Claude Debussy: More Than Just Moonlight

Knowing my propensity for both classical music and whimsical animation, a number of friends notified me of the Google Doodle commemorating Claude Debussy’s 151st birthday when it first appeared last night. I’m grateful, because it’s wonderful.

But don’t take my word for it. See for yourself.

I love the way the lit windows serve as visual reminders of piano keys. And the way the stars, and puffs of steam, and clouds are all synced up to the music, yet still unpredictable. The sudden rain is probably my favorite moment, though the striking redness of the balloon (nicely recalled in the umbrella finale) was a close second.

I’m not quite sure why his 151st birthday is significant. Maybe something to do with the blue moon we experienced earlier this week? (Not, of course, that one needs a reason for celebrating the birthday of a legendary composer like Debussy, no matter the number. But I’m curious; it’s what I do.)

The doodle did remind me of how enormously popular his lunar-themed “Clair de Lune” is in comparison to his other works. (That’s the piece serving as soundtrack to the Google animation, and which is described by some of today’s news stories as “Moonlight,” though I think that might be the first time I’ve heard it described thusly. That title belongs to Beethoven, as far as I’m concerned.)

Whatever its moniker, it’s become a Mandatory Inclusion Piece whenever bargain-bin labels throw together a “Romantic Classics” or “Greatest Classical Hits” compilation, and while its undeniable listenability and soothing tone doubtless help explain its obsequiousness, I can’t help but wonder if most folks even know that it’s the third part of a larger four-part piano work called “Suite Bergamasque.”

Since I’m in a “Debussy Wrote More Than Moon Music” frame of mind, I’ll take the opportunity to share my favorite Debussy piece: Children’s Corner, a six-movement suite written for his three-year-old daughter. (OK, so my favorite Debussy piece — Golliwogg’s Cakewalk — is actually just part of Children’s Corner, but SEMANTICS.)

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