Born in the nineteenth century, Debussy grew up in north-central France. His father worked in a china shop, and his mother was a seamstress. At the age of ten, he displayed enough musical prowess to be admitted into the prestigious ‘Conservatoire de Paris’ where he initially studied piano, then shifted his interest towards composition.

In particular, there is a movement of his ‘Children’s Corner’, aptly named ’The Snow Is Dancing’, that comes to mind whenever I wake up to a white blanket shrouding my back garden. The movement is one of six, dedicated to Debussy’s daughter, Chou-Chou. 

In typical impressionist style, Debussy creates a swirling mental image of snowflakes dancing through the air. The part that struck me when I first listened to this piece was how effective the opening sequence was; Debussy utilises the staccato performance marking (wherein the performer plays the notes in a detached manner) as well as ostinato to create an immersive listening experience. Falling sequences also help to conjure up a snowy scene, whilst the darker, lower registers of the piano employed in the middle of the piece hint at a tumultuous snow storm.

For me, music has been a source of relief from the pandemic; it is relieving to be able to put on a pair of headphones and sink into a relaxing melody line, rather than ‘doom-scroll’, as my school has warned its students against doing. Debussy’s music is especially good for this—there is something hypnotic about his music in the way it captivates the listened almost immediately.

’The Snow Is Dancing’ has always been a personal favourite of mine; I have an extremely vivid imagination, so each time I listen to it is an amazing experience. If this piece isn’t your cup of tea, Debussy has plenty of other fantastic works, all highly varied in style and complexity. ‘Claire De Lune’ is probably his most famous work, having been used in films, advertisements and television shows alike. It is a far more sensual piece, and Debussy coaxed out the yearning melody line with beautiful leaping thirds.

All in all, if you need a winter time composer to try out, I highly recommend Debussy!