Syrinx – Flûte de Pan

photo of Claude Debussy (from google images)I’ve been invited to participate in a “Nature and Music Festival” in mid-February in Wheeling WV, sponsored by the Oglebay Institute and the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra. I will be giving a talk entitled “The Music of Nature: Soundscape Recordings as Art Forms.” I’m also hoping to collaborate with the Orchestra, or select musicians, to do a mix or two of music with the sounds of nature.

One idea is to pair up with a flutist who would perform Claude Debussy’s Syrinx, which I believe was inspired by nature. The piece was originally called “Flûte de Pan”—a sad and evocative tune that Pan (the god of forests and fields) plays on his pipe just before his death. My choice for the background is Thrush Hollow, featured in an earlier post. This springtime soundscape from North Carolina features a bubbling brook and the songs of two distant Wood Thrushes. I think it mixes very well with the flute solo:

An experimental mix of Claude Debussy’s SYRINX and a soundscape recording from the mountains of North Carolina. Mixed by Lang Elliott.

I know that some folks are not excited about mixing nature with music, especially classical music. But this mix seems to work pretty well. And when one considers that it was inspired by Pan of the forests and fields, it seems like a no-brainer to combine the two. I can readily imagine Pan playing his pipes next to a bubbling brook, with wild birds whistling silvery songs in the background.

Whatya think?

Note: I snatched the flute piece from a CD. If I actually produce and sell this mix as part of a music+nature title, I’ll have to find a talented flautist to play the piece.


  1. Yep, third time’s the charm! Now the flute and voices play nicely with each other rather than compete. Very copacetic of them, and very nice for listeners’ daydreams. Lovely work!

  2. Hmmm, well … I *thought* I wanted more bird and less music volume, but here they almost sound competitive to my ears. I listened to both open air and earphones. You gave us PapaBear, and then MamaBear, perhaps, if you were serious about one more mix, we shall find *BabyBear*

  3. This is a beautiful, tender blend that enticed my full attention lightly, and would have done so at greater length. Brought to mind the Celtic blessing ‘Deep Peace.’ The animal and mechanical voices counterpoint so easily, as if the flautist was inspired to play outdoors. This and your recent cello intervention differ from the established genre as I knew it. You’re taking this to creative new places and I hope to hear more.

  4. This is beautiful. I love nature sounds mixed with classical music. I probably have a couple hundred songs on my iPod that are just that, but mostly with piano. I love hearing it with the flute. Of course, I’ve been playing the flute for 30 years, so I’m a little biased. 🙂

    • I’d like to try some piano mixes. I’ve found most classical music too “thick” to work well with nature, meaning that the music is too loud and totally covers up the background sounds.

  5. This is beautiful. I think your music/nature sound mixes might draw in people who are not otherwise interested in nature recordings.

  6. I imagined Pan sitting on a moss covered rock, playing. This got me through an icy, snowy day. Thank you!

  7. I typically do not care much for the music mixes, but I liked this one quite a bit. I thought the flute melody and the wood thrush went nicely together. My only complaint is that the flute was just a little too loud, and the birds a little too soft.

  8. a haunting melody.. the wood thrush is my absolute favorite songster and I find their songs quite enchanting. I’m not sure if the flute works for me here, it’s a bit too morose. I think of wood thrush as pied pipers, always inviting me to follow them further into the woods..
    regardless, it’s a beautiful recording

    • Cindy: It is certainly a haunting melody, though I wouldn’t consider it morose (or broody, moody, melancholic, sullen, sad). But I’ve noticed this issue with many pieces in minor keys, such as Irish or Scottish Airs, which I find beautiful and soothing, while others may find them on the sad side. Did you know that early American ornithologist Alexander Wilson played Scottish airs on his flute, leading some to believe he was decidedly melancholy (which I think was not true).

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