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Assignment Questions

Claude Debussy


Before writing your response to this unit’s test, please read the following approach to writing a strong essay.

A claim is a statement – your thesis – that you are advancing. Many people start with a claim. However, they forget that claims can be, and usually are challenged. You cannot simply ask me to accept your idea, and I cannot simply agree. I must ask why I should agree with or accept it. As your audience (and instructor) I expect you to prove your claim. Thus, you need to supply reasons, data, evidence, or, grounds, for why your idea, your position, your answer is worthy of consideration.

The grounds (or data) are the basis of real academic writing, most of which is persuasion. Any time you are writing an essay, you are trying to persuade your reader to consider you ideas as valid (even personal narratives are persuasive—think about it, when a writer offers a story about his/her first kiss—they want us to FEEL and/or understand something. Was it comical? Disturbing? Romantic?). When writing an essay exam, you are trying to persuade your instructor that you understand and can apply key concepts.

Therefore, you need to support your claims with data and hard facts—not opinion. Base your claims on concrete data. Remember, the actual truth of your data may be less that 100%, as our perception influences how we read and select data. Hence, we present our ideas understanding that they are, to varying degrees, subjective. Knowing this, we cannot simply rely on the data to ‘prove’ our claim. We must also explain to our audience the relevance of our data in relation to the our claim. As writers (or speakers) we show our audience the connections we see between the data and our ideas. This explanation is known as the warrant .

3) WARRANT- show me the reasons
A warrant links data to a claim, legitimizing the claim by showing the data to be relevant. The warrant may be explicit or unspoken and implicit. It answers the question ‘Why does that data mean your claim is true?’

The warrant may be simple and it may also be a longer argument with additional sub-elements, including those described below.

Use the warrant to answer any questions you feel your audience may have regarding the connections of data to claim.

The qualifier (or modal qualifier) indicates the strength of the leap from the data to the warrant; use qualifiers to limit how universally your claim applies. Qualifiers include words such as ‘most’, ‘usually’, ‘always’, ‘sometimes’. It is a good idea to think about how ‘absolute’ you are in your claim, particularly when analyzing the creative expressions of human beings. For example, I doubt we can make the claim that all Romantic poetry uses the exact same elements in the exact same way—or even that a single poet, like Keats, uses the elements in the exact same way in each of his poems. When discussing the arts, then, we need to acknowledge the idea that the elements of style are not applied universally in the same manner, but rather appear in degrees or with an individual artist’s ‘signature’ approach.

Define the basic features of impressionist works in music and in painting. Then select one piece of work by Claude Monet and one piece by Claude Debussy and discuss how each displays the basic features you have identified.

The end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th were characterized by tremendous advancements in Science and Technology. Enthralled by machines and
passionate about new gadgets, people were intent on embarking on a new era made better through science and technology. But there was a flaw in this thinking, just as there had been during the Enlightenment: technological progress makes life easier, but it has little to do with human progress. The Enlightenment ideal that rational thinking leads to Progress was not realized in any meaningful way, and scientific developments did not
lead human beings to behave any better toward each other.
In addition to constant changes in science and technology, tremendous philosophical changes came about which deeply affected people’s way of thinking. As always, these
are reflected in the art, literature and music of this period. And, as if technological and philosophical shifts were not enough, World War I began in 1914 and catapulted people into a world they had never known, and one that would never be the same.
Characteristics of this era:
Everything changes in the 20th century: Contradicting the Enlightenment certainty that
most things in life could be known and understood, Einstein and Heisenberg brought forth concepts of Relativity and Uncertainty and pointed out that in fact very few things are knowable. Uncertainty becomes a key word for the 20th century.
In the past, the tendency had been to look at the world as being static and orderly, like a clock which functioned smoothly. Now, Darwin declares that not only had humans gone through a process of evolution, but that in fact the world itself was constantly changing. Change is another characteristic of the 20th century.
The result of the constant leaps in science and technology is a society which no longer can know everything, but rather knows a little about one field, and very little about most other fields. This means that the sense of whole felt by a Renaissance or an Enlightenment person disappears, and knowledge and understanding become fragmented. Add Fragmentation and Alienation to the key concepts of the 20th century.
Finally, there is yet another radical departure from the Enlightenment Reason and Logic. Sigmund Freud points out that it is mostly instinct and drives which affect human behavior. Others say that we are also influenced by heredity, the environment and conditioning. They conclude that Reason and Logic play only a part in human behavior, and words like Instinctive, Unconscious or Subconscious, Irrational are now used to describe that behavior.
Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
CD 2, No. 16: “Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune.” (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Fawn)
This is the most celebrated of Debussy‘s compositions, and the one that best exemplifies Impressionism in music. There are clear parallels between Impressionism in art and in music. This music seems to have no beginning and no end, and it has no build up leading to a grand conclusion or a dramatic ending. It meanders, the gliding chords suggesting impressions of a particular musical moment, in the same way that an Impressionist painting suggests, rather than show, a fleeting visual moment.
Even though this is music, we can talk about shifting colors. Color is achieved by new uses of the orchestra and by introducing unusual instruments such as the harp. There are also shifting moods, evoked by themes that sound incomplete, as though they are blurred, and by surges or repetitions which suggest that the mind is roaming. You can’t really “grasp” this music, and you shouldn’t try. Just let it happen.
Like the Modernist painters, the musicians of the latter part of the nineteenth and first part of the twentieth century believed that their music did not have to tell a story, or represent current events, but rather that it needed no justification, it was a world in itself.
Impressionist painters departed from previously accepted styles and subjects. And in music, continuing a tradition started by Beethoven, who broke down previous forms and modified them according to his own preferences, the Impressionists make some radical changes as well.

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