Mr. Peabody Says:
I can’t suggest what to listen to first. I’m still missing the last piece, which is Golliwogg’s Cakewalk. I need to play it, to complete the set, but it is my least favorite. For students, the one piece that is most playable is “The Little Shepherd”, so if you are looking for something to play, start with that one.
The title Dr. Gradus ad Parnassum is Debussy’s way of poking fun at academia. This fun looking man, who to me looks like something out of the Inquisition, is Johann Joseph Fux (c. 1660 – 13 February 1741). He was an Austrian composer, music theorist and pedagogue of the late Baroque era, and music students have been tortured by his counterpoint excercises for centuries. They are called Gradus ad Parnassum. meaning steps to “perfection”.
Jimbo is a tiny elephant. Perhaps you can hear him lurch a little. He’s small, but you know he is an elephant because he starts out low in the bass clef.
There is a section that is all whole tones in the center, but much of the piece is pentatonic.
My image for this little a miniature is a tiny ballerina dancing for a little girl, the little girl for whom Debussy wrote this – his daughter. I see a magical creature, much like tiny Jimbo. For me this piece is almost easy to play, technically, but terribly difficult.
There is nothing to add for this miniature. Maybe you see snow, maybe you don’t, but the whole piece is a blurring of textures. I would say this is quintessential Debussy
This is about a shepherd playing a flute. He plays three solos, and each solo is followed by an music that is descriptive. Debussy uses modes and altered modes.