Piano student Jamey Rowe created an arrangment of the famous Debussy composition Claire de Lune under the guidance of his instructor James Loughery. We asked James to give us a peek behind the scenes into what goes into such an elaborate arrangement and performance.
This arrangement grew out of our lessons as we were working on Claire de Lune at the same time that Jamey was enrolling in the Festival for Creative Pianists, which invites participating pianists to create arrangements, write compositions, and complete other compositionally-minded challenges over the course of several weeks to discover their creativity and build creative toolkits and skills. Since most of our arranging work together involves jazz and American standards, the opportunity to use a piece from ‘classical’ repertoire was too good to pass up, and being one of Jamey’s all-time favorites, Claire de Lune became the perfect challenge to arrange!
Because Claire de Lune is fully composed, Jamey and I went to work on analyzing the harmonies and creating a lead sheet version of the three main sections we decided on using. Next, we explored various interpretations of the musical sections and went about forming ideas of how to treat certain material. For example, towards the middle of the arrangement, you can see Jamey’s hands climb up the piano with quick arpeggios, then continue in a flurry of quick arpeggiated texture to support the melody. This moment was inspired by Jamey’s associating this section with snowfall, which was then worked up into a “blizzard of notes”!
The chords/harmonies of Claire de Lune are perfectly compatible with jazz harmonies, much of which Jamey has learned both in our lessons and while he completed a jazz piano course taught through Berklee College of Music last year. For many of these harmonies inherent in Claire de Lune, we happily indulged in polychords (combining two chords), a harmonic feature heard best in the frequent ascending arpeggios, especially in the final section. Polychords also happen to be one of Jamey’s favorite concepts (his favorite example being in Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring during the “Dance of the Adolescents”)!
Jamey has loved music his whole life and is a highly dedicated musician and student, being a multi-instrumentalist playing piano, viola, violin, and percussion. Programs Jamey has attended include Interlochen Arts Academy and Berklee College of Music, and he has performed at the FDR Memorial in Washington D.C. as well as the Southeast Indiana Music Hall of Fame. Jamey currently studies piano and composition under James Loughery, and viola/violin under Dominic Mileti. In his free time, Jamey enjoys spending time with family, boating, and jamming with local jazz and folk groups in southeast Indiana where he lives with his triplet-brothers Sam and Brody.