Sunday, January 10, 2010


Syrinx, definition: a fluid-filled cavity within the spinal cord; or, a fully customizable twitter client; or, a Greek nymph known for her chastity; or a Romanian pan pipe player whose real name is Simion Stanciu. The last three of these definitions are related and lead to today's video which features a performance of Bordel 1900 on the pan pipe.

According to Greek mythology, the nymph Syrinx escaped the clutches of the god Pan by running to the edge of the river and asking the river nymphs for help. The river nymphs responded by turning her into hollow river reeds. The frustrated Pan collected the reeds and tied them together into the instrument we know as a pan pipe. Simion Stanciu, one of the best pan pipe players in the world, adopted Syrinx as his stage name. As to the twitter client, their ads include a sketch of a pan pipe and the motto, "It's where the tweets come from."

Stanciu was born into a family of musicians in Romania and plays many instruments including violin, viola, piano, guitar and flute. But it is the pan pipe on which he is a virtuoso. He has played his pan pipe with groups as varied as Moody Blues and the London Philharmonic and as a soloist on some of his half dozen albums. You will note in today's video that he has astonishing breath control - the pan pipe is a simple instrument but the variety of his tonguing techniques, the control of sound volume and the subtle management of vibrato bring an amazing amount of emotion to the music.

Bordel 1900 is the first movement of Piazzolla's Histoire du tango which was originally composed as a duet for flute and guitar. In one sense, it is a small translation step to go from the transverse flute to the pan pipe but the physical difficulty of executing large interval jumps, and there a lot of these in Bordel, must make the piece quite a challenge on the pan pipe. Stanciu is accompanied in the video by Romanian guitarist, Razvan Grigorescu. If you enjoy this video, or want to see Stanciu in a larger format, there is also a YouTube video of Stanciu on pan pipe playing the second movement of the Histoire, Cafe 1930, with guitarist Leo Christophe. It's also excellent but, to my ear, not quite as accomplished as the featured video.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

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