Ancient musical instrument lituus recreated

From BigNews Network:

Scientists recreate long forgotten music instrument ‘Lituus

ANI Sunday 31st May, 2009

London: By using a new software, researchers from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the University of Edinburgh have been able to recreate a long forgotten musical instrument called the Lituus.

Played in Ancient Rome, the 2.4m (8ft) long trumpet-like instrument fell out of use some 300 years ago.

Bach‘s motet (a choral musical composition) “O Jesu Christ, meins lebens licht” was one of the last pieces of music written for the Lituus.

Now, for the first time, the 18th Century composition has been played, as it should have been heard.

The Lituus produced a piercing trumpet-like sound interleaving with the vocals when it was performed by the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis (SCB).

Edinburgh University researchers developed a system that enabled them to design the Lituus using the best guesses of its shape and range of notes.

The 2.4m-long thin straight horn, with a flared bell at the end, is an unwieldy instrument with a limited tonal range that is hard to play.

The software was originally developed by a PhD student Dr Alistair Braden to improve the design of modern brass instruments, reports the BBC.

Later Braden and his supervisor Professor Murray Campbell were approached by a Swiss-based music conservatoire, the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, to help them recreate the Lituus.

SCB gave the Edinburgh team their expert thoughts on what the Lituus may have been like in terms of the notes it produced, its tonal quality and how it might have been played.

They also provided cross-section diagrams of instruments they believed to be similar to the Lituus.

“The software used this data to design an elegant, usable instrument with the required acoustic and tonal qualities,” says Professor Campbell.

“The key was to ensure that the design we generated would not only sound right but look right as well,” he said.

He added: “Crucially, the final design produced by the software could have been made by a manufacturer in Bach’s time without too much difficulty.”

Sound of the lituus: here.

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