Talk:Impressionism in music

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
WikiProject Classical music
WikiProject icon Impressionism in music is within the scope of WikiProject Classical music, which aims to improve, expand, copy edit, and maintain all articles related to classical music, that are not covered by other classical music related projects. Please read the guidelines for writing and maintaining articles. To participate, you can edit this article or visit the project page for more details.


Some of the stuff on this page seems screwy. Like wtf is this, for instance: "While this era was characterized by a dramatic use of the major and minor scale systems, impressionist music was tending to make more use of dissonance."

Whoever wrote this sounds like they're describing Stravinsky more than Ravel. Impressionistic composers would tend to use a greater variety of harmonic techniques, such as modal harmonies and extended chords. They'd do experiments with pentatonic scales and other interesting scales, one of which happens to be the oft-quoted whole tone scale, which the author of this page goes onto mention after the quote cited above. It's true that the whole tone scale as one specific technique might be more dissonant, and that Impressionists sometimes went into some pretty far out territory as dissonance is concerned, but I'd hardly describe the larger picture of Impressionism as "dissonance in reaction to major/minor" without mentioning the other things above.

And in general, this whole page seems to have a lot of POV-based stuff, making value judgments about which composers are "great" with very little citations. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:43, 10 January 2012 (UTC)


Should this page be part of Impressionism? How closely are the two movements connected? -- Tarquin

They actually aren't linked at all, but the concept of creating an impression. Musical impressionism took place a bit later. The french origins of both is probably the link between the common title. --Sketchee 03:03, Dec 19, 2004 (UTC)


While the author's dismissal of Impressionism as a valid tag for music is in keeping with most contemporary scholarship, he's a little cavalier about the idea that Impressionism doesn't exist. More than this, though, that section is written like an off the cuff opinion instead of the product of musical scholarship. Keep the idea, but cite some sources and make the tone WAY more NPOV.

Impressionism means nothing?

Too whom I wonder. mean, you just can't say that Impressionism means nothing, and DEFINITELY not say it without giving any proof for it.. After all, if impressionism does not mean anything, what then does Romaniticism or Classisism mean? They are all terms meant to describe the music. I can say with total confidence that I can recognize the impressionistic "sound", just like I can recognize a Romantic work, or a Baroque work. Articles like this make me loose faith in wikipedia. What if articles on subject that I don't know anything about are written with the same subjectivity? Horrendous. - Rich

I was pretty taken aback by this article too... I'll see if I can fix this some time if no-one else does. In the meantime, don't lose faith; be bold in updating pages :-) Ornette 17:02, 17 November 2005 (UTC)
What author? When was this infromation in the article? Hyacinth 10:38, 15 December 2005 (UTC)
Apparently, who added the following paragraph (since removed by Depleater):

In music the impressionist title means nothing. Composers like Debussy and Ravel were essentially romantic composers (Ravel maybe neo-classical). People give them the title impressionist because of the art movement that occured. Basically the impressionist title was given to romantic composers who stretched harmony and expanded harmony to make more vivid details in the music.

I'll try and root out something that might clarify this issue. JGF Wilks 07:08, 7 March 2006 (UTC)

Impressionism is just a convenient cop-out to describe the music, and the term became so popular that it became the de facto name for the musical genre. Debussy himself rejected the label. I can't speak as strongly for Ravel, but Debussy and Fauré draw their inspiration mostly from the Symbolist movement in literature and art. Many of their works were based on symbolist sources: Afternoon of a Faun (poem), Pelléas et Mélisande (play), and other poems by Paul Verlaine and Charles Baudelaire. If there is direct evidence of their works being based on impressionist painting, it should be added to the article. (I'm considering adding a "Impressionism is a misnomer" subsection)Cnadolski 16:16, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

shana dangelo sais hi=]] —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:32, 21 April 2009 (UTC)


Considering the impact of (so-called) Impressionism in music, this article is unaccountably tiny. Is the subject discussed more fully elsewhere?

Good point! And it would be nice to have some musical examples. Also, it would be good to have, in reasonable musical terms, what is the difference, say, between Debussy and Beethoven (or somebody else who isn't an impressionist composer). Gingermint (talk) 21:09, 31 May 2010 (UTC)


I've removed this composer from the list of those allegedly composing in the impressionist style. Any harmonic similarities between Scriabin's music and Debussy's, for instance, were almost certainly due to both composers taking inspiration from Russian music; indeed Scriabin himself objected to what he described as Debussy's 'stealing' from Russian music. His ideas, in any case, were taken not from impressionism (and his music was never intended to be pictorial, which is surely is the inescapable implication of the label "impressionism"), but from a heady mix of Symbolism, Theosophy and good old Schopenhauer, and his aesthetic aspired to be something far more transcendental than Debussy's declared aim of "pleasure". Alfietucker (talk) 10:40, 20 March 2010 (UTC)

I disagree with your decision. Scriabins earlier works were quite romanticized, as were Debussy's less popular early works, and although Debussy's atonal pieces are the better known ones, Scriabin also delved into atonality later in his musical career. Further, defining impressionism as inescapable pictorial is to forgo many of the compositional views of generally accepted impressionist composers (especially Debussy), ofc that debate is one that will likely never conclude. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:20, 5 May 2013 (UTC)

Too many assumptions[edit]

Was Impressionism really a reaction to the excesses of Romanticism? Isn't it possible to view it as a continued natural progression away from earlier experiments with harmony? Different elements are foregrounded but the change in the use of musical devices is really not that radical. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:52, 17 March 2012 (UTC)

sentence structure[edit]

There are many badly written sentences in the first few paragraphs.

"On the scope of the form of pieces of music impressionist composers enriched the way of creating musical works. In the majority of cases the form was a one-time idea for putting in the kind of order 'the fantasy of sound."


"Precedence of timbre creates the melody from the mixture of accords' timbre and figurations rather than from the clear outline of the theme."


"Instrumentation. Dynamics."


Etc, etc. Not to mention questionable facts and other problems. Sorry, don't have time to fix it myself. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:37, 17 June 2012 (UTC)


Wouldn't stravinsky be impressionist, like the Firebird and Rite of Spring use music to vividly portray a musical picture?

Time frame[edit]

Why isn't there a better definition of the time-frame, or at least putting it between the romantic and contemporary periods? Pink Floyd impressionist?? Redhanker (talk) 22:19, 11 February 2013 (UTC)

It would help if there was agreement on when the Romantic period ended and when the "contemporary period" (if there is such a thing) began (or will begin). It is probably overly simplistic to insist on such rigid boundaries in any case but, even if it isn't, historians haven't yet agreed on the criteria by which such boundaries might be drawn. As a result, some contend the Romantic era ended about 1850, while others hold it extends to nearly a century later. As for the word "contemporary" in this context, you might care to read the discussion at Talk:Contemporary classical music.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 00:42, 12 February 2013 (UTC)
Surely it's ridiculous to give 50 years (1875–1925) to impressionism when it was a minor rather than a major trend. --Kleinzach 02:46, 24 June 2013 (UTC)
Why is fifty years "ridiculous" for a minor trend (or, putting it the other way around, if fifty years is too long, why should this trend be regarded as minor)? Although I am inclined to agree that 1875 sounds like a very early starting date, if the reliable sources agree on that time frame, then that is what it should say. On the other hand, if we can find a source that says 1905–1915, that is a different matter.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 03:47, 24 June 2013 (UTC)
Maybe I didn't express myself clearly. Do you think that impressionism was the dominant movement of its period, just as romanticism was? If so when did it begin and end? What's your view? --Kleinzach 04:22, 24 June 2013 (UTC)
In this day and age we are not supposed to believe in such "totalizing discourse" ;-) Of course it would be ridiculous to claim that impressionism was a dominant style in, say, German music at any point in time; France is an entirely different matter; Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK, Scandinavia, and America, also arguable, though possibly with different time frames. By comparison, Romanticism was of overwhelming importance in Germany, but not so very important in France—at least, not after Berlioz, who was in any case regarded as a neoromantic by Wagner. Italy is also a dubious proposition (one French source claims that Verdi was the only true Romantic in Italian music). Romanticism is a much bigger can of worms than impressionism, especially where it is supposed to start and stop (if at all). I might even go so far as to question your assumption that it was "dominant in its period", at least until you tell me just when its period was and what its defining characteristics are (the leading figures in musicology disagree hugely on these two points), but this is just my own idle speculation, and therefore constitutes Original Research. Of course, we can always take the textbook approach and simply assign an arbitrary calendar date ("On 31 December 1599, all the Renaissance composers died"), but this, too, requires a reliable source on Wikipedia. As for my Original Research on impressionism in music, I would say that it is so strongly focussed on Debussy that its beginning has got to be decided by the watershed in his compositional course, when he abandoned the Wagnerisms and academicisms of his early career and began exhibiting those traits we identify stylistically with impressionism. This would place the beginning at some point after 1888. A convenient ending might be with Debussy's death in 1918, or even earlier with his abandonment of impressionism for the proto-neoclassicism of his last years. Alternatively, we may regard other composers (Ravel, Griffes, Delius, Respighi, Vaughan Williams, etc.), as carrying the style onward, well into the 1930s. However, as I said, this is my own Original Research.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 19:13, 24 June 2013 (UTC)
Yes, indeed, I wouldn't disagree with you on any of this. Sorry to put you to the trouble of writing such a long explanation! Kleinzach 22:59, 24 June 2013 (UTC)
That's quite all right, since having this set forth here may be of some service as we try to move forward on this woefully inadequate article. I might just add that, even accepting "Romanticism" as a well-defined chronological era ending on 23 August 1878 at 6:42 in the afternoon, Brussels Time, "Impressionism" has got the added disadvantage of running more or less concurrently with a number of other -isms: Expressionism, Neoclassicism, Modernism, Futurism, Historicism, few of which are any better delimited chronologically than Impressionism. This may be the best reason not to strain ourselves trying to define chronological limits for Impressionism (or all the others). However, this is advice to musicologists in general; on Wikipedia we are secure in our cocoon of reliable sources.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 00:52, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
Good, then I hope you approve of this edit]. Kleinzach 01:32, 25 June 2013 (UTC)

Oxford citation[edit]

I just slightly modified the citation format provided by Oxford Music Online. Is Michael Kennedy named as the author of that entry in the print edition? Nothing in the online edition indicates that. Srnec (talk) 12:23, 1 July 2014 (UTC)

On the front cover of the 2006 edition, Kennedy's name appears as author, and he is so listed in the Library of Congress WorldCat. Entries in the Oxford Dictionary of Music are not individually signed, as far as I am aware.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 18:29, 2 July 2014 (UTC)