Today is the 151st anniversary of the birth of French composer Achille-Claude Debussy and Google has marked the occasion with style, creating an animated short based on his best-known work, ‘Clair de lune’.
‘Clair de lune’, which means ‘moonlight’, is the third movement of Debussy’s Suite bergamasque and will be familiar to many through its extensive use in various media. The tune has featured on a number of film soundtracks, from the award-winning drama Atonement to teen favourite Twilight. On television you may have heard it on The Good Wife, The Simpsons or even an episode of children’s cartoon series Animaniacs. It has even entered the world of video games and can be heard on Gran Turismo 4.
Today’s animated doodle on the Google homepage (best enjoyed with the sound on, naturally) depicts an inky night scene travelling along a riverside. The streetlamps, cars, lights from faraway buildings and billows of smoke from chimneys are all synced with Debussy’s captivating music. Look closely and you’ll even spot a shooting star.
Towards the close of the short animation, two rowboats meet in the rain and their occupants share the protection of a red umbrella.
Debussy is regarded as a composer of impressionist music, though he himself was not fond of the term. He has been oft-quoted as saying, “Music is the space between the notes,” and this conviction can be heard in ‘Clair de lune’ and his other works.
Some believe Debussy’s compositions were based on mathematical structures and Scottish pianist and musicologist Roy Howat even suggests that sections of his pieces reflect the golden ratio by using the Fibonacci sequence.
Debussy died of colon cancer at the age of 55 on 25 March 1918. He is widely considered one of the most influential composers of the 20th century, with his reach expanding beyond classical music to impact on jazz musicians, such as Miles Davis and Duke Ellington, and contemporary composers like John Williams.