1. La terrace des audiences du clair de lune
I dedicate this prelude to what Max Weber predicted to be one of the fundamental causes of the war: European colonialism. La terrace des audiences au clair de lune conceals a reference to the coronation of George V, King of the British Empire, in India (Delhi Durbar of 1911). The title of La Terrace quotes a line from an article by René Puaux—recalled by Debussy in his letters—that poetically describes how the event glorified the magnificence of the upsurge of British colonialism. The Delhi Durbar of 1911 was the last of three coronations that took place in India and was the only one attended by its honoree. The ceremony served as a demonstration of the British Empire’s sovereignty over India, which was further reinforced during the Great War. It also signified the pinnacle of British hegemony over the Far East, achieved thanks to military victories of the nationalized British East Indian Company in the Anglo-Indian Wars as well as in the Opium Wars in China.
The music of La terrace des audiences au clair de lune is strange and solemn; as ethereal as the intangible borders of the British Empire. From the middle section of the piece a moment of joyful intimacy emerges, as if emanating from the gallery of the royal family; only to be subsequently lost in the vast multitude of armies that configured their audience.