The first edition of La Mer (published by Durand in 1905) had on its cover a picture of a wave. The image refers unmistakeably to Hokusai’s ‘The Wave’ and constitutes an act of homage paid by a composer to an artist whose work he revered. Rather than using Hokusai’s work to illustrate his own, Debussy chose to present an interpretation that, in significant ways, enabled him to reach over and transcend traditional boundaries. Dr Breatnach suggests that his purpose in using this image was, at least in part, to prepare his audience for an unprecedented aural experience.
Having graduated with a degree in Modern Languages from University College, Cork, Mary Breatnach studied the viola in London and Germany and pursued a career as a musician. In 1989, she was awarded a PhD from the University of Edinburgh, where she was a member of staff in the French Department until retiring in 2010. As an Honorary Fellow, she continues research in the field of word and music studies. Her contributions to that field include numerous articles as well as Mallarmé and Boulez: A Study in Poetic Influence, published by Ashgate in 1996.