This month I am taking a look at how non-western music has influenced what we know as ‘western’ classical music. Many people think that classical music just applies to the west but so many other cultures have their own classical music which is so worth exploring. (I am hoping to look at this in the coming months.) For now, though check out the pieces below and see how many pieces we know were influenced by world music. The Listen Here buttons connect to Spotify where you can listen to pieces.w
Claude Debussy - Pagodes
Pagodes is part of a larger piece Estampes by Debussy evokes images of East Asia, which Debussy first heard in the Paris World Conference Exhibition of 1889, and later again in 1900. While at the exhibition he heard a Javanese Gamelan for the first time. A gamelan is made up of several percussion instruments and has such a wonderful sound. What makes it sound distinctly Asian is the use of what is called a ‘pentatonic’ scale. (Don’t worry I’m not going to start getting technical now.) It uses 5 notes which I’m sure you will have heard before. It is one of those pieces that will leave you feeling very ‘chilled ’out.
Rameau – Les Indes Galantes
Les Indes Galantes is an opera (well really an opera-ballet) written by French composer Jean-Philippe Rameau written in 1735. The opera is set in four locations the Indian Ocean, the Andes, Persia and finishing in the forests of North America and mostly consists of several dance numbers influenced by the culture of these four regions.
Rimsky-Korsakov - Scheherazade
Here is a piece you may have heard before. The composer named the piece Scheherazade because it brought to everyone’s mind the fairy-tale wonders of Arabian Nights. The piece itself is a story about a storyteller – one of the greatest of all, who inspired this exotic music.i love this piece. You can imagine the rolling of the sea and through the violin Scheherazade telling us her story.
There is no better example of world music and western classical music finding each other and making something really special. Check out the Silk Road Ensemble’s many recordings and videos.