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Author Archive: "Peter Mendelsund"

The Powell’s Playlist: Water Music by Peter Mendelsund

The Powell's PlaylistWe "see" when we read, and we "see" when we listen. There are many ways in which music can create the cross-sensory experience of this seeing... through sonic imitation, through poetic evocation, through dynamic mapping, through programmatic association, through the literal use of physical materials...

1. "La Mer" by Claude Debussy
The big kahuna of classical "water musics." So painterly in its orchestrational detail. The big move here by Debussy is paralleling the idea of a swelling of physical volume (a cresting wave) with a swelling of aural volume (a crescendo). In this mapping, louder=fuller.

2. "Sea Interludes" by Benjamin Britten

3. "Ondine" from Gaspard de la Nuit by Maurice Ravel
The piano is particularly suited, in its instrumental color, to evoking water; specifically the sound of the tinkling, chiming of water drops. Here we have one of Ravel's programmatic water pieces, based on a poem by Aloysius Bertrand:

Listen! — Listen! — It is I, it is Ondine who brushes drops of water on the resonant panes of your windows lit by the gloomy rays of the moon; and here in gown of watered silk,


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