Reconsidering Debussy's Danse Sacrée et Dance Profane from a Performative Perspective

Faculty Sponsor

Katharina Uhde


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Arts and Sciences



Presentation Type

Artistic Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 4-29-2021


This presentation investigates Debussy's Dance Sacrée et Dance Profane and some score-based issues such as instrument-specific notation, from both a historical and a performance-based perspective. Scholars and music historians have investigated Debussy's impressionistic style and musical compositions for decades. But only recent methodological developments in the humanities have given legitimacy to performance-based types of "knowledge". This presentation relies on both historical and performance-based evidence. The historical evidence is derived from careful study of the sources, including the composition and the composer's instructions located in the score. The performative evidence is drawn from empirical study over six weeks and includes notes and observations from a practice journal, as well as demonstrations on the harp in my SOURCE presentation. I argue that instrument-specific notational issues composed into the piece challenge today's harpist to find their own individual solutions. These solutions allow unlocking a sound world that goes beyond traditional approaches -- and perhaps beyond what Debussy had in mind -- but help foster a more nuanced understanding of the pieces.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Alana Swopes is senior music performance major. Alana has studied the harp under Claire Happel-Ashe for 3 years, and 10 years in total. After learning the Debussy Danses' for a year, she decide to study the piece further and quickly found that inside the piece was a world of discovery. After graduating, Alana plans to explore the field of Artist Research while continuing to hone her performance skills.

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