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Discussion Starter #1
Hi,

I just transposed Syrinx from Bb to Eb for my alto saxophone. It took me forever because I did it on finale and I did it exactly. Slur for slur, dynamic for dynamic, italian direction by italian direction. I got to the second to last measure and and realize, at least in the B flat version I have, the second to last measure is missing a beat. Is this right?

In Eb, it goes - quarter note :line4: tied to an eight note :line4: which is part of a 5 note tuplet. so it goes D,C, Bflat, Aflat, Fsharp. 5 notes per beat. But if you count the beats, that's only 2 beats (including the quarter note D to begin the measure. Is this how it's supposed to be? Am I missing something? Besides that I have everything else. There's just the missing beat. Thanks
 

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This could be completely wrong, but my lecturer told me to feel it and play it more as a gliss than work it out...but theory was never my strong point so I never argued...:|
 

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In the original publication for flute. It is the same as your saxophone music. The five notes grouped together after the first quarter note should take two beats. Actually, the second to last bar is originally marked "Tres retenu", or very held back, so the time is not strict here.

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Discussion Starter #5
saxtek said:
In the original publication for flute. It is the same as your saxophone music. The five notes grouped together after the first quarter note should take two beats. Actually, the second to last bar is originally marked "Tres retenu", or very held back, so the time is not strict here.

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Thanks. The more I thought about it the more I realized what was supposed to happen. Thanks.

I love the piece. I sight read it for 20 minutes and can already probably come close to preparing it for a concert. It's such a great piece, but not extremely difficult. And thanks to my 875EX, it sounds amazing!
 

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I have a quick question. What's your motive for transposing this piece? Yes it's great for learning to transpose and whatnot, but the version that most people play is the flute version. When played on Soprano, that version is already different. So I guess what I'm asking is, if you're planning on playing this, why not learn the original? I definitely don't mean to sound rude, just clarifying! :)
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
bezozzi said:
I have a quick question. What's your motive for transposing this piece? Yes it's great for learning to transpose and whatnot, but the version that most people play is the flute version. When played on Soprano, that version is already different. So I guess what I'm asking is, if you're planning on playing this, why not learn the original? I definitely don't mean to sound rude, just clarifying! :)
I'm kinda confused. If people play the flute version on soprano isn't it in the wrong key? I've heard it on alto saxophone and I thought that's what it was generally played on so I just transposed it for alto.

"When played on Soprano, that version is already different."

What does that mean?

And I just did a google search and most of what I found looked like Syrinx is usually played on Alto. That's probably did it on alto. And of course I transposed it, or else it wouldn't be in the right key and would therefore sound wrong.

I also don't own a soprano so that solves that problem as well.
 

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He's saying that since it is unaccompanied it doesn't really matter. True it might not be in the exact original key that the composer wrote, but a lot of times it doesn't even matter.

For instance, when I played the unaccompanied Bach Flute Partita, I just read straight off of the sheet music without transposing. Many people play it like this. Same with the Bach Cello suites and same with a bunch of the paganini caprices.
 

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I've never played Syrinx on saxophone, but I have performed it quite a bit on flute. Here's some advice I can give:
As far as transpotion goes, I don't think it really matters if you transpose it or not, but it seems that if you transpose it to Alto from flute, some of it is going to be pretty high on the instrument and it could lose some of the haunting quality Debussy was looking for. Also, if you switch registers for certain parts it throws off the shape of the work. It fits comfortably in the saxophone range, so I say play it as is since it is unaccompanied.

I would tell one of my students to play it from an original flute edition and play it EXACTLY AS INSTRUCTED! Debussy give very clear instructions on how it should be performed, though it is in French (or Italian, depending on the edition). Read it note for note, no short cuts. There are stories that Debussy himself actually hated the way most peolple played Syrinx (and many of his other works for that matter) because they felt that because the works were impressionistic, they could interpret them however they pleased. He once complained to Marcel Moyse something to the effect of "People play my music however they like. I wish my name were German, then the would pay attention to what I wrote!"

Also, learn the history of the piece. Learn about Louis Fleury (sp?), the flutist who commisioned it. Also, in order to truly understand the work, you have to know the myth of Pan and Syrinx, which the composition is written to depict. Listen to great recordings of flutist playing it. Rampal recorded it several times. My personal favorite it Thomas Nyfinger's recording, if you can find it.

Sorry for the rambling, but there's a lot of history behind this seemingly overdone and easy little piece, so make the most of it!

Luke
 

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I try to transpose whenever it is practical, in order to maintain the original intent. Bach wrote the Cello Suites in certain keys in accordance with how cello's are tuned, and how best to utilize the resonating body to build chords etc. Obviously a saxophone will never be able to replicate this, but I still like to maintain authenticity.

Steve P
 

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Discussion Starter #11
LB said:
I've never played Syrinx on saxophone, but I have performed it quite a bit on flute. Here's some advice I can give:
As far as transpotion goes, I don't think it really matters if you transpose it or not, but it seems that if you transpose it to Alto from flute, some of it is going to be pretty high on the instrument and it could lose some of the haunting quality Debussy was looking for. Also, if you switch registers for certain parts it throws off the shape of the work. It fits comfortably in the saxophone range, so I say play it as is since it is unaccompanied.

I would tell one of my students to play it from an original flute edition and play it EXACTLY AS INSTRUCTED! Debussy give very clear instructions on how it should be performed, though it is in French (or Italian, depending on the edition). Read it note for note, no short cuts. There are stories that Debussy himself actually hated the way most peolple played Syrinx (and many of his other works for that matter) because they felt that because the works were impressionistic, they could interpret them however they pleased. He once complained to Marcel Moyse something to the effect of "People play my music however they like. I wish my name were German, then the would pay attention to what I wrote!"

Also, learn the history of the piece. Learn about Louis Fleury (sp?), the flutist who commisioned it. Also, in order to truly understand the work, you have to know the myth of Pan and Syrinx, which the composition is written to depict. Listen to great recordings of flutist playing it. Rampal recorded it several times. My personal favorite it Thomas Nyfinger's recording, if you can find it.

Sorry for the rambling, but there's a lot of history behind this seemingly overdone and easy little piece, so make the most of it!

Luke

1st. I understand that because it is unaccompanied it doesn't matter what key I play it in, but the recordings I've heard have transposed it and it actually transposes very well. It starts on a Db3 (octave above this :line4:). And stays in a very nice area of the instrument. The only note that goes out of the traditional range is a G3 grace note that I can work on anyway.

I did transpose it from a Bb transposition, but I think that is the correct starting pitch. I haven't heard a recording that sounds in a totally different key.

Thanks for the advice and I'll be sure to check out some more recordings. But like I said it transposes very nicely.

Could you tell me what the first couple notes are for the Flute part? Then I'll be able to tell if the Bb transposition was correct. I think it should start on an F flat right? Let me know. Either way, it sounds gorgeous the way it is transposed and in a great range of the instrument.
 

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Steve P said:
I try to transpose whenever it is practical, in order to maintain the original intent.
But Steve, composers write with instrumental tessituras in mind. If you want to make a version on another instrument that is as close as possible to what the composer intended, it should either be left alone or transposed with the relative ranges and tessituras of the original in mind, not transposed to the key of another iinstrument that is pitched far away from the original.
 

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Robenco15 said:
1st. I understand that because it is unaccompanied it doesn't matter what key I play it in, but the recordings I've heard have transposed it and it actually transposes very well. It starts on a Db3 (octave above this :line4:). And stays in a very nice area of the instrument. The only note that goes out of the traditional range is a G3 grace note that I can work on anyway.
I haven't got the music infront of me, but if you accurately transposed it from the flute part you would have a lot of altissimo! The way your talking it sounds like while you may be in the original key, you won't be at the original pitch (you'll be an octave lower). In which case it doesn't really matter if it's in a different key to the original. This is a different situation to group transcriptions (which i like in the original key). The Habanera quartet do the Dvorak string quartet in the original, and Christian Wirth does all the sop playing at the original violin pitch. Incredible!
 

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Discussion Starter #14
A.Smith said:
Robenco15 said:
1st. I understand that because it is unaccompanied it doesn't matter what key I play it in, but the recordings I've heard have transposed it and it actually transposes very well. It starts on a Db3 (octave above this :line4:). And stays in a very nice area of the instrument. The only note that goes out of the traditional range is a G3 grace note that I can work on anyway.
I haven't got the music infront of me, but if you accurately transposed it from the flute part you would have a lot of altissimo! The way your talking it sounds like while you may be in the original key, you won't be at the original pitch (you'll be an octave lower). In which case it doesn't really matter if it's in a different key to the original. This is a different situation to group transcriptions (which i like in the original key). The Habanera quartet do the Dvorak string quartet in the original, and Christian Wirth does all the sop playing at the original violin pitch. Incredible!

You're right. It is an octave lower. I guess the guy who transposed the Bb part, transposed it an octave lower, which why I therefore am an octave lower. Oh well, still sounds great. I now know why people perform it on soprano, it should sound at the correct octave, right?
 

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gary said:
But Steve, composers write with instrumental tessituras in mind. If you want to make a version on another instrument that is as close as possible to what the composer intended, it should either be left alone or transposed with the relative ranges and tessituras of the original in mind, not transposed to the key of another iinstrument that is pitched far away from the original.
.... and I agree with Gary. It's best to play it from the original flute music. That way the piece will comfortably sit in about the same place of the saxophone's range as Debussy intended it to sit in that of the flute. If you mess too much with the tessitura, the effect is all wrong - like female altos singing a male tenor part in a choir. They can sing the notes alright, but the effect of a female singing low is not the same as a male singing high. If you feel you have to be really true to the original, play the flute!
 

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Gary,
I should have been more clear. I try to play at pitch whenever possible. So for instance, if I were to play the JSBach Flute partita, I would play it on Soprano, at pitch.

Great discussion.
Steve P
 

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I have to agree with LB above. The original flute part makes a pretty good soprano part as written without transposition. That makes the first note a written B flat above the staff.

Full disclosure: Altough I have done lots of professional orchestral saxophone playing, I have very little "legit" sax training, except by the seat of my pants.

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The original (flute) work starts on Bb above the staff. I totally agree with all of the recent responses. I think Debussy was more concerned with the timbre of the flute in different registers than the actual tonality (key) of the piece. You have to remember that at this time (1913) in Paris all the composers were in contact with the musicians, teachers, and instrument makers so they knew exactly what they were going for in their works. Debussy knew that the final Db (on flute) would sound the way it does (particularly on those turn of the century French flutes) and perfectly represnt Syrinx's dying breath. I will admit, though, I have not heard any of the saxophone recordings of Syrinx that you are refering to and I'm sure it sounds just as beautiful in other transpositions. I would recomend, however, getting a hold of a copy of the original flute edition just to compare and make sure that everything lines up.

Once again, good discussion. Conversations like this are what this forum is all about!
 

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Discussion Starter #19
LB said:
The original (flute) work starts on Bb above the staff. I totally agree with all of the recent responses. I think Debussy was more concerned with the timbre of the flute in different registers than the actual tonality (key) of the piece. You have to remember that at this time (1913) in Paris all the composers were in contact with the musicians, teachers, and instrument makers so they knew exactly what they were going for in their works. Debussy knew that the final Db (on flute) would sound the way it does (particularly on those turn of the century French flutes) and perfectly represnt Syrinx's dying breath. I will admit, though, I have not heard any of the saxophone recordings of Syrinx that you are refering to and I'm sure it sounds just as beautiful in other transpositions. I would recomend, however, getting a hold of a copy of the original flute edition just to compare and make sure that everything lines up.

Once again, good discussion. Conversations like this are what this forum is all about!

Ok, so I just should change the alto part I transposed that starts on Db to start on Bb above the staff? And then I'll have the correct flute part?

My question is though, if Debussy wanted the sound of the Flute's Db why wouldn't I transpose it so that it sounds the same on Alto. If you intend to keep the wishes of the composer in mind, then wouldnt' the composer want to hear the correct pitches of the piece? If I play the flute part on alto, it's going to sound a lot different than it would on flute because the instruments are in different keys.

Am I thinking this correctly? Or am I missing something. I thought the whole reason to tranpose was to keep the pitches the same, therefore keeping the music (besides the obvious note changes) the same, to the ear.
 

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I think you are over-analyzing it a bit (which is a good thing). My point was that I think Debussy was going for the specific colors that the flute obtains on certain notes, and on the overall shape of the work. The saxophone has different characteristics, so it's not going to be exactly the same, timbre wise. So if you transpose it to where the saxophone is playing the same pitches as the flute would, that's great, I just don't think it matters in the long run. The original piece (starting on Bb above the staff) fits very nicely in the saxophone range. Part of the beauty of Syrinx is that is really showcases the mid to low register of the flute, sort of going for the sound of a pan flute. For me that fits very well in the saxophone range as well, particularly on alto and soprano. I don't have it in front of me but I believe the highest note is an Eb above the staff, which has a nice intensity but is not too shrill. In the end I don't think it matters what key you play it in. If you feel it works better in another key, great, go for it. I'm just giving the same advice I would give myself or one of my students; don't obsess over what I think is a non-issue and really work on learning the piece and playing a beautifully as possible. Now, keep in mind this isn't true for every work written for another instrument that is being arranged for saxophone, just this one in particular.
I say get whatever arrangement you have and just play the damn thing and enjoy:)
 
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