May 11

The Secret Life of Plants

Well, this Mother’s Day has been quite the confluence of events!  Of course, Mother’s Day is Sunday May 13th.  As you’ll hear in the video, I decided to play a famous piece of music for my mom called “Claire De Lune” by Claude Debussy; I had played the song some 40 years ago at my mother’s wedding.

As I began playing it, I realized suddenly that the middle section of Debussy’s composition has a modulation to the same key as another song I was working on – “The Secret Life of Plants” by Stevie Wonder.  And guess when Stevie’s birthday is?  Yep – May 13th!Dr. Weiss in front of a piano explaining the connection between Wonder and Debussy


But wait – the connections don’t end there!  It turns out that Wonder and Debussy are musically related (in a matter of speaking).  Claude Debussy was among the most influential composers of the late 19th and 20th centuries, much as Stevie Wonder is one of the most influential composers of the late 20th and 21st centuries.  Debussy was also a child prodigy – he entered the Paris Conservatory at the age of 10 (Wonder debuted on the public stage at the tender age of around 11 or 12).

Debussy was associated with the Impressionist music period – a classical music movement whose music focuses on atmosphere and conveying moods and emotions.  Here are some other similarities between Debussy and Wonder:

  • Debussy’s music is noted for its sensory content and frequent use of nontraditional tonalities.
  • Both composers make frequent use of lengthy pedal points (listen to Wonder’s “I Believe (When I Fall in Love it Will Be Forever)” and “The Secret Life of Plants
  •  Both composers used chromatically altered chords as well as sharp and flat 9ths and 11ths.
  •  Both composers made frequent use of parallel chords or chordal melodies
  •  Both composers used unprepared modulations – changing chords without a harmonic bridge.

Since there seemed to be a strong connection between the two artists, I decided to use a segment of “Claire de Lune” as an intro into “The Secret Life of Plants” – can you spot where the transition comes from and where it occurs?

Happy Mother’s Day to my family of patients and I hope you enjoy the video!

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