Debussy's Lasting Impact on Flute Composition


  • Kaitlin Mattison Lee University of Central Oklahoma



Music, Debussy, Music History, Flute, Music Composition, Solo, Unaccompanied Solo


In 1913, French composer Claude Debussy penned a work for solo flute that to this day has remained popular in the flute repertoire. Syrinx, written to accompany a scene in the play Psyche, tells the story of Pan and Syrinx from Greek mythology. This poster project seeks to explain the impact that Debussy’s Syrinx has made on 20th and 21st Century flute composition. This impact included descriptive music, use of whole tone scales, freedom from strict meter, and a poetic performance style for the unaccompanied flute genre. Some elements of Debussy’s style come from his first encounter with Asian music at the World’s Fair. In the Baroque period, it was not unusual for composers to write for unaccompanied instruments. Scholars estimate that J. S. Bach’s Partita in A Minor was written sometime in the 1720s, while Telemann composed Twelve Fantasias for Solo Flute in 1732-33. After the Baroque period, the solo flute genre was absent from the repertoire until Debussy’s Syrinx. Nearly 200 years later, he gave the solo flute a new sound, which, in turn, inspired more composers to write for unaccompanied flute. The 20th Century surge of works written for solo flute is no doubt partially due to the further development of the instrument into its modern day form. However, the increase originates with Debussy’s Syrinx. Upon examination of the solo flute repertoire, it appears that Debussy is the composer most responsible for encouraging the composition of contemporary works for the flute. The research includes primary sources such as the score, the script to the play Psyche, and the abundance of subsequent solo flute compositions. Different online music resources were consulted for background information and musical interpretation.


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biography

Kaitlin Mattison Lee, University of Central Oklahoma

Kaitlin Lee is an undergraduate Music Performance major. She has performed with the UCO Wind Symphony playing flute, piccolo, and alto flute. Kaitlin also plays with the UCO flute choir and was accepted into the 2012 National Flute Association's Collegiate Flute Choir. She enjoys using music to connect with people and bring joy to those who need it. Kaitlin began this research project as a short paper looking into the background of one of her recital pieces, and it grew from there.



How to Cite

Lee, K. M. (2018). Debussy’s Lasting Impact on Flute Composition. Journal of Student Research.