everyday light

unexpected glimpses of natural light phenomema


Heard Claude Debussy’s Nocturnes on the radio recently. The radio host read the composer’s description and I was reminded of Richard Kelly’s tenants of lighting design:


Debussy’s description:

“The title Nocturnes is to be interpreted here in a general and, more particularly, in a decorative sense. Therefore, it is not meant to designate the usual form of the Nocturne, but rather all the various impressions and the special effects of light that the word suggests. Nuages‘ renders the immutable aspect of the sky and the slow, solemn motion of the clouds, fading away in grey tones lightly tinged with white. Fêtes‘ gives us the vibrating, dancing rhythm of the atmosphere with sudden flashes of light. There is also the episode of the procession (a dazzling fantastic vision), which passes through the festive scene and becomes merged in it. But the background remains resistantly the same: the festival with its blending of music and luminous dust participating in the cosmic rhythm. ‘Sirènes‘ depicts the sea and its countless rhythms and presently, amongst the waves silvered by the moonlight, is heard the mysterious song of the Sirens as they laugh and pass on.”


Richard Kelly’s tenents of lighting design:

1. Focal glow (highlights)

2. Ambient luminescence (graded washes)

3. Play of brilliants (sharp details)



Nuages = Ambient luminescence

Fetes = Play of brilliants

Sirens = Focal glow 


One comment on “nocturnes

  1. Barbara McDonald
    April 26, 2014

    Ben – Unfamiliar as I am about this subject, I can see the direct similarity of Debussy description and Richard Kelly points. Amazing. Wish they had known about each other. Mom

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This entry was posted on April 18, 2014 by in everyday light.


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