Claude Debussy
Claude-Achille Debussy (klod aʃil dəbysi) (22 August 1862 – 25 March 1918) was a French composer. Along with Maurice Ravel
Maurice Ravel
Joseph-Maurice Ravel was a French composer known especially for his melodies, orchestral and instrumental textures and effects...

, he was one of the most prominent figures working within the field of impressionist music
Impressionist music
Impressionism in music was a tendency in European classical music, mainly in France, which appeared in the late nineteenth century and continued into the middle of the twentieth century. Similarly to its precursor in the visual arts, musical impressionism focuses on a suggestion and an atmosphere...

, though he himself intensely disliked the term when applied to his compositions. Debussy is among the most important of all French composers, and a central figure in European music of the turn of the 20th century.

The colour of my soul is iron-grey and sad bats wheel about the steeple of my dreams.

Letter to Ernest Chausson|Ernest Chausson (1894)

Collect impressions. Don’t be in a hurry to write them down. Because that’s something music can do better than painting: it can centralise variations of colour and light within a single picture — a truth generally ignored, obvious as it is.

Debussy in a letter to his pupil Raoul Bardac (1906)

Every sound perceived by the acute ear in the rhythm of the world about us can be represented musically. Some people wish above all to conform to the rules, I wish only to render what I can hear.

Statement of 1910, as quoted in Debussy on Music (1977) edited and translated by Françoise Lesure and Richard Langham Smith, p. 243

The attraction of the virtuoso for the public is very like that of the circus for the crowd. There is always the hope that something dangerous may happen.

As quoted in Music in the Modern World (1948) by Rollo Hugh Myers, p. 99

Music should humbly seek to please; within these limits great beauty may perhaps be found. Extreme complication is contrary to art. Beauty must appeal to the senses, must provide us with immediate enjoyment, must impress us or insinuate itself into us without any effort on our part.

Quoted in French Music : From the Death of Berlioz to the Death of Fauré (1951) by Martin Cooper, p. 136, and in Debussy and Wagner (1979) by Robin Holloway, p. 207