What Did the West Wind See? Teaching Whole-Tone Scales through Debussy's "Ce qu'a vu le vent d'ouest"

Author(s): 
Angela Ripley
Volume: 
30
Year: 
2016
Material: 
Abstract: 

Debussy’s “Ce qu’a vu le vent d’ouest” (Préludes, Book 1) provides fertile ground for teaching undergraduate students to identify whole-tone scales in a musical context. Included in this article are an analysis of the piece and lesson plans designed to help students find examples of whole-tone collections in melodic and harmonic contexts. Students collaboratively construct a musical timeline, deepen their thinking through exploratory writing, discuss the interactions of diatonic and whole-tone elements throughout the piece, and support their analytical observations with specific musical examples. In a setting that invites both tonal and post-tonal analysis, students learn to discern which analytical tools are appropriate to diverse musical contexts.