This is the first paperback edition of Roy Howat's stimulating and provocative study of Debussy's unorthodox use of musical form. Throught detailed analyses of the piano pieces Reflets dans l'eau and L'isle joyeuse and the symphonic poem La mer, Dr Howat shows how the pieces are built precisely and intricately around the two ratios of Golden Section and bisection so that the music is organised in various geometrical patterns which contribute substantially to its expansive and dramatic impact. The final chapter traces evidence of whether the proportional systems were designed consciously, and if so, where and why Debussy might have learnt such techniques. The evidence includes his involvement in the Symbolist movement and in esotericism.
'Roy Howat, in Debussy in Proportion, brilliantly dragoons every analytical and historical method at his command in his assault on the elusive question of Debussy's musical structures. Howat dispassionately assembles his evidence - biographical and historical matters, the analysis of duration, rhythm, harmony, motivic relationship, 'foreground' and 'background' hierarchical levels - into a virtually unassailable critical analysis of how Debussy's musical structures function as entities whose bases are those proportions expressed by the Golden Section or by Fibonacci and Lucus number series. The result, devoid of the analysis, is overwhelmingly convincing ... It is criticism at its best, intelligent and untiring in its efforts to bring the music into clear focus.' 19th Century Music ' ... it is impossible to resist the richness of detail supplied by Dr Howat; no sooner has a doubt occurred to one than it is resolved in the text, and the premise of the book seems inescapable.' Tempo 'To my mind, Roy Howat's book represents the most important advance in unravelling the mysteries of Debussy's music that there has ever been, and I confidently predict that its ramifications will be with us for a long time to come.' Robert Orledge, Music and Letters