Beauty and Innovation in la machine chinoise

Beauty and Innovation in la machine chinoise

Falla, Debussy, Ravel, Roussel

Richard E. Mueller


Pendragon Press



An innovative look at musical exoticism in works by Falla, Debussy, Ravel, and Roussel, a type of piece that Debussy termed la machine chinoise.
During the first decade of the 20th century, Falla, Debussy, Ravel, and Roussel composed works laced with exotic coloration, a type of piece that Debussy termed la machine chinoise. Various historical factors at the time, including two world fairs and the vogue for Japanese prints, brought the rage for musical exoticism to a peak. But interest in Far Eastern forms of music among composers seeking innovative forms of expression coincided with avant-garde tendencies in the treatment of tonality and form.

Innovation within the machine chinoise includes structural factors only indirectly involved with exotic coloration. Although musical beauty is intuited and cannot be described in words, it exists and can be located on the basis of ideas shared by philosophers, musicologists, and composers. The role Benedictus' Javanese transcriptions play in the germination of these works fails to account for their musical beauty: these are minor masterpieces for the unforeseeable ingenuity and imagination with which they are composed. This book strikes a balance between history and criticism by bringing together new forms of structural analysis with newly discovered exotic influences and broader frames of historical reference.

Richard Mueller is an independent scholar. He holds degrees in musicology, piano, and composition from Harvard, Indiana University, and the University of Chicago (PhD, 1983) and has taught at Holy Cross College and the University of Connecticut.

An e-book version of this title is available (9781576473283), to libraries through a number of trusted suppliers. See here for a full list of our partners.


June 2018
12 colour illustrations
220 pages
9x6 in
ISBN: 9781576472781
Format: Paperback
Pendragon Press
BISAC MUS050000, MUS041000, MUS006000
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Related Titles

Table of Contents

Towards a Theory and Criticism of Exoticism
Falla's Chinoiserie: Unforeseen Beauty in an Unexpected Exoticism
Debussy's Pagodes: Blending the Exotic
Debussy's Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut: Extending the Exotic
Ravel's Laideronnette, Impératrice des Pagodes: Refined Exoticism
Roussel's Ode à un jeune Gentilhomme: Free Exoticism
Embracing Elusive Allusion
Song Texts
Musiques Bizarres (1900)
Musiques Bizarres (1889)