It was a movement that took place during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries where the music composed was more focused on suggesting and conveying an atmosphere, moods and emotions by means of harmonic and melodic contrasts at the expense of tonal coherence in the sense of the traditional tonal harmonic functions.
The term “Impressionism” was borrowed from the philosophical and aesthetic movement associated with painting. Composers were labelled as impressionists by analogy to the impressionist painters who were using highly contrasting colours and light effects on objects, blurry foreground and background – among other techniques; all to make the observer focus his attention on the overall impression.
The most prominent feature in musical impressionism is the use of “colour” as a term that is associated to timbre – which can be explored through orchestration and textures; and to harmony through the usage of new chord combinations, harmonic ambiguity and flirting with tonality, extended chords, use of modes, exotic scales or parallel motion.
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