appears in OCR, Edexcel, AQA, WJEC KS4/GCSE in England and Wales, CCEA GCSE in Northern Ireland and SQA National 4/5 in Scotland.

More from Howard Goodall's Story of Music:

Notation and melodic movement
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Harmony, intervals, triads and cadences
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Harmony, dissonance and an introduction to opera
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Key signatures, equal temperament and the 12-tone tuning system
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Handel, the pianoforte and oratorio
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Mozart, melodic writing and the symphony
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Haydn, symphonies and melodic writing
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A profile of Beethoven
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Franz Liszt, symphonic poems and orchestral music
Saint-Saëns and developments in French composition
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Shostakovich and the effects of Nazi rule on composers
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Minimalism and the advance of music technology
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Stravinsky, Russian music and modernism
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Blues and ragtime
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