Perhaps a useful focus for the hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Debussy's birth should be on what has happened since its centenary in 1962, a few years before my own interest in the composer developed, alongside that of several British colleagues. Any serious young student at that time, searching for materials, would find a complex web of patchy information with as many lacunae as there were concrete sources. In the 1960s Debussy scholarship was frankly in its infancy: there were few robust analytical approaches to his music, no critical editions, and precious few commentaries of much worth. The scattered publications of the composer's correspondence and his collected writings were incomplete and, although the early biographies contained some important information here and there, they were opinionated, biased, and debatable, and there was little literature that tied the music to any context.
Fresh on the library shelves was the new two-volume tome by Edward Lockspeiser, who, incidentally, became my supervisor and friend. This was Debussy: His Life and Mind, complementing his single volume Debussy written in the 1930s and many times reedited. The two-tome work was meant to coincide with the centenary but was running a little late. Essentially it contained little commentary on the music itself, though Lockspeiser was forced to write an appendix addressing it in more detail, a task he took on reluctantly and which—many will agree—he was not very good at. More concentration on the music per se was coming into fashion, and journalistic commentary, laden as it was with value judgments, was beginning to be yesterday's news. There can be no doubt that Lockspeiser appended commentary on the music with some trepidation because he believed that approaching music through its techniques was simply not the way to a composer's heart—not that he wasn't skilled at marshalling notes on manuscript paper; indeed, he bequeathed a substantial mountain of compositions from the time when he studied both composition and conducting at the Royal College of Music in London. His strength in the Life and Mind volumes was to explore context, especially of the neighboring arts, rather than to expose “kitchen secrets.” He was dissatisfied with the binary opposition that had plagued Debussy throughout the middle years of the twentieth century: “Was Debussy an Impressionist, or was he a Symbolist?”