“Un mystère de présence totale”: Jankélévitch, Debussy and the mystery of music

Lorenzo De Donato


This essay investigates some issues of the Twentieth Century French philosopher and musicologist Vladimir Jankélévitch’s Musical Aesthetics and Philosophy of Music, particularly referring to his original interpretation of the French musical Impressionism, with emphasis to some composers such as Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel and Gabriel Fauré. Specifically, the paper pays attention to the aesthetical and musical criticism of the author towards Debussy’s music. Which are the features and the characteristics of the Jankélévitch’s philosophical musicology? How much the purely theoretical and ontological theories and ideas of the philosopher act on his view of Debussy’s work, of Impressionism and of music in general as an art and a human experience? Which is - consequently - the original and eccentric approach used by Jankélévitch in his musical writings and which are the final ideas expressed on debussysme? As a result of this study, it will appear a surprisingly nihilistic view of the life and of the reality, a totally unique, unusual, innovative and imaginative interpretation of Claude Debussy’s compositions, where music and sound become a ′′magical′′ phenomenon through which giving a deeply philosophical interpretation of the world and of the human life.

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