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Pagodes (Pagodas) are Asian temples, often quite large, notable for their curved roofs and graceful structures. The Japanese colored woodblock prints were the most avidly collected of all prints, and Debussy enthusiastically embraced the French fascination regarding the Orient and Japan in particular, ‘Le japonisme.’ (It was at this time that the famous French pickup line appeared: “Would you like to come up and see my Japanese prints?”) Debussy incorporates the pentatonic scale as well as bells, gongs, and gamelans, all suffused with a luminous atmosphere, stylized delicacy, elegant dance movement, and rhythmic counterpoint.
II. La soirée dans Grenade (Evening in Granada) is one of Debussy’s three Spanish piano pieces. His uncanny insight into the Spanish soul is particularly remarkable considering that he never even visited his neighboring country. It employs his novel compositional technique of alternating and juxtaposing various musical ideas rather than developing them, thereby creating a very modern and almost cinematic sense of splicing, fragments presented without transition. Tied together with the Habañera dance rhythm made so famous in “Carmen,” the strumming guitars, castanets, flamenco melodies, smoldering passion, and into intoxicating languor magically create a sultry scented summer evening in Spain.