August 22nd is always meaningful to me as Claude Debussy's birthday. He would have been 161 years old on this one and while he is long gone (105 years), so much of his music is timeless and still so fresh and modern. He really created his own unique sound world, unlike any other composer of his time, and continues to inspire musicians, composers, artists and people from all around the world.
Today, I decided to share something a bit unusual, something fun to celebrate his birthday.
His Clair de lune (moonlight), the third movement of his Suite Bergamasque written in 1890, has become one of the most popular pieces of the entire classical music genre (Beethoven's "Moonlight" too is equally famous, though it has nothing to do with Debussy's sound. Perhaps the moon inspires the best in composers? I say this a bit tongue-in-cheek...). Well, everyone and their grandmother has played this piece (though it is more difficult than it sounds), and I wanted to do something a little different.
So I got inspired by the recent trend of "nightcore" or "sped-up" music, which has inspired plenty of remixes of famous songs at a sped-up rate of about 35%. This fashion started picking up ground on TikTok in the last couple years, but has not really impacted the classical music world. I figured, hey, why not give it a try? Nightcore is also often associated with manga culture, and I thought it would be nice to add a cartoonish, if not manga-like, look to the performance.
What do you think?
It was performed on a late 19th century Bösendorfer piano at the Château du Sablou (thanks to Annet and Simon) in Dordogne, France, recorded very simply on a couple of iPhones and post-produced with participation from Orchid Classics, the label on which I released, last October, the complete Preludes for piano of Debussy. That recording has not been artificially sped up or slowed down, and I hope you have had a chance to listen to it (it is available worldwide on all streaming platforms and as a hardcopy album). Debussy's birthday, and all other days of the year, are perfect days to listen to these works!
Debussy's music and spirit have long been a part of my musical life. This reminds me that I had written an article for BBC Music Magazine about some of the best Debussy works. It's a nice way to get a quick overview of his unique sound world:
But today is not a day to dig too deep. Let's simply celebrate this great composer and enjoy the beauty he brought into our lives, and have a little fun with it as I did.