Project 6 – Flute and Recorder

This post is a short analysis of two pieces: ‘Syrinx’ and ‘Lizard’, written respectively for flute and recorder.

Debussy: Syrinx (solo flute)

This short piece makes significant use of the flute’s lower register, making it sound quite mysterious.  Rhythmically it uses grace notes with accented down beats which give it a kind of swaying dance feel; quite appropriate for the ‘syrinx’ title (I believe this refers to a legendary nymph).  The piece starts with a descending chromatic passage, ending with the diminished fifth and minor third which sounds unresolved and in keeping with the mysterious feel.  Then the melodic line leads us upwards with an arpeggio to a briefly major transition – this is a nice change in colour in the flute’s higher register, before repeating the initial chromatic passage an octave lower.

The middle section changes to a pentatonic scale (with an added 7th) which sounds much brighter and less ominous, though this quite quickly changes to a more chromatic passage again.

Structurally the piece feels complete as we return to the initial chromatic passage at the end, this time played louder and with more vibrato, with a gradual descrescendo.  The piece ends with a whole note scale passage which is quite ambiguous in terms of major/minor tonality.

Alun Hoddinott: Lizard (solo recorder)

I think I have only ever heard baroque pieces played on a recorder before so this was quite a novelty for me!  It makes use of some interesting effects such as sliding between notes, overblowing (making the sound slightly sharp) and rapid, articulated tonguing.

The pace at the start is quite frantic and has the recorder jumping around in pitch all over the place.  The initial section starts with a repeated note on an F (the key note), and ends with this same rhythm on a B before landing finally on an F#.  It often has the feeling of a whole tone scale but the F# minor 2nd clearly does not belong in that scale and I think it can be safely described as chromatic.

Structurally, there is a slower more explorative section in the middle, and then like the Debussy it also ends with a revisit of the opening theme.  Although the notes are bouncing around the full range of the recorder, there is often still a melodic line to be heard within. For example towards the end of the piece, before the recap, there is a clear upwards passage where the recorder plays a trill or similar effect on gradually higher and higher notes (in amongst the jumping around), giving it a sense of direction.

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