Oodles of ambiguity

When does modern music start? With the Rite of Spring? With Schönberg’s Second String Quartet??

Those two are amongst the most popular suggestions; but there are, of course, any number of other candidates. Smart money however (I reckon), is on this…

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…Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune – and I have no less an authority than Pierre Boulez to back me up!

From the tonal haziness of that opening flute passage, rocking gently across that most unstable of intervals, the augmented fourth (C sharp to G natural)

Faune

to the drowsy Tristanesque end, the work is continually creating new sound worlds; often floating us exhilaratingly free from the gravitational tugs of tonality. Wonderful!

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                                        Non, mais l’âme
De paroles vacante et ce corps alourdi
Tard succombent au fier silence de midi:
Sans plus il faut dormir…

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                                      No, but the soul
Empty of words and this heavy body
Succumb late to the haughty silence of midday:
No more, we must sleep…

Stéphane Mallarmé: L’après-midi d’un faune

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