Lazy Afternoons can be Revolutionary

October 2, 2016 at 2:08 pm

Nothing is quite as inspiring as a dirty piece of poetry.

Well, that’s how it all began. Stéphane Mallarmé wrote a sexy poem called “The Afternoon of a Faun“, in which a faun dreamily describes some intimate experiences he had with some nymphs that morning. The poem is highly effective at creating an erotic mood, and is considered one of the finest ever written in French. Enter Claude Debussy, who found the poem and set it to music as a “tone poem“. To be clear, he did not set the text of Mallarme’s poem to be sung by a singer or choir; instead, instruments alone were used to paint the evocative mood with erotic, chromatic melody and lush harmony that was truly groundbreaking when it was written. Mallarme at first was worried that the natural “music” of the poetry would be destroyed by a composer’s music. Debussy invited him to premiere; Mallarme’s fears were assuaged, and he wrote the composer a nice letter praising the piece. Later, one of the most influential ballet dancers of the 20th century, Vaslav Nijinsky, would create a ballet using the music.

This goes to show that when powerful minds are at work, even a lazy afternoon can change the world.