Reader Poll: Electronic Debussy versus Original–Syrinx, Sunken Cathedral, & Snowflakes are Dancing

See poll at bottom to vote.

Today I’d like to present three pieces by Debussy that I heard for the first time after moving into the French House, at Indiana University, in 1975. The inhabitants of the French house included several language majors, a number of musicians, some journalism students, and a number of other interesting characters of various ethnic, sexual, national and racial groups. Our two story dorm shared a common area with the Spanish House, who for the most part seemed more interested in Latin culture than, us francophiles. However, I enjoyed the mix of people, being exposed for the first time in my life to such diversity. This is where I learned the value not just of simple demographic mix, but rather the value of including different perspectives, ideas, experiences into the dialogue of human interaction. It made for a rich environment.

Music in the 1970 ranged all over the place from the psychedelia of the Grateful Dead, the Disco of Donna Summers, the satiric almost Weil and Brecht-like political and social satire of Frank Zappa to the burgeoning nihilism of Punk Rock. There was also a lot of cross pollination and breaking down of genre-barriers. Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, John McLaughlin and Weather Report were fusing Jazz and Rock and Funk and World Music. Rock bands like Kansas and Yes were considered classically inspired since they used violins and had classically trained musicians (Rick Wakemen, for example.) With the advent of cheaper and cheaper synthesizers, even Classical Music was pushing the envelope with artists like Tomita doing covers of Debussy. Tomita, a Japanese went almost even further than Walter/Wendy Carlos (of Switched on Bach), not only doing note for note covers of Debussy, but also creating soundscapes with these new instruments.

Tomita came out with an album entitled, Snowflakes are Dancing, in 1974 that contained Sunken Cathedral, Claire de Lune and Dancing Snowflakes. I wanted to do a side by side comparison of the original version with Tomita’s version and ask you which you preferred.

For some reason I had it in my mind that Tomita also did a cover of the piece for flute entitled Syrinx, but I cannot find it online.

After listening to the original and the Tomita Cover of these pieces, please answer a poll question on which you prefer. Thanks.

Sunken Cathedral (original)

Sunken Cathedral (Tomita)

Snowflakes are Dancing (original)

Snowflakes are Dancing (Tomita)

Here’s the original Syrinx. If someone can find an electronic version of it, please let me know.


Heres’s the poll:

About kurtnemes
Writer and Education Professional. Specialties include Ethics, Personal Memoir, Classical music, Tai Chi, Stress Reduction, Meditation, Coping, Classical Music, Aging, Love, Joy, Compassion and Equanimity (& what interests me.)

7 Responses to Reader Poll: Electronic Debussy versus Original–Syrinx, Sunken Cathedral, & Snowflakes are Dancing

  1. Back in the 70s, Tomita introduced me to classical music. Eventually I came to enjoy the original classical versions more than the Tomita covers. Nevertheless, I appreciate Tomita (and Larry Fast, Yes, EL&P, etc.) for expanding the audience of classical music.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. XperDunn says:

    To me, the delight is in the differences–I couldn’t vote for one over the other. My favorite thing about Bach is that so many of his pieces can be heard in a variety of settings and arrangements–so much more of a piece can be discovered by hearing it from these different ‘perspectives’. By the same token, I’m a big fan of the pop hits that originate with great classical themes, such as “All By Myself” by Eric Carmen, lifted from Concerto №2 for piano and orchestra by Sergei Rachmaninoff, or “Could It Be Magic” by Barry Manilow, almost verbatim from Chopin’s Prelude in C minor…


    • kurtnemes says:

      Thanks, XperDunn. I think many of us were introduced to classical music through its use in popular culture. What made it stick with us, though, as opposed to others who say they find it boring?

      Liked by 1 person

      • XperDunn says:

        The great mystery, Kurt–I’ve always wondered. How could something so vital to my life be completely absent from another’s? What happened to these poor wretches that makes them deaf to the splendor of music? How is it possible that so many of my friends could be so devoted to the music of the Grateful Dead that they would follow their concerts around the globe like worshipers at the altar, and be left cold by the vast universe of music of which the Merry Pranksters were just a subatomic particle?

        Liked by 1 person

  3. kvennarad says:

    I have always admired Tomita’s imaginative interpretations of Debussy (no, I can’t remember his ever having recorded ‘Syrinx’). When I was a teenager I had his Debussy album, his ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ album, and his version of Holst’s ‘Planets’ (before Imogen Holst got her court injunction to suppress it.)

    ‘The Drowned Cathedral’ – it’s a lovely, rich sound. Tomita has engulfed to tolling bell, the cathedral choir, the solo soprano, the whole idea of medieval gothic christianity is there beneath the water, and he is looking on in wistful awe. I think if Debussy had had access to a synthesiser, he would have arranged it this way himself.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. jetgirlcos says:

    I do love Debussy, and I guess I’m a bit of a “traditionalist” about it…I prefer the originals. Of Tomita’s versions, I like “the Snow is Dancing” better. However, I really like Tomita’s “Planets”. In fact his version is the first one I heard, being part of a “mix tape” given to me in HS. I haven’t heard of an electronic version of “Syrinx” but as a flute player I think of the piece with a sort of reverence which would almost not allow me to accept such a thing 😉 Thanks for the great post!

    Liked by 1 person

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