Golliwogg’s Cakewalk (orchestrated Oct. 2008) remains one of Debussy’s most popular of his Children’s pieces from a book called “A Children’s Corner”. Golliwogg is a doll, a black doll with large white eyes, that was the subject of a book by Florence Kate Upton. Unfortunately, the character became a symbol of racism in the U.S. The grotesque looking doll often had large paws for hands and, sometimes, claws. The fact that the character carried racist connotation in the states didn’t carry over to France, where Debussy, ‘artiste Parisien’, composed the piece. A ‘Cakewalk’ is a dance. The origins of the dance are found in the southern U.S. in the period of slavery. The dance was a way for slaves to mock their masters, dancing about and joking the aristocratic and grandiose gestures of southern high-society, the rich folks who owned the slaves.
With mocking quotations from ‘Tristan‘ and syncopated Scott Joplin rhythms, it is one of the most fun and joyous pieces that children and adults continue to program in concerts today. This piece was composed during the height of tension between French and German composers. Debussy references what has come to be known as the “Tristan Chord”, a new and innovative series of notes that opened Wagner’s popular opera. Requested by orchestras for both Easy and Advanced levels, both of these two different orchestrations retain and expand upon the music’s naturally enthusiastic and fluid colors and textures.
For Beginner Orchestra:
For Advanced Orchestra: