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10 Essential Claude Debussy Compositions
Claude Debussy in August 1904

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10 Essential Claude Debussy Compositions: "La Mer," "Children's Corner" And More

Likely the most influential composer of the 20th century, Claude Debussy liberated classical music with impressionistic flair and vivid imagery.

GRAMMYs/Apr 10, 2023 - 01:11 pm

Visionary French composer Claude Debussy was quite vocal about abhorring the term "impressionism" as a descriptor of his music. And yet, that’s exactly what his revolutionary body of work achieved: vivid impressions of places, seasons and moods. 

Debussy ignored the conceptual parameters that preceded him and liberated classical music in a daring aesthetic free-fall — forsaking structure and tonality etiquette. Like Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro and the other impressionist painters of his generation, Debussy found ecstasy in nature and light. His mathematically inclined constructions — both for solo piano and lush symphony orchestra – grasped the elusive and ethereal. Footsteps in the snow. Reflections in the water. The sounds and fragrances swirling in the evening air.

Debussy lived only 56 years (1862-1918) and died at home just as Paris was being bombarded by German artillery. He is likely the most influential composer of the 20th century, and most  movie music notably the classic soundtrack work of John Williams is imbued in Debussy’s orchestrations. Here are 10 essential works of Claude Debussy to discover and cherish.

"Beau Soir" (1891)

Debussy composed a number of exquisite songs using the words of writers such as Baudelaire and Gautier. The lovely "Beau soir" (Beautiful Evening) is one of the most famous – marked by a sinuous melody and a wistful description of sunset by Paul Bourget. Debussy’s nostalgic cosmovision was already in place, even in those early efforts. 

"Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune" (1894)

Think of this brief, languorous tone-poem about the erotic ruminations of a faun as the awakening of modern music — at least that’s what esteemed composer Pierre Boulez thought. Based on the poem of the same name by French symbolist Stéphane Mallarmé, "Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune" is dreamlike and hedonistic, with memorable touches of flute and harp. 

"Nocturnes" (1899)

"Composers aren’t daring enough. They’re afraid of that sacred idol called common sense," Debussy wrote in August of 1894 to his friend, painter and amateur violinist Henri Lerolle. He was announcing the composition of a new orchestral work divided into three segments: "Clouds," "Festivals" and "Sirens." 

The addition of a female chorus on the third movement meant to impersonate the mysterious song of the sirens, swimming in the ocean under the moonlight gives the ending a reckless quality, mournful and triumphant at the same time.

"Pelléas et Mélisande" (1902)

As early as 1881, Debussy was working on fragments of operas that remained unfinished. From 1893 until its much talked about premiere in 1902, he labored obsessively on the doomed love affair epic "Pelléas et Mélisande," adapted from a Maurice Maeterlinck play. 

"I’ve been forcing myself to be Pelléas as well as Mélisande, and I’ve gone looking for music behind all the veils she wraps around herself," he wrote to fellow composer Ernest Chausson in October of 1893. Celebrated as one of the greatest of French operas, it forsakes show stopping melodies in favor of dense textures and a strangely addictive, shadowy mystique. A production led by acclaimed conductor James Conlon is running at LA Opera until April 16.

"Estampes" (1903)

Debussy’s radical innovations didn’t happen entirely on their own. He was always curious about the sounds from distant lands, and his interest in foreign harmonies are particularly transparent in this stunning three-part suite for solo piano. 

"Pagodes" borrows from the Indonesian gamelan music that he heard at the Paris World Conference Exhibition in 1889. "La soirée dans Grenade" exudes the majestic tones of Spanish folk music, and may have been inspired by fellow impressionist Maurice Ravel. Back in familiar territory, the swooshing speed of "Jardins sous la pluie" (Gardens in the Rain) recaptures a violent rainstorm in the Normandie town of Orbec.

"La mer" (1905)

Rightfully considered to be his orchestral masterpiece, "La mer" really comes to life in a concert setting. Close your eyes and you can almost feel the ocean breeze touching your face, as Debussy conjures up a panoply of orchestral devices to impersonate the whimsical dialogue between the wind and the sea. He corrected the score while on vacation at the Victorian-styled Grand Hotel in Eastbourne, England. 

"Suite bergamasque" (1905)

This legendary four-piece suite for piano is partially based on music that Debussy wrote as a young composer, and later rearranged. The third movement, "Clair de lune," is one of the most haunting standards of the classical repertoire. 

Based on a poem by Paul Verlaine, it sums up Debussy’s vision in five glorious minutes of impossibly gorgeous, unrepentantly melancholy nocturnal atmospherics. It’s the kind of musical statement that defies words — it must be experienced to be believed. 

"Children’s Corner" (1908)

One of Debussy’s most delightful and accessible compositions, the piano suite "Children’s Corner" was dedicated to his daughter Claude-Emma, affectionately known as Chouchou. These six miniatures are alternately tender — every single note counts on the spiraling "The Little Shepherd — and gently humorous, as in the rapid-fire verve of "Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum," which satirizes piano workbooks for finger independence. There is a tragic postscript to this charming collection: Chouchou died a year after her father, a victim of a 1919 diphtheria epidemic. She was 13.

Préludes, Book 1 (1909-10)

At the peak of his creative powers, Debussy composed the first of two books of piano preludes, loosely connected as a series of moods and impressions. "La fille aux cheveux de lin" (The Girl with the Flaxen Hair) is deceptively simple – its gorgeous melody known all over the world. "La cathédrale engloutie" (The Sunken Cathedral) is based on a Breton legend and swells up to a solemn crescendo. 

"La sérénade interrompue" (The Interrupted Serenade) is the sonic equivalent of a Monet painting depicting the fuzzy colors of dusk. In 1953, German pianist Walter Gieseking recorded the definitive version of this cycle at Abbey Road studios in London.

"Les soirs illuminés par l’ardeur du charbon" (1917)

By 1917, Debussy was nearly bedridden, suffering from cancer. As World War I raged on, a coal merchant managed the impossible task of providing the composer’s family with some scarce fuel during a particularly harsh winter. In gratitude, Debussy wrote this brief, yet beautiful piano piece about his evenings illuminated by the glow of burning coal. 

It was discovered in 2001, and has since been recorded by a number of pianists, including a magical rendition by Alain Planés. Turns out even the lesser-known Debussy pieces are transcendent gems.

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Billy Joel
Billy Joel performing at Madison Square Garden in 2023

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

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How To Watch "The 100th: Billy Joel At Madison Square Garden – The Greatest Arena Run Of All Time" On April 14

"The 100th: Billy Joel At Madison Square Garden – The Greatest Arena Run Of All Time" will air Sunday, April 14 (9-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on CBS, and be available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.

GRAMMYs/Apr 14, 2024 - 02:16 pm

Legendary singer/songwriter Billy Joel, a five-time GRAMMY winner with 23 nominations, has always remained in the Recording Academy's spotlight, even during his lengthy hiatus from pop/rock music.

At the 2024 GRAMMYs, Joel marked his grand comeback with his new single, "Turn the Lights Back On" — and it was like he never turned them off at all.

Now, the era of Billy Joel rolls on. Tonight, April 14, viewers can witness his record-breaking 100th consecutive performance at Madison Square Garden, a streak that started when his franchise run began on March 28. Joel holds the amazing distinction of selling out Madison Square Garden more than any other artist.

Here's how and when to watch "The 100th: Billy Joel At Madison Square Garden – The Greatest Arena Run Of All Time."

The special will air Sunday, April 14 from 9-11:00 PM, ET/PT on the CBS Television Network, and be available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+. This is Joel's first-ever concert to air on a broadcast network — so don't miss the Piano Man at work, whether you watch on the night of, or stream it after the broadcast.

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Gwen Stefani and Olivia Rodrigo perform during No Doubt's set at Coachella.

Photo: John Shearer/Getty Images for No Doubt

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No Doubt’s Coachella Comeback: A Night Of Nostalgia With Olivia Rodrigo As A Special Guest

No Doubt's triumphant return to Coachella, marking their first show in nine years, electrified the desert with a dynamic performance that spanned their eclectic hits and featured a surprise appearance by Olivia Rodrigo.

GRAMMYs/Apr 13, 2024 - 12:35 am

On the first Saturday of Coachella, No Doubt made a striking comeback on the festival's main stage for their first performance together in nine years. 

Originating from Anaheim, California in 1986, the band is celebrated for their eclectic sound that defies easy categorization — from the ska-punk vibrancy of their early days to the polished pop anthems that later defined their career. 

Their big breakthrough album, Tragic Kingdom, was released in 1995 and propelled them to fame with hits like "Don't Speak" and "Just a Girl," which dominated the Billboard charts for 16 weeks. 

Featuring all original members — Gwen Stefani, guitarist Tom Dumont, bassist Tony Kanal, and drummer Adrian Young — No Doubt's Coachella performance was a tribute to their iconic past and a reminder of their beloved eccentricity. 

The standout set was filled with unbeatable stage presence, surprise guests, and showcased the band's timeless appeal nearly four decades into their career. Known for blending introspective brooding with a uniquely sardonic edge, the band has significantly influenced a generation of complex female artistry. Highlights from the performance, including Stefani's magnetic stage presence, heartfelt interactions with fans, and a surprise appearance by Olivia Rodrigo, underscore their palpable appeal and lasting influence on contemporary music. 

Read on to discover five key highlights from their hotly anticipated return at Coachella during their 'Weekend 1' set:

Gen Z And OG Fans United As One

As fans converged on Coachella's main stage for No Doubt's set, the diversity of the audience was immediately apparent. Younger fans, clad in social media-ready outfits inspired by Gwen Stefani’s iconic style (some even recreating her most iconic looks) braved the evening's brisk winds. 

Despite challenges, the alleged bad modern concert etiquette was not apparent, especially after Stefani's call for a return to old-school concert vibes before performing a “Simple Kind of Life.” 

“Let’s do this old school!” Stefani said as she confessed missing the days when fans would belt out all the lyrics at the top of their lungs without much care in the world. It was a sentiment that quickly resonated through the audience and a moment that not only bridged generational divides but also highlighted No Doubt's broad and enduring appeal. 

The Night Was Full Of Nostalgia

Outside of the fact that frontwoman Stefani is allergic to aging, for a group returning after nine years performing together, No Doubt’s stage presence was just as powerful as their past, dynamic performances.  

“There’s no f—king comparison!” Gwen Stefani roared during “Underneath it All,” capturing the intensity of the moment as she dropped to her knees, rhinestones sparkling on her eyebrows and a smile breaking through. 

Read more: GRAMMY Rewind: Watch No Doubt Accept Their GRAMMY Award For “Underneath It All” In 2004

The band's passion burned just as brightly when they were playing local college gigs in Orange County. There was no sign of awkwardness or a single misstep as Stefani showcased the same brilliance of her early days as a burgeoning musician.

She shared the spotlight seamlessly. As Dumont delivered a guitar solo during “Different People,” Stefani playfully skipped and ran across the expansive stage, never missing a note. 

No Doubt has always transcended nostalgia, yet they embraced their history at Coachella. Stefani dressed to the nines in a plaid, avant-garde outfit while background videos played personal and rehearsal footage from the '90s, evoking a simpler time for the group. Stefani appeared barefaced in a plain white tee, bouncing around a beat up truck in a video that explained the band's origins and showed the magnetic charisma that manifested a star turned supernova.

Olivia Rodrigo Made A Surprise Appearance

Right before Stefani took a brief water break, she flashed a mysterious smirk to the crowd. 

As the introspective track “Bathwater” thrummed to life, a brunette donning a glittering “I [love] ND” tank top emerged, her face turned from the audience. The murmurs quickly escalated into screams, particularly from the younger fans, signaling the arrival of pop starlet Olivia Rodrigo. Matching Stefani in energy and presence, Rodrigo proved a formidable presence on stage, trading verses and singing in duet through the chorus, their performance culminating in a sweet embrace. 

No Doubt’s influence on Rodrigo's music is palpable. After all, tracks like Rodrigo’s “Get Him Back!” and No Doubt’s “Bathwater” are cut from the same mascara-stained cloth — each with a poetic, vengeful twist. They were just girls! Living in captivity! The revenge? Being able to put into song the diabolical conditions of womanhood, while allowing themselves to truly feel — whether it be anger, delusion, or plain pettiness. 

The Band Members Have A Bond

No Doubt’s historic return to the stage elevated the entirety of the Coachella-going experience, setting a standard and outshining the majority of the other acts. Throughout their performance, the admiration they had for one another became increasingly evident. 

From Stefani frequently calling out “Tony! Tony!” to (Tony) Kanal during the set’s adlibs to the end of their set when the group remained locked in a hug for several moments, the group was clearly overjoyed to be back together again. Before exiting the stage, Stefani leaped onto the back of Young while she excitedly kicked her feet, as though in protest of having to leave. 

A Coachella backstage supervisor working onsite during their rehearsals candidly confessed that he was taken by the band's natural chemistry. During soundcheck, he stated they were so intrinsically confident and overjoyed about their performance it seemed as though they had never stopped performing with one another. 

They Showed Deep Gratitude For Their Fans

There was nothing but gratitude on display from each and every member during the festival set. After almost every other song Stefani would belt an “I love you!” to the crowd. 

During an experimental instrumental-only tribute to ska-pop, Kanal ran across the stage with a huge smile, at-the-ready to riff back-to-back with members of the group. 

“Indio, put your f—king hands up!” Stefani commanded the crowd as they gleefully complied. Then, as smoke filled the air under the brilliantly shining crescent moon, she celebrated the group coming together for the first time in nine years. 

“Isn’t this so crazy?” Stefani yelped during her performance for “It’s My Life.” “This is our life! Singing I love you!” 

It was an epic return for No Doubt as a band and Stefani as their fierce leader, showing up to Coachella naturally, just a girl. A girl who loves to sing, rile up the audience in a fierce sing-along, and remind everyone that self-acceptance is all their music has ever been about. 

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Display inside GRAMMY Museum's New K-Pop Pop-Up
ATEEZ on display at the GRAMMY Museum

Photo: Rebecca Sapp

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Inside The GRAMMY Museum's ATEEZ & Xikers Pop-Up: 5 Things We Learned

Rookie K-pop group Xikers and label brothers ATEEZ are the subject of the GRAMMY museum’s first-ever K-pop pop-up exhibit. Go inside the exhibit, which runs through June 10, and learn about the clothes, videos and stories behind these K-pop boy groups.

GRAMMYs/Apr 12, 2024 - 11:32 pm

K-pop’s reach has expanded exponentially over the past decade, bringing some of Korea’s biggest pop stars to the West for sold-out tours, history-making performances, and a number of cross-cultural collabs.

K-pop touring acts accounted for a record high of 5.1 percent of the 100 highest-grossing tours globally in 2023 according to Billboard. K-pop’s reach has been palpable in regions outside of Asia — like the U.S., Europe and Latin America. According to the same study, BLACKPINK was the No. 1 grossing K-pop group in 2023, with their global tour netting $148.3 million over 29 shows; the group was the 10th most profitable touring act across any genre. 

The GRAMMY Museum is capturing this historic moment in time with a pop-up exhibition focused on two of the fastest-growing groups in the industry. On April 10 through June 10 at the GRAMMY Museum in downtown Los Angeles, "KQ Ent.: ATEEZ & Xikers" is an inclusive environment for anyone — whether you’re a dedicated Xikers fan who knows the dances step-by-step or a casual listener wanting to learn more about K-pop. 

Read more: What's Next For K-Pop? A Roundtable Unpacks The Genre's Past, Present And Future

After passing through displays dedicated to King of Pop Michael Jackson, you’re transported to a new era of pop music through an exploration of both ATEEZ and Xikers’ careers. Right at the entrance is a bright blue wall containing a sweeping look at the history of Korean pop music, written in both English and Korean. The exhibit details terms exclusive to the world of K-pop, including the positions of various members in each group, and what key terms like "bias" and "trainee" mean. 

GRAMMY Museum's New K-Pop Pop-Up _ What Is K-Pop Wall

The second part of the exhibit displays outfits both groups have worn, as well as props from their music videos. Other items on display include abstract drawings Xikers’ members did themselves as concept art for their first mini-album HOUSE OF TRICKY: Doorbell Ringing.

The second and third walls of the exhibit focus on breaking down the basics on what to know about ATEEZ and Xikers. Visitors can then head to a wall of music videos from both groups, pop on the attached headphones, and enjoy the exhibit’s displays come to life in a glorious video. 

At the pop-up's opening event, there was palpable excitement from both groups' fan bases — also know as Xikers’ Roadys and ATINYs for fans of ATEEZ. Fans squealed and gasped, taking pictures of each other and the exhibit; some fans even brought photocards of their favorite members (protected in a pink, decorated case, of course) in order to snap a photo of the card next to a member’s outfit on display. 

This exhibit is a love letter to fans, as well as a succinct introduction into the world of the modern K-pop star. Read on for five things we learned from "KQ Entertainment: ATEEZ and Xikers" exhibit.

All photos by Rebecca Sapp.

For Xikers, It's All About Relating To Their Fans 

GRAMMY Museum's New K-Pop Pop-Up _ Xikers Outfits

*Xikers' outfits on display*

Xikers already had fans in their pre-debut days, and their journey was on full display at the GRAMMY Museum. Under the temporary moniker KQ Fellaz 2, the group released pre-debut documentary-style videos exploring how the members approached training in Los Angeles. 

The pop-up explains how the 10-member group came up with their name: The "X" was short for x-coordinates, while "IKERS" derives from the word hiker. Together, the name was supposed to represent the group on a journey to find their Roadys (the "Y" representing y-coordinates) as well as their own career trajectory. 

Xikers are fearless stylistic chameleons who pen their own tracks and experiment with genres like hyperpop and rap. With such innovation, it makes sense that they are the only group from K-pop’s fifth generation that has landed two albums on the BIllboard Global 200 chart within the year of their official debut (March 30, 2023). Their latest EP, HOUSE OF TRICKY: Trial And Error, arrived in early March 2024.

The props and outfits acquired from the sets of Xikers' music videos are often an homage to traditional Asian culture and intertwined with the bright, braggadocio of street style — all with a youthful spin. At the exhibit, large bubble guns and neon bandanas from the "We Don’t Stop" music video are a snapshot of these small moments of youthfulness. 

ATEEZ’s Focus On Freedom Has Always Important To Their Art 

GRAMMY Museum's New K-Pop Pop-Up _ ATEEZ skateboard

*ATEEZ's prop skateboard*

Throughout the pop-up ATEEZ, are described as having "everything the youth needs." It’s a tall order for any musical artist, but the exhibit solidifies ATEEZ’s growth into that role. 

Their sophisticated debut tracks were self-assured and encouraged fans to embrace the same attitude: "We can do anything, just follow us" they sing on their debut single, "Pirate King." Yet, becoming a symbol of youth meant digging into how powerless the young can find themselves. Reflected in the band's anarchy card props and graffitied skateboards on display,  ATEEZ's music has always included a rebellious streak. 

The group often revisit this theme throughout their career — particularly on 2020’s "Say My Name" and "Pirate King" — except with more of an exploration of figuring out how to liberate oneself from those in power. While some K-pop groups’ concepts and music video can be tedious or confusing, ATEEZ's focus on freedom is effortless.

K-Pop Stage Outfits Are Even More Magnificent IRL 

GRAMMY Museum's New K-Pop Pop-Up _ ATEEZ outfit

*An outfit worn by Jongho from ATEEZ*

High-energy choreography has been an essential facet of K-pop, and both ATEEZ and Xikers perform a youthful, powerful choreography (so much so that ATEEZ included a dance practice video for their display). 

Xikers’ emphasis on smooth, synchronized and intense choreography was proudly displayed on their wall of information and in the music video playing throughout their display. The group incorporated their outfits into their choreography, with dynamic zipping motions and confidently stomping out complicated footwork with their platform sneakers. 

Both Groups Performed Sold Out Debut Tours

GRAMMY Museum's New K-Pop Pop-Up _ xikers props

*Xikers props*

Xikers and ATEEZ stay booked and busy. On  both walls listing their accomplishments, there seemed to be an endless array of album titles and projects coming out —  ATEEZ have released nine EPs since their 2018 debut. It only highlighted the immense work ethic it takes to thrive in the industry.

ATEEZ's first tour came only four months after their debut and sold out in mere minutes. Xikers headed on a tour merely six months after their debut, performing in North America, Europe and Japan. Both bands' global popularity speaks to the depth with which K-pop groups (and Xikers and ATEEZ in particular) connect with their fans. On social media, under each tour’s hashtag, fans record their live performances, or write about how much a song meant to them.  

ATEEZ’s upcoming fourth world tour Towards the Light: Will to Power, is on the horizon, and Xikers just wrapped their tour this year in February. It’s clear that touring has become an essential part of their artistry, as well as a crucial way to connect with with listeners in a safe space. In fact, it’s something fans often look forward to — not only being able to relate to their favorite singer but also finding other fans. As this exhibit reveals, despite the glitz and glamor of the industry, at the core of it all is the group’s desire to find connection. You might carry a photocard of them, but they are just a bit like you, too. It makes this unique connection all the better for it. 

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(L-R) Tony Kanal, Gwen Stefani, Adrian Young and Tom Dumont of No Doubt stand holding their GRAMMY Award for  Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal
(L-R) Tony Kanal, Gwen Stefani, Adrian Young and Tom Dumont of No Doubt

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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GRAMMY Rewind: Watch No Doubt Accept Their GRAMMY Award For “Underneath It All” In 2004

Ahead of No Doubt’s highly anticipated reunion at Coachella on April 13 and 20, revisit the last time the band was on stage at the GRAMMYs together — the moment they won Best Pop Performance By A Duo/Group at the 46th Annual GRAMMY Awards.

GRAMMYs/Apr 12, 2024 - 05:49 pm

Right before their hiatus in 2004, No Doubt had one last hurrah with a win for Best Pop Performance By A Pop Duo Or Group With Vocals for "Underneath It All" at the 46th Annual GRAMMY Awards.

In this episode of GRAMMY Rewind, travel back to when they took the stage to accept their award presented by Mathew Perry together.

Drummer Adrian Young began by praising their families, loved ones, and the citizens of Drapers, Jamaica, for "showing us how to have a good time and relax while recording music" Then, bassist Tony Kanal took a turn at the microphone thanking their team, management company, and label, Interscope Records.

Frontwoman Gwen Stefani closed out the speech by acknowledging "Underneath It All" co-writer, David Stewart of Eurythmics; her then-husband, Gavin Rossdale, who inspired the track; and, of course, the fans for "letting us stay alive as a band for all these years."

This Saturday, No Doubt will reunite again (they took a second hiatus in 2015) for a premiere performance on the Coachella stage. 

Press play on the video above to watch No Doubt's complete acceptance speech for their "Underneath It All" win in 2004, and check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of GRAMMY Rewind.

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