Syrinx (La Flûte de Pan) - Digital Edition Demo


This demo has been prepared as a companion to the poster "Critical Editing of Music in the Digital Medium: an Experiment in MEI", presented at the Digital Humanities 2010 conference at King's College London. It shows the results of Raffaele Viglianti's dissertation for the MA in Digital Humanities at the Centre for Computing in the Humanities, KCL. The title of the dissertation is: "Digital Editing of Music: A Prototype for Syrinx (La Flūte de Pan) by Claude Debussy". The web application aims to show some possible uses of the digitial medium for the publication of critical editions of music. A somewhat more discursive discussion of the problems addressed on this page can be found on the poster's abstract.

About Syrinx (La Flūte de Pan)

Syrinx (La Flūte de Pan) by Claude Debussy (1862 - 1918) is a short piece for flute solo originally composed as theatrical interlude for the play Psyché (1913) by Gabriel Mourey under the title La Flūte de Pan. Despite Debussy showing little interest in the publication of the interlude, the first performer, Louis Fleury, contributed to its reception as independent from Mourey's play; as a result, the piece still maintains a relevant role in the solo flute repertoire to date. Two principal sources have been used for this digital edition: the first edition published posthumously by Jean Jobert in 1927 under the new title Syrinx (FEJ) and a recently discovered manuscript in a private collection in Brussels dated 1913 (MSB), which constitutes the base text. A further secondary source has been considered: few bars from an article written by Louis Fleury in 1922 (after Debussy's death but before the first publication) (MLF). These three bars present some unexpected notation that can be retraced to two different repetitions of the main theme, but present dubious rhythm and alteration signs. Fleury's article is available in JSTOR (requires permissions to access JSTOR). Fluery, L. (1922), 'The Flute and its Powers of Expression'. Music and Letters 3, 383-93. Ex. 5. p. 388.

Modelling the critical edition

This project intends to convey music notation, description of sources, variant readings and editorial intervention in a machine-readable format. The choice of a format was based on the evaluation of the status quo in digital critical editing of literature, where the XML-based TEI is by far the most commonly used format. The Music Encoding Initiative (MEI) format is modelled on TEI and attempts to follow similar principles. In particular, it specifically focuses on formalising interpretation through declarative knowledge and claims to be independent from rendering software while also addressing processing matters. Moreover, it includes a module for the representation of variant readings and transcription of primary sources, which provided the essential vocabulary for modelling the edition of Syrinx (La Flūte de Pan). At the time of the encoding of this edition MEI was still in beta, but the first release schema is now available here. A copy of the MEI version of this edition of Syrinx (La Flūte de Pan) can be found here. Please be aware that the encoding is valid against the beta-schema of MEI (which is not currently available), not necessarily against the newly released schema. Also, it is intended only as a study exercise and not as a publication of Debussy's work. The XML is distributed with a Creative Common licence.

Breath marks by Trevor Wye encoded in the XML and displayed in this demo are his own work and are presented here with the sole purpose of studying and exploring web-based publishing of critical editions of music. Debussy, Claude. (1994), La Flūte de Pan or Syrinx. Ed. T. Wye. London: Novello.

Experimenting with digital publication

The demo presents two main views that are generated from the underlying MEI encoding:


This view shows the edited notation, the result of the editorial work. Variants have been compared and evaluated and notation normalised.

Use "Prev" and "Next" to move between pages. Click play to listen to a MIDI playback of the notation (it only works with browsers that support HTML5 and is not linked with the notation on screen, therefore the audio will not cause the page to change).

Ticking the box "Trevor Wye's Breath Marks" on the right, will display an overlay of breath marks suggested by Trevor Wye in his performative edition of the piece.

Synoptic apparatus

This view shows a rendering of relevant measures from the main two sources (MSB and FEJ) and the variant chosen for the edition. Supplementary information encoded within the element <mei:annot> is displayed on the right when present.

Use "View measure ... " to jump from a measure to another. Some interesting differences can be noticed in measure 31, where a tie is broken by a breath mark in FEJ; and in measure 34, where a descrescendo mark is interpreted as an accent in FEJ.


This web application is built with PHP. The notation of the different views and layers is generated by transforming the MEI encoding into Mup with XSL transformations. The resulting PostScript files are rasterised with the Imagick PHP class and displayed using the Javascript library OpenLayers. The jQuery audio player is jPlayer.


Raffaele Viglianti
PhD Candidate and Postgraduate Research Assistant

Comments, criticism and feedback mostly welcome.

Centre for Computing in the Humanities
King's College London