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In classical mythology, Syrinx (Greek Συριγξ) was a nymph and a follower of Artemis, known for her chastity. Pursued by the amorous Greek god Pan, she ran to the river's edge and asked for assistance from the river nymphs. In answer, she was transformed into hollow water reeds that made a haunting sound when the god's frustrated breath blew across them. Pan cut the reeds to fashion the first set of pan pipes, which were thenceforth known as syrinx.[1] The word syringe was derived from this word.


In literature

The story became popular among artists and writers in the 19th century. The Victorian artist and poet Thomas Woolner wrote Silenus, a long narrative poem about the myth, in which Syrinx becomes the lover of Silenus, but drowns when she attempts to escape rape by Pan, as a result of which crime Pan is transmuted into a demon figure and Silenus becomes a drunkard.[2] Amy Clampitt's poem Syrinx refers to the myth by relating the whispering of the reeds to the difficulties of language.

The story was used as central theme by Aifric Mac Aodha in her poetry collection "Gabháil Syrinx".

In art

The Victorian artist, Arthur Hacker (September 25, 1858 – November 12, 1919), depicted Syrinx in his 1892 nude. This painting in oil on canvas is currently on display in Manchester Art Gallery.

Sculptor Adolph Wolter was commissioned in 1973 to create a replacement for a stolen sculpture of Syrinx in Indianapolis, Indiana. The sculpture sits in University Park located in the cities Indiana World War Memorial Plaza.

In Music

Claude Debussy wrote "Syrinx (La Flute De Pan)" based on Pan's sadness over losing his love. This piece was the first unaccompanied flute solo of the 20th century, and remains a very popular addition to the modern flutist's repertoire. It was also transcribed for solo saxophone, becoming a standard performance piece for saxophone too. It was used as incidental music in the play Psyché by Gabriel Mourey.[3]

Danish composer Carl Nielsen composed "Pan and Syrinx" (Pan og Syrinx), Op. 49, FS 87.

The progressive band Rush have a movement titled "The Temples of Syrinx" in their song 2112 on their album 2112. The song is about an Orwellian futuristic society in which the arts, particularly music, have been suppressed by the Priests of Syrinx.


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