Wednesday, 18 January 2012

A Double D Anniversary -Dickens and Debussy

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The New Year brings with it a rash of anniversaries. Foremost has to be Charles Dickens who celebrates his birth some 200 years ago. Another notable D is that of Claude Debussy who was born on 22 August 1862. Both men have continued to bring joy to countless people over the intervening years and deservedly receive huge acclaim from literature and music.

I am currently reading “A Tale of Two Cities.” It is remarkable that Dickens had the ability to write with such aplomb seamlessly joining humour and pathos together with such verve formed with incredible characterisation. His eye for the underdog is never far from the narrative or his view on the pitiful existence of the working class. He captures so much in each novel airing his views with subtlety and wit so that he never preaches or allows his empathies for social inequality to push the story into second place. Born in 1812 on February 7th in Portsmouth the son of John and Elizabeth, his early life, as most now know, was represented in his novel ‘David Copperfield.’ The tale depicts accurately how awful life would then have been for anyone whose fortunes faded and who found themselves in penury.

Of course he was so much more than a novelist. He was a playwright, a journalist, a writer of travel books and a humanitarian. The fact his stories live on with regular adaptations on both television and film is sufficient proof that at the core of his tales is that fundamental truth that all human beings are created equal. He truly is the quintessential Victorian author.

Achille-Claude Debussy was born eight years before Charles Dickens death in 1862 in St. Germain-en-Laye on the 22nd August. He died, like Dickens, a relatively young man on March 25th 1918. This fact may and probably is quite unremarkable but it tickles my fancy as my eldest daughter was born on 22nd August and I was born on 25th March. Obviously Thumbscrew was not born in 1862 and nor was I born in 1918.

Someone once described Debussy’s musical style as being the sonic equivalent of a Monet painting, a sort of melodic post-impressionist take on life. This resonates with me still especially so when I listen to pieces such as La Mer which illustrates perfectly the extraordinary tone his music produces. In a world of instant access to virtually any given subject combined with an increasingly demanding desire by most people to have whatever it is they want immediately then Debussy’s music provides the ultimate balm: reflective, soothing, calm but with and underlying passion disguised by perfect melodies.

I suppose there is nothing greatly remarkable about two such talents being born in the same century as they both, much like meteors in the night sky, flashed past each other as one faded whilst the other began its ascent. The truth that links these two masters of the form is not their initials but their incredible longevity. Charles Dickens and Claude Debussy.


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aNOtHEr fiLlEteD KIpPeR oN tHe 
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Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

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