Impressionism in music was a movement among various composers in Western classical music, mainly during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, whose music focuses on suggestion and atmosphere, "conveying the moods and emotions aroused by the subject rather than a detailed tone‐picture". In identifying Claude Debussy and his imitators as "impressionists", contemporaries compared their work in music to the earlier work of the impressionists in the visual arts.
Claude Debussy found inspiration in Javanese music. Debussy later wrote to a friend, "Do you not remember the Javanese music, able to express every shade of meaning, … which makes our tonic and dominant seem like ghosts?" He and Maurice Ravel were generally considered to be the two "great" impressionists. However, these days composers are generally not as accurately described by the term "Impressionism" as painters in the genre were. Debussy renounced it, saying: "I am trying to do 'something different' – in a way realities – what the imbeciles call 'impressionism' is a term which is as poorly used as possible, particularly by art critics."
Ernest Fanelli was claimed to have innovated the style, though his works were unperformed before 1912.