"'So Free as to Seem Improvised': Rhythmic Revisions and Kinetic Form in Debussy's Recording of D'un cahier d'esquisses."


Debussy's 1913 recording of D'un cahier d'esquisses ("from a sketchbook," composed in 1904) diverges considerably from the tempo markings, rhythmic values, and time signatures in the score. The chapter explores rhythmic aspects of this unusual recording through a mixture of quantitative and qualitative analytical methods, including a complete transcription of the recording in standard music notation, empirical measurements in Sonic Visualiser, and a series of analytical animations using symbols and concepts from Christopher Hasty's Meter as Rhythm. The analysis shows that the cumulative effect of the rhythmic revisions in Debussy's recording is to dismantle the proportional structure latent within the score (as described by Roy Howat in Debussy in Proportion) and to replace it with a new form of "rhythmicized time" that Jann Pasler and Simon Tresize have detected in some of Debussy's compositions from the period in which the recording was made.