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Debussy's 'La Mer' Marks 100th Birthday

One hundred years ago Saturday, classical music witnessed a sea change — quite literally. On Oct. 15, 1905, French composer Claude Debussy's symphonic portrait of the sea, called "La Mer," premiered in Paris.

The way Debussy captured the ocean's color, light and mood — using the orchestra as his paintbrush — gave composers new ways to think about writing orchestral music.

With "La Mer," Debussy ignored the old rules about combining textures and sounds in symphony orchestra, and created a whole new world of sonic possibilities. To this day, notes Washington Post critic Tim Page, even conductors are divided on how to approach the piece.

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Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.