Module 6 Clair de Lune Analysis Essay

1. Re-read Take a Closer Look: Exploring Claude Debussy’s “Clair de Lune”  in your textbook.

2. Carefully listen to the piano piece “Clair de Lune” and critically examine its components, style, context, and influence. Listen for and try identifying at least TWO basic elements of music described in the required Module 6 textbook pages. You may also wish to refer back to the Module 6 Online Exploration resources as well as the required pages in your textbook for Module 6.

3. Read the essay “Musical Impressionism: The Early History of the Term” by Ronald L. Byrnside from The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 66, No. 4 (October, 1980), pp. 522-537, published by Oxford University Press here in Module 6.

4.  Now that you’ve carefully examined and researched the work of music, write and submit the finished essay using at least three fully developed paragraphs and at least 500 words, in which you:

Describe Claude Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” analytically. In doing this, identify at least TWO basic elements of music described in the Module 6 required textbook pages “The Basic Elements of Music.”

Identify the “mood” of the song. What kind of “Impression” does it give you?

Explain whether “Clair de Lune” is Apollonian or Dionysian, and provide evidence supporting your argument.

Knowing that “Clair de Lune” belongs to a musical school known as Impressionism (based on your research) describe the similarities and differences between Impressionism as an artistic movement (as we learned about in Module 5) and as a movement in music. Use evidence from “Clair de Lune” and your exploration of Impressionism to support your arguments.

Conclude by commenting on whether or not you believe that Music and Visual Art should share an artistic classification such as “Impressionism.” In other words, does referring to “Clair de Lune” (the song) AND Claude Monet’s “Impression Sunrise” (the painting) both as “Impressionism” make sense? Or is this just an example of Academicians in Humanities making an unnecessary connection?

Be sure to use and cite “Musical Impressionism: The Early History of the Term” by Ronald L. Byrnside and/or another essay you have already found and read as a research source article concerning the musical school and movement known as Impressionism.


Claude Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” is a well-known piano piece from the early 20th century. This piece is a part of Debussy’s larger work, Suite Bergamasque, which he composed between 1890 and 1905. The piece is characterized by its tranquil and dreamy atmosphere, which is achieved through its harmonic language, texture, and overall sound. Two basic elements of music that can be identified in “Clair de Lune” are timbre and rhythm.

Timbre is the quality of sound produced by a musical instrument, and in “Clair de Lune,” the timbre of the piano is particularly important. Debussy uses the piano to create a range of different timbres, from the soft and gentle sounds of the opening to the more forceful and percussive sounds later in the piece. These changes in timbre help to create the piece’s dreamlike quality and contribute to its overall mood.

Rhythm is another important element in “Clair de Lune.” Debussy’s use of rubato, a technique in which the tempo of the music is varied to emphasize certain parts, is particularly noticeable in this piece. The use of rubato helps to create a sense of freedom and spontaneity in the music, and it also contributes to the overall mood of the piece.

The mood of “Clair de Lune” is contemplative and introspective, evoking a sense of calm and serenity. The piece is often associated with nighttime and the moon, which further contributes to its contemplative mood. The impression that this piece gives is one of peacefulness, where the listener is transported to a world of tranquility and beauty.

In terms of the Apollonian and Dionysian dichotomy, “Clair de Lune” can be seen as more Apollonian in nature. The piece is characterized by its orderliness and control, as well as its introspective and contemplative mood. This can be seen in the way Debussy carefully crafted the piece, with its harmonies, textures, and overall sound all working together to create a sense of calm and serenity.

Impressionism as a musical movement is similar to Impressionism in the visual arts in that it emphasizes atmosphere, mood, and the use of color (or, in music, timbre) to create an overall impression. Both movements reject traditional forms and techniques in favor of a more individualized approach. However, there are also some differences. In music, the use of harmony, rhythm, and texture is particularly important, while in the visual arts, color and brushstroke are emphasized. In “Clair de Lune,” we can see how Debussy used harmony, rhythm, and timbre to create an impressionistic atmosphere and mood.

In conclusion, the connection between “Clair de Lune” and Impressionism is clear. The piece is characterized by its dreamy, contemplative atmosphere, and its use of harmony, rhythm, and timbre to create an overall impression. While there are similarities between Impressionism as an artistic movement and as a musical movement, there are also some differences. However, the emphasis on atmosphere, mood, and individualism is a common thread. In terms of whether or not music and visual art should share an artistic classification, it is up to the individual to decide. While there are clear connections between the two, it is also possible to appreciate them separately.

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