Classical Music Stories

Classical Music Stories: The Great Gatsby and Debussy

The Great Gatsby headphones music

Wow, has it really been over two years since I shared a Classical Music Story with The Great Gatsby?? We’re breaking the streak today with a short piano piece by Debussy, composer of the beloved “Clair de Lune.”

Classical Music Stories is a series that connects music to your favorite books and characters. Since listening to classical music can be like hearing a story (albeit an abstract one), imagining specific stories that match the music can make it that much more fun and accessible!

Estampes No. 3: Jardins Sous La Pluie by Claude Debussy

Pianist: François-Joël Thiollier

Even if you don’t know French, I’d bet it wouldn’t surprise you that this piece is called “Gardens Under the Rain.” The opening pitter-patter creates that image really clearly! But there’s also this underlying anxiety that I hear intermixed with the rainy sounds, which made me think of The Great Gatsby–specifically when Gatsby finally meets Daisy at Nick’s house when it’s pouring rain outside. You can read the story I imagined below, but feel free to listen and imagine your own story first if you’d like, as well, whether related to The Great Gatsby or original!

Gatsby is waiting inside Nick’s house for Daisy while it rains outside. His nervousness and anxiety grow to a climax as he sees Daisy approach in the car. He quickly goes outside and out of the way to watch; he hears and sees Daisy innocently banter with Nick along with Nick’s playful banter in return. He gathers the nerve to go knock on the door (the peal that happens four times in the music), is admitted, and Daisy sees him. There is a buildup of questioning and affirmation by Gatsby until he breaks into ecstasy at their reunion, but there is always an underlying anxiety and fear behind it all–at least on Daisy’s part.

Then Gatsby leads Daisy to his house for a tour, both moving as though they were in a dream. She is wide-eyed, admiring the splendor until Gatsby throws his shirts at her causing her to burst into tears. But when he approaches her and questions what’s wrong, she goes back to innocent glee and they both continue to rejoice at being together with the music ending on a happy, contented note.

Did you hear this story in the music? Did you imagine something totally different? Let me know in the comments!

You might also like:

The very first Classical Music Stories: The Great Gatsby

High Schoolers Tackle The Great Gatsby With Classical Music

If The Great Gatsby Characters Had Favorite Colors

Songs for Every Book: The Great Gatsby and Adele

7 thoughts on “Classical Music Stories: The Great Gatsby and Debussy”

  1. This is a very creative post and idea – looking forward to more! The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite books. Have you ever seen the remake? It is very different and the background music is a lot of rap. Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting, too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much! Yes, I’ve seen the remake and enjoyed it! I know some people didn’t like the rap but I feel like it works, maybe because it matches the mood despite being historically inaccurate? And of course! I really enjoyed your post. 🙂


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