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Debussy's 'La Mer' Marks 100th Birthday

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Debussy's 'La Mer' Marks 100th Birthday

Debussy's 'La Mer' Marks 100th Birthday

Debussy's 'La Mer' Marks 100th Birthday

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/4957580/4957716" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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A 1908 portrait of Debussy Corbis hide caption

toggle caption Corbis

Hear 'La Mer'

'From Dawn to Noon on the Sea' (Charles Munch, Boston Symphony Orchestra)

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La Mer, symphonic sketches (3) for orchestra, L. 109

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La Mer, symphonic sketches (3) for orchestra, L. 109

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One hundred years ago Saturday, classical music witnessed a sea change — quite literally. On Oct. 15, 1905, French composer Claude Debussy's symphonic portrait of the sea, called "La Mer," premiered in Paris.

The way Debussy captured the ocean's color, light and mood — using the orchestra as his paintbrush — gave composers new ways to think about writing orchestral music.

With "La Mer," Debussy ignored the old rules about combining textures and sounds in symphony orchestra, and created a whole new world of sonic possibilities. To this day, notes Washington Post critic Tim Page, even conductors are divided on how to approach the piece.

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