There’s something inherently calming about the peaceful, pastoral, tones of the pan flute. Besides drums, it is safe to assume the pan flute is one of the oldest instruments, and certainly one of the oldest that we still regularly use. Rather than having a single source of invention, pan pipes of relatively similar design popped up in many disconnected cultures all around the world at around the same time, during the Neolithic revolution. This is due to the simplicity of the instrument, being made of tubes of bamboo or cane of different lengths tied together. The length of each tube, and whether the end is stopped or not, determines the note.
The pan flute has many names across many cultures but its most widely recognized name derives from the Greek god Pan. Pan, a god of nature and a precocious little scamp are instantly recognizable from his half-human, half-goat body. He’s often depicted with the instrument, which led to the name. Peter Pan, also associated with the instrument, was named after the flute itself. The pan flute is also called the Syrinx, after a forest nymph in Greek mythology. Who, while fleeing Pan’s unwanted affection, transformed herself into cane reeds. Pan cut the reeds tied them together and made the instrument.
Given these European origin stories, it may be easy to associate the instrument to Europe. But it’s important to note that evidence of the instrument is widespread across cultures and continents. In the British Museum in London, for example, there’s a bas-relief pillaged from India of a woman playing a pan flute that dates to around the second century CE. In Asia, the paixiao is a type of pan flute that dates back thousands of years. Pan flutes are similarly found across Africa, Indonesia, Oceana, and even in Pre-Columbian South America, particularly modern-day Peru, and Bolivia. The Pre-Columbia South American panpipes were made of wood, stone, and metal and were beautifully decorated.
These instruments of course had variations across different cultures. The paixiao, for example, differs from the European pan flute in that on the top of the instrument, the holes were cut either angled or with notches. This allowed the player to bend the pitch of different notes, allowing for more control over the sound of the music. The oldest surviving paixiao is three thousand years old and made of bone.
The pan pipes of South America had particular significance to the people. The Rondador, a version of the panpipe, is even the national instrument of Ecuador. The oldest surviving pan flute found in the Americas makes the oldest paixiao seem like an Etsy purchase by comparison, as it is dated to 4200 BCE, or about 5800 years old. That means long before the Incas, Mayans, or Azteks the soothing tones of the pan flute were echoing across the Andes mountains and the Valleys of Mexico.
Something can be said of the universality of this simple instrument across cultures and history. It is safe to say that thousands of years ago, nearly all our ancestors had some interaction with a pan flute. This speaks to the universality of all our roots, and of humanities’ need for art and music.
This mix speaks to that universality while bringing the pan flute into the modern era in an engaging yet relaxing way. Enjoy these simple arrangements of piano and pan flute of nostalgic classics from across the decades. Modern songs through an ancient arrangement give a sense of that universality of music. A great mix to calm the mind, you almost want to pair it with aromatherapy and deep tissue massage. Or let it play through your house as you go about your day. The ancient and modern mixing peacefully can provide instructing color to your day-to-day.