An Impressionist Seascape
Listening: Debussy – La Mer (The Sea)

*Special Guest Robert Franz, Music Director of the WSO


Esa-Pekka Salonen & Orchestre de Paris: Claude Debussy - La Mer

La Mer (with score)
(you don’t have to be able to read the notes on the page, instead, react to the shapes you see from the notes written on the page).


Background Documentary on La Mer

Brief NPR Walkthrough (listen to the audio track)



1. What are your overall impressions of the piece? How does it make you feel? Do you like it? Dislike it?

2. Look up 1 fact to share about the composer, Claude Debussy. It can be anything!

3. Debussy was an impressionist. Check out some impressionist artwork and impressionist artwork about the sea.

4. Is there a piece of impressionist artwork that you could connect this piece to? What similarities or differences did you find? HINT: It doesn’t have to be a piece about the sea.

5. Is there a piece of art that is not impressionist that you think fits better? If so why?

6. Did anything change from your first listening without information to your second?

7. There are 3 movements in this piece with titles: I. De l’aube à midi sur la mer “From dawn to noon on the sea” | II. Jeux de vagues “Play of the waves” | III. Dialogue du vent et de la mer “Dialogue of the wind and the sea”. Do these programmatic titles live up to their names? Why or why not?

8. Try focusing on different aspects of the music such as rhythm (steady or irregular), melody (singable or not singable), texture (block of sound, bursts of sound, dots of sound, or does it sound like a crowded room with everyone talking), or visual (orchestra playing vs watching the score). If you’re unsure about any of these, don’t worry! We will talk about them in more detail.