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I think the panpipe is so old because it is so simple. It was probably preceded only by percussion instruments. After primitive man had produced sound by hitting things, he probably accidentally discovered sound production by blowing a pipe, stems of plants (reed or bamboo) or animal bones. The one pipe panflute probably came first (hear a sample). Man in his development started to distinguish between different pitches and to make instruments which could produce tones. The first step in the pan flute's development therefore was joining one pipe to another. Also variations in form, straight (raft-shaped), slightly bent, or bundled. The theory of the pan flute's birth on a particular place on earth is just as untrue as the thesis of one cradle for all cultures. It can be said with certainty that the panflute originated in several places which could not have been connected at all. In most places, the pan flute came into existence at about the same stage of cultural development, which means at different times and in different geographical zones.
Evidence of the Panflute in Europe
Archaeological and written proof of the existence of panflutes can be found throughout Europe. The best known legend about the birth of the panflute comes from the Greek mythology (see note) and centers around the shepherd god Pan and the nymph Syrinx. The transformation of the beautiful Syrinx is told by several Greek and Roman authors: Ovidius, Lucretius, Plutarchus, Strabo. The name of the panflute in Old Greece was syrinx or syringa panos and it is described as being characteristic to the Greeks and also to the people north of the Danube, who lived in areas that are now part of Romania. Archaeological excavations have found Viking panpipes dating from the 10th century. A recent find was made at Coppergate in York, site of the world-famous Viking Age discoveries made in the 1970s (click here). In France, in the old Roman colony of Alisia, a similar instrument with 7 pipes were found tuned in the notes of a standard major scale (Do Re Me). Other evidence can be found in the art works, literature and poetry of the time. In his poem "Tristia" the Latin poet, Ovidius, describes the pan flute he has seen in the hands of the shepherds of Tomis (an old Roman colony near the Black Sea). Evidence of the pan flute's use in Romania can also be found in a few booklets. One such booklet is "The text-book of King Neagoe Basarab for his son Teodosie", dating from the early 16th century. In the 19th and 20th centuries the modern Romanian Panflute or Nai (see note), is seen more and more in Europe, and we find an increasing amount of documentation on the instrument. In 1843 in Bucharest alone, as many as 13 professional pan flute players were registered at the musicians association. The period between the two world wars was a heyday for pan flute players. They went everywhere in Europe. The amount of players numbered less than in the 19th century, but the quality of their playing was magnificent. Around the second world war there were no more than 16 registered pan flute players in the whole of Romania. The pan flute revival came about after the war, caused by Fanica Luca, the famous pan flute player who had performed at the world exhibitions of 1937 (Paris) and 1939 (New York). He did many concert tours in France, England, Poland, Egypt, China, Russia and the United States. In 1949, aided by the Institute of Folklore Research in Bucharest, he started a pan flute class, which in 1953 moved to the Music Lyceum. This training remained in his hands until his death in 1968. Fanica Luca was not a man who had received a superior education himself, his work therefore was founded more on experiment than on pedagogy. By dint of hard work the results were grand and after the seventies a generation of fantastic panflute players appeared in the West. Exponents of this school are: Gheorghe Zamfir, Damian Luca, Simion Stanciu, Nicolae Pirvu, Constantin Dobre, Radu Simion, Damian Cirlanaru and others.
In South-America, particularly in Peru and Bolivia, the pan flute is as alive as in Romania. It is always used in folkloristic groups. In museums all around the world we find evidence of pan flutes from the pre-Colombian period, dating from between 300 and 1500 AD. The larger part of the statues of people playing the panpipe are found in Mexico, Bolivia and Peru. The panpipes are made of wood, stone or metal, and they are beautifully adorned. A few of these panpipes are in the British Museum and the Horniman Museum in London. There are straight panpipes with 8 to 14 pipes on one plane or two planes behind one another.
One fact is certain, the origins of the pan flute in the Americas greatly predates both the Inca and Maya civilizations. Pan flutes have been found throughout the territory, both north and south. They have many names: Antara, Malta, Toyo, Rondador, hauyra, puhura and siku . The pipes are attached to a cross-beam and tied with rope or vegetable material. They are not tied as securely as a Romanian Panflute. The longest pipes are on the right side (seen from the player's point of view). The outer row of the double panpipes is nearly always shorter than the inner row. The longer pipes for the lower tones can be up to 80 centimeters long (32 inches). Because they are this long many harmonic overtones can be produced. Traditionaly women were not allowed to play these instruments.
The pan flute today however, is no longer seen as a primitive instrument to be used exclusively in folkloristic music and I am convinced in the future it will become one of the most widely used musical instruments.
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