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Echoes from the East

The Javanese Gamelan and its Influence on the Music of Claude Debussy

Kiyoshi Tamagawa

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Geisteswissenschaften, Kunst, Musik / Musik


One of the most admired qualities of Claude Debussy’s music has been its seemingly effortless evocation and assimilation of exotic musical strains. He was the first great European composer to discern the possibilities inherent in the gamelan, the ensemble consisting mainly of tuned percussion instruments that originated in Java.

Echoes from the East: The Javanese Gamelan and its Influence on the Music of Claude Debussy argues Debussy's encounter with the gamelan in 1889 at the Paris Exposition Universelle had a far more profound effect on his work and style than can be grasped by simply looking for passages and pieces in his output that sound “Asian" or “like a gamelan." Kiyoshi Tamagawa recounts Debussy’s individual experience with the music of Java and traces its echoes through his entire compositional career. Echoes from the East adds a commentary on the modern-day issue of cultural appropriation and a survey of Debussy’s contemporaries and successors who have also attempted to merge the sounds of the gamelan with their own distinctive musical styles.

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