Ricker Choi performing the Debussy Clair de Lune at a benefit concert for SickKids Foundation in 2013.
The name Clair de Lune comes from Paul Verlaine’s poem of the same name. When I listen to or perform Clair de Lune, however, I don’t necessarily need to conjure up the poem’s imagery; the music speaks to me directly.
I think there is always this debate between program music and absolute music. To me Debussy'sClair de Lune might have been inspired by a program (the poem in this case), but once the music is composed, it now becomes its own poetry. The poem is no longer needed to comprehend this beautiful piece of work.
When I perform Clair de Lune, the opening feels like waves to me, as if I am floating in mid-air, moving like a feather on the whims of a gentle night breeze.
Then at 0:39 when the bass comes in to support the theme, I feel a sense of wonder. Wonder at the beauty of the world.
At 1:06 when the deep deep bass comes in, I feel the earth rumble from deep down, channeling the energy through me.
Then at 1:57, I feel like I am in the ocean, floating along its wavy ebbs and flows.
Around 2:27, when it floats higher and higher, the ocean carries me higher and higher—reaching the moon.
2:41—it is now deep night… no sound, just silence and darkness.
At 3:09, the moon shines through, reflecting on a beautiful, calm lake. I am the moonbeam itself.