AskDefine | Define syrinx

Dictionary Definition



1 a primitive wind instrument consisting of several parallel pipes bound together [syn: panpipe, pandean pipe]
2 the vocal organ of a bird [also: syringes (pl)]

User Contributed Dictionary



From syrinx, from ‘pipe, tube, channel, fistula’.


  • /ˈsɪrɪŋks/


  1. A set of pan-pipes.
    • 1982, John Fowles, Mantissa:
      Actually, to cut a long story short, he began...well, playing with a rather different sort of pipe. Or syrinx, as we called it. He obviously thought he was alone.
    • 2006, Thomas Pynchon, Against the Day, Vintage 2007, p. 247:
      Inside, somebody was playing a duet on syrinx and lyre.
  2. A narrow channel cut in rock, especially in ancient Egyptian tombs.
  3. The voice organ in birds.

Extensive Definition

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 thence forth known as syrinx. (Ovid, Metamorphoses 1.689ff) The word syringe originated from this word.

Syrinx in art

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

Syrinx in classical 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 used as incidental music in the play Psyché by Gabriel Mourey.
Danish composer Carl Nielsen composed "Pan and Syrinx" (Pan og Syrinx), Op. 49, FS 87.

Syrinx in popular culture

The Canadian rock band Rush wrote "The Temples of Syrinx", part of their twenty-minute epic track, 2112. The lyrics of this movement depict a dystopian society where the Priests of the Temples oppose music and advocate the destruction of musical instruments. Rush also makes references to computers inside "The Temples of Syrinx" in their song "2112".
Although the premise may seem ironic, Neil Peart, who titled the track and wrote the lyrics, understood the history of the dystopian society. Upon listening to the lyrics it becomes obvious that it is the anthem of one man's legacy to fight the priests at all costs and bring music to the people.
In the song "10001110101" by Clutch, The Temples of Syrinx are said to be "having the bake sale of the year", probably referring to Rush's 2112.
Novelist Samuel R. Delany features an instrument called a "sensory syrinx" (a sound, scent, and hologram projector) in his science-fiction novel Nova.
Syrinx is the name of one of the central characters in The Night's Dawn Trilogy by Peter F Hamilton.
syrinx in Bulgarian: Сиринга
syrinx in German: Syrinx
syrinx in Spanish: Siringa (mitología)
syrinx in Esperanto: Sirinksa
syrinx in French: Syrinx (nymphe)
syrinx in Italian: Siringa (mitologia)
syrinx in Dutch: Syrinx (nimf)
syrinx in Norwegian: Syrinx
syrinx in Russian: Сиринга
syrinx in Swedish: Syrinx (nymf)
syrinx in Turkish: Sirinks
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