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Software Enables Re-Creation of 'Lost' Instrument 136

Posted by timothy
from the but-does-it-run-lituus dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "BBC reports that the Lituus, a 2.4m (8ft) -long trumpet-like instrument, was played in Ancient Rome but fell out of use some 300 years ago. Bach even composed a motet (a choral musical composition) for the Lituus, one of the last pieces of music written for the instrument.. But until now, no one had a clear idea of what this instrument looked or sounded like until researchers at Edinburgh University developed software that enabled them to design the Lituus even though no one alive today has heard, played or even seen a picture of this forgotten instrument." (Continues below.)
The team started with cross-section diagrams of instruments they believed to be similar to the Lituus and the range of notes it played. 'The software used this data to design an elegant, usable instrument with the required acoustic and tonal qualities. The key was to ensure that the design we generated would not only sound right but look right as well,' says Professor Murray Campbell. 'Crucially, the final design produced by the software could have been made by a manufacturer in Bach's time without too much difficulty.' Performed by the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis (SCB) the Lituus produced a piercing trumpet-like sound interleaving with the vocals in an experimental performance of Bach's 'O Jesu Christ, meins lebens licht' in Switzerland earlier this year, giving the music a haunting feel that can't be reproduced by modern instruments. The software opens up the possibility that brass instruments could be customized more closely to the needs of individual players in the future — catering more closely to the differing needs of jazz, classical and other players all over the world. 'Sophisticated computer modelling software has a huge role to play in the way we make music in the future.'"
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Software Enables Re-Creation of 'Lost' Instrument

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  • ...ahem... (Score:5, Funny)

    by viyh (620825) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @04:39AM (#28156795) Homepage
    Ricoooooooolllllaaaaaaaaa
    • by SerpentMage (13390) <ChristianHGross@ ... o.ca minus punct> on Sunday May 31, 2009 @06:17AM (#28157165)

      As people have modded you funny, that was exactly what I was thinking... I live in Switzerland and see these long unwieldy instruments and they look very similar to the things that they are trying to play. But of course going to Switzerland, comparing notes would have BEEN TOO EASY...

      • Re:...ahem... (Score:5, Informative)

        by jbengt (874751) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @08:16AM (#28157659)

        But of course going to Switzerland, comparing notes would have BEEN TOO EASY...

        From TFA:

        But Dr Braden and his supervisor Professor Murray Campbell, were approached by a Swiss-based music conservatoire specialising in early music , the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, to help them recreate the Lituus - even though no one alive today has heard, played or even seen a picture of this forgotten instrument.

      • by danwesnor (896499)
        Seriously? Any excuse to go to Switzerland, I'm there.
      • Nah, an Alpenhorn is made of wood, and the bell is bent up at the end at a right angle. A Lituus is straight and made of brass. They would sound completely different.
  • Lost instrument (Score:2, Interesting)

    by moon3 (1530265)
    Looks a bit like those Slovak Fujara pipes, but the sound is not so convincing, Fujara sound is amazing!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 31, 2009 @04:58AM (#28156867)

    Scientists will try to reconstruct a long-lost instrument called a turntable based on the lyrics from an ancient artist named Lady Gaga. But since RIAA at the time is basically runs the all governments it will brand these scientists enemies of the state and will summarily execute them. That year is 2409. The same year Linux is finally ready for the desktop.

    • by syousef (465911) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @05:12AM (#28156927) Journal

      Scientists will try to reconstruct a long-lost instrument called a turntable based on the lyrics from an ancient artist named Lady Gaga.

      Nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

    • Scientists will try to reconstruct a long-lost instrument called a turntable based on the lyrics from an ancient artist named Lady Gaga. But since RIAA at the time is basically runs the all governments it will brand these scientists enemies of the state and will summarily execute them. That year is 2409. The same year Linux is finally ready for the desktop.

      So much wrong with that, RIAA is getting away now, Linux is ready now, and Lady Gaga it not an artist.

    • 91 years later, president Not Sure will overturn that ruling.

      What I don't understand, is why the RIAA would like Linux? Wouldn't they want to have a DRM/TCPA nightmare as the main OS?
      (Oh well, at least from the looks, all major Linux desktop system teams work very hard to imitate Windows in every detail, so it's only a question of time...)

    • That year is 2409

      2112, according to the writings of the holy trinity.

  • by OpenSourced (323149) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @05:02AM (#28156881) Journal

    To hear the sounds generated by this re-created instrument, reinforced me in my belief that extinct instruments are extinct with very good reasons. It's like when I hear that they will publish some "previously unreleased" songs from The Beatles, or whoever. I mean, if they didn't release them then, it was probably because they weren't good enough.

    • by Zenne (1013871) <hannahmariebear@gmail.com> on Sunday May 31, 2009 @05:12AM (#28156923) Homepage Journal
      The article didn't give a timeline - but to me it sounded more like people who haven't put in years of practice on that particular instrument. Understandable, considering the whole 'long-lost' bit.
      • by nametaken (610866) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @11:44AM (#28159055)

        It really, really sounds like a trumpet being played by someone who can't manage notes that high. It's hard to acclimate to a mouthpiece and develop the ambrochure necessary to play a horn properly.

        • by fbjon (692006)
          It may be that some crucial details are missing that would make it easier to play, perhaps around the mouthpiece. IANAwind player, though.
        • Mouthpiece. Good point. In band while waiting for the teacher to show up we'd swap mouthpieces. A trumpet sounds VERY different if you used a french horn mouthpiece.

          And Sax invented a whole new class of instruments by putting a clarinet mouthpiece on a brass instrument. So how do they know what the mouthpiece was like?

          As to earlier posts comment that there is a reason for early instruments to become extinct implying that they sound awful.

          There are many other possible reasons -- here's some guesses.

          1. A

    • by Takichi (1053302) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @06:33AM (#28157233)
      By that logic, we shouldn't study past civilizations or organisms because they obviously weren't good enough to survive. Maybe the sound it produced or the music that was written for it wasn't to your liking, but it still uncovered information we didn't previously have. I personally applaud any work into historical sound since we've only had the technology to preserve them for about a century. It's not like we can dig up some soil to listen to things in the past.
    • by jellomizer (103300) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @06:50AM (#28157299)

      The instrument sounded Ok, They players themselves were off. It was basically having a professional choir/orchestra with some good high schoolers musicians playing the instrument. But these people haven't put their life into learning these instruments they probably were brass players winging it on the instrument, which has a different response and a different delay before it leaves the instrument.

      As for the sound it makes it is actually kinda pretty. Kinda a mix between a trumpet and a french horn.
      There are a lot of factors why instruments go extinct, and it has little to do about the actual instrument but the styles/forces of the times. I think the reason why that instrument went extinct is because of the political forces of the time. Rome being sacked, people on the move. There was little permanency in Europe during this time. This instrument was too clumsy to move around/got easily broken. Thus gave way for the modern Brass instruments which are bent to allow a similar effect but in a smaller size. They used the instrument for centuries before so it wasn't like a quick fad that died.

      As for some of the unreleased songs a lot of them don't get published because of the quality. Sometimes they get left out because they didn't fit on the record and that song didn't go with the others on that album. The song covered something that was politically incorrect at the time or just in bad taste (say publishing an Anti-American song right after 9-11). Music that didn't go with your perceived style.

      You view on music extinction seems like bad understanding of evolution and extinction in biology that a lot of people make. Animal X became extinct while Animal Y survived so Animal Y is superior. Which isn't the case. Animal Y could be inferior to X in all ways but one. And that one fact allowed it to survive by chance. Say the Animal X cannot survive in presence of excess UV rays while Animal Y can. Well animal H somehow put a hole in the ozone layer and killed of X.

      • by inviolet (797804)

        As for the sound it makes it is actually kinda pretty. Kinda a mix between a trumpet and a french horn.

        Now see, that's why I'm not buying it.

        The researchers are basically saying "Hey, there was an ancient instrument, that was practical to manufacture as far back as Rome, and sounded pretty, kinda a mix between a trumpet and a french horn, and that even Bach wrote music for, and it COMPLETELY VANISHED FROM THE FACE OF THE EARTH."

        No, I'm sorry, the world doesn't work that way. Things completely vanish if t

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by maxume (22995)

          They were replaced by instruments that are easier to play, or at least, that can generate a wider range of tones (a valved trumpet can play a full scale...). So they are replaced by more capable or more fashionable instruments, not necessarily because of how they sound.

        • by ockegheim (808089)

          Bach only wrote one piece for them, perhaps because it was a funeral ode and the "In 17th century Germany a variant of the bent ancient lituus was still used as a signalling horn by nightwatchmen" (thank you Wikipedia). Something to signal the dead as they pass on. If the performance was anything like the one on the news page it would have been a good reason for not writing any more.

          I would go further than to say "Bach's motet... was one of the last pieces of music written for the Lituus". It's definitely t

        • by spauldo (118058) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @02:51PM (#28160543)

          I dunno, if it was played by the Romans during the Roman empire, that would have it being produced and used sometime before around 400AD or so. Bach lived in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

          I doubt if the instrument was as horrible as you say it would have lasted (at least) 1200 years, or that someone of Bach's status would have bothered writing a piece for it.

          Other rare/disused musical instruments:


          • The lute - a very pretty sounding stringed instrument that almost no one plays anymore due to the popularity of the guitar.

          • The harp - extremely versatile instrument that also happens to be very expensive and difficult to learn

          • The mandola - you never see these outside folk (think celtic, not John Denver) music or the occasional bluegrass band

          • The banjo - this used to be the number one selling instrument in America. How many people do you know personally who can play one today?

          Granted, the harp probably won't completely disappear for quite some time, but it was once considered a mainstream instrument whereas now it's an oddity. I doubt the banjo will be around for another century - fewer and fewer people listen to bluegrass music as time goes on (pity, but there ya go). The lute is pretty much already gone outside of ren faires and SCA events, and the mandola will probably share the same fate eventually.

        • by jc42 (318812) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @05:32PM (#28161743) Homepage Journal

          No, I'm sorry, the world doesn't work that way. Things completely vanish if they SUCK. This thing probably did NOT sound "pretty", or there would still be a few around.

          Well, that's often true, but there are a number of other reasons. One that keeps biting us is a peculiar logical failure in the human mind: the idea that advances or improvement require augmenting an object. This is a recognized problem with software, which we know as the usual development of "bloat" with time as new features are added and bugs are fixed. But the same thing happened in the 18th century, when the recorder died out and was hardly played except by a few academics until the Baroque revival in the mid-20th century.

          The main problem with the recorder was that, unlike the closely-related transverse flute, it had a limited range (2 octaves), a very limited dynamic range (playing quietly makes it go flat, while paying louder makes it go sharp), not to mention an insanely complex fingering system. Many experiments were done, including the use of the newfangled key systems to simplify the fingering. But the limited dynamic range couldn't be fixed. So it was abandoned in favor of the transverse flute, which can easily be played quietly or loudly, and the player can make fine adjustments of the pitch to correct for the flute's tendency to go sharp when played louder. Flute makers also extended the range to 3 octaves.

          Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the Japanese were playing the shakuhachi, which is nearly identical to the European recorder, except for being made of bamboo. It had a 3-octave range, simple fingerings, and could be played quietly or loudly without going out of tune. The Europeans didn't know about it, because such a primitive "folk" instrument of an inferior culture was beneath their notice.

          So why could the Japanese solve the instrument's intonation problem when the Europeans couldn't? Simple: The shakuhachi didn't have the "air guide", the short tube that the player blows into, which shapes the airstream as it hits the sharp edge that makes the noise. The shakuhachi just has a simple opening with an edge, and the player forms the airstream with their lips. As with the European flute, this takes a bit more learning at the start, since the instrument doesn't form the airstream for you. But the Japanese form, like the European flute, gives the player 3 octaves, dynamic range, and fine tuning of individual notes. I know flute players who never bother tuning; they just listen to the other instrument(s), and use their embouchure to adjust the flute's pitch appropriately. (The shakuhachi isn't tunable, so that's what they always do.)

          The reason the Europeans couldn't fix the recorder's intonation was simple: Doing so required removing part of the instrument, that short little air guide at the top. They even had the example of the transverse flute, which lacks the air guide, and the instrument makers still couldn't solve the problem. The recorder had an air guide tube, it was part of the instrument, and it apparently didn't occur to anyone to just remove it and see how the instrument played.

          Of course, the instrument was revived with the air guide. This presents us with the other major problem with the instrument: A total novice can easily get sound out of it. So it's used in schools as kids' first instrument, it's played by zillions of novices who insist on minimally learning what is really the most difficult woodwind instrument and then inflicting their playing on the public (unlike novice fiddlers, who usually have the sense to know that they should play in private for several years until they no longer cause listeners to cover their ears). Removing that silly air guide would have solved this problem too, since novices and kids would pick one up, blow into it a few times, get no sound at all, and decide that it's not the instrument for them.

          Now if there were only a good design solution that would discourage novice guitar players from playing in public ...

          (Maybe removing the strings would work. ;-)

      • Rome being sacked, people on the move. There was little permanency in Europe during this time. This instrument was too clumsy to move around/got easily broken. Thus gave way for the modern Brass instruments which are bent to allow a similar effect but in a smaller size. They used the instrument for centuries before so it wasn't like a quick fad that died.

        Not to mention the fact that musicians moved around back then just as much as here. They were always having concerts and festivals here-and-there and motion was a much more manual process. This thing is somewhere between drum-kit and upright bass on the Unwieldiness Scale. Musicians themselves much prefer lighter instruments that are easier to move.

      • Sometimes they get left out because they didn't fit on the record

        Well, the other songs of the record did fit on the record. So the left overs were probably considered worse than the others. I do think there is a certain, not evolution, but selection of good music going on. Not always work, but most of the time it does. Good music tends to be kept, bad to be forgotten. I think that's one of the reason why classical music seems better than contemporary. It's just that we are spared the tons of bad classical m

    • by Threni (635302)

      > I mean, if they didn't release them then, it was probably because they weren't good enough.

      You've got it. If it was any good, Bach would have released a CD featuring those instruments - the fact that he didn't proves that they're not really any good.

    • So what they're really saying is "we just made it all up". Just because someone spent 3 years on a PhD thesis "just making it all up" using complex engineering software and vast amounts of computer time doesn't change the fact that they "just made it all up" and actually have little clue what the original instrument sounded like.

       

      • by mabhatter654 (561290) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @10:56AM (#28158707)

        The PhD thesis was the horn profiling software. It's quite a technological advance in music. We went from hand made horns individuals figured out to play, to mass produced horns designed to a specification of brass and wood everybody learned to play exactly the same way. Now we've come full circle, the purpose of the software was to aid manufacturing of an individual instrument to their style of play. and physical ability.. that's actually a huge accomplishment in the history of music. It's the same type of advance made in sports so Tiger Woods can be digitally analyzed and have golf clubs made specifically for the mechanics of his swing based on scientific data.

        I think the lituus was sort of a "parlor trick" use of the software. They had a piece of music, so sound patterns it was supposed to play, and they had written accounts of it's length, material, and basic appearance. They were able to plug that in and get a pattern for a real instrument out.

        To complete the technology circle, these plans need to be given to real antique instrument re-creators to improve the playability and quality of the horn. Building a horn to a computer spec is way different than a craftsman building one by hand. They could improve their software if they had a craftsman "fix" their design to smooth out the rough patches and properly match the technology of the time, which would introduce "errors" that make the instrument more unique than one made by CNC machine.

    • Meanwhile, you're sitting there playing with your collection of old computers that didn't beat out Windows/x86.

    • by mabhatter654 (561290) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @10:42AM (#28158599)

      You are exactly correct. Hand made "impractical" instruments fell out of fashion in the mid 1700's en masse for the beginnings of mass manufactured instruments. People would have replaced this with trumpets or coronets. Which were newer and more standard. What you see is a trend from 4-6 piece "chamber" or "folk" music to something that looks like the modern orchestra. In folk music handmade instruments and the "flaws" of instrument and player are features that make live performances better. In large groups you want to minimize individual players to have the group play as one "instrument".

      I'm getting into middle ages instruments [a good guide is here: http://www.music.iastate.edu/antiqua/instrumt.html%5D [iastate.edu] And most of the list is woodwind or string. You can see the take over of strings because they are compact, portable (like another poster below mentions) and they are easily tuned to match each other. About the time the time lituus was lost brass instruments became affordable to produce nearly identical copies of and could be played in tune like Trombones, or tuned with sliders like trumpets and tubas. Why keep a single purpose non-tunable horn?

      There's nothing like hearing music played on the instruments it was written to be played on. When listening to old music it helps put you in the mood the people then would have been in. It may not be the best thing now, but it was the best they had then.

      Of course, the most popular music now is the 4-6 piece "rock" band. Drums, keyboard, and some number of guitars is the "standard" pop music right now. [much like violin, viola, cello, and bass in the 1600's] The core needed instruments of even the Rolling Stones fit in the back of Mom's minivan. We (ok not slashdotters, but other we) go to rock concerts because they play to the audience, even though their CDs are technically better and more polished we like to be there to watch and the artists do different things depending on the crowd.

      • [quote]Of course, the most popular music now is the 4-6 piece "rock" band. Drums, keyboard, and some number of guitars is the "standard" pop music right now. [much like violin, viola, cello, and bass in the 1600's][/quote]

        Popular is a relative term. While I would agree that rock-style instrumentation is popular amongst those operating under the "alternative" label, and nothing but synthesizers and samples seems to suffice for hip-hop, there's still music produced today that requires more players, music that

    • To hear the sounds generated by this re-created instrument, reinforced me in my belief that extinct instruments are extinct with very good reasons.

      Then explain why bagpipes are still around.

  • That's what I'd imagine an instrument created by a software model would look like. Wake me up when the software "creates" an instrument that looks more Klingon and less "software model".

    • by phme (1501991)
      Don't you think it already pretty much looks like -- or at least sound like -- Klingon?
  • Isn't this just reverse physical modeling, that is, instead of calculating how an instrument with certain physical qualities would sound, they calculated what physical qualities an instrument with a certain sound would have? But PM is hardly new so I don't see why this is news.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Researchers are able to reconstruct an instrument that "no one knew what it looked or sounded like" and you fail to see how it's news?

      It's not "just" reverse physical modeling. Most PM is a fairly cut-down simulation (such as waveguides) which are approximations of physical instruments given a set of parameters (length, width, wave source). If you haven't got those parameters, you can't do PM. And the parameters didn't exist.

      It's sort of like saying that rockets aren't interesting because they "just" revers

      • Re:Reverse PM? (Score:4, Informative)

        by MaskedSlacker (911878) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @06:13AM (#28157143)

        Actually, brute-forcing a game of chess IS trivial. Computationally intensive, but it is not a complicated algorithm.

        The computer considers a move (Say, Knight pawn e5)

        The computer computes all possible states of the board X moves after the move it is considering (upperbound 16^x, should usually be around 10^x or less).

        Assign each of these possible states a desirability value. This can be computed based on any set of strategic criteria. The simplest is material value, more complicated ones will consider control of the center, pins, forks, open files, etc.

        Average the values together.

        Repeat for each of the computer's possible moves.

        Choose the move with the highest value.

        Most immediate way to improve this is to add a dynamic weighting to the average as the computer moves down the tree of possible moves. Some moves an opponent is just not likely to make, so outcomes proceeding from those moves should be weighted less (this is just an expansion of the rule-awareness of the computer, for example the computer should be assigning zero weight to any moves that cause the opponent to put their own king in check, capture their own pieces, etc.--basically this is adding soft-rules, not likely in addition to impossible).

        Computer chess AI was only noteworthy back in the day because of the power needed to do it, not because programming the AI is an inherently difficult task. Building the computers that could do all the calculations in a timely fashion was the real problem of a chess computer. Sure, Babbage's machine could have done it, but you would have died of old age waiting for the computer to respond to your spanish opening.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Threni (635302)

          > Actually, brute-forcing a game of chess IS trivial. Computationally intensive, but it is not a complicated algorithm.

          It's not trivial because the sun will burn out before you get the answer to the very first move of the game. I agree that if your solution doesn't have to work then the solution is indeed trivial, but if the solution doesn't have to work then an even simpler one is to just resign the game immediately, move a random piece, etc, for all the difference it will make.

          • I was actually supposed to meta-mod this comment but decided to reply instead. You don't understand what trivial means. It doesn't mean that it's "easy" as in a low number of computational steps. It means that there are no complicated decisions in the algorithm. For brute-forcing a game this is true, you simply evaluate every possible response to every possible until you reach the leafs of the game tree. So it is a trivial algorithm even though it is computationally intractable.

            • by Threni (635302)

              > For brute-forcing a game this is true, you simply evaluate every possible response to every possible until you reach the leafs of the game tree. So
              > it is a trivial algorithm even though it is computationally intractable.

              It wasn't really the word `trivial` I had a problem with - it was more the word `solution`. The OP's `solution` doesn't solve anything - ie it doesn't let you play chess in the real world. A genuine solution, which a human, living today, on Earth, breathing oxygen etc (ie assumpti

              • Well.... yes and no. Chess is not that intractable. It is just beyond the current horizon of what we can compute. Before I started writing this comment I had thought the size of the game-tree was conjectured to be about 2^120 which would put it in the sun burning out category. But then I stumbled across this reference on google:

                Jurg Nievergelt, of ETH Zurich, quoted the number 2^70 (or about 10^21) in
                e-mail, and referred to his paper "Information content of chess positions",
                ACM SIGART Newsletter 62, 13-14, April 1977, to be reprinted in "Machine
                Intelligence" (ed Michie), to appear 1990.

                Now 2^70 is not that intractable at all. Let assume that you're going to build a *large* machine. 2^20 processors is quite doable. Each of these processors can perform 2^32 operation

                • by Threni (635302)

                  I've never heard of Jurg Nievergelt, but I have heard of Claude Shannon, and he referred to 10^120, which is plenty to be getting on with!

                • Whether or not that "dumb" approach is effective depends entirely where you are on the current exponential curve of processing power.
                  And whether that exponential trend continues and how close the complexity estimates are to reality.

              • by sjames (1099)

                He was coming from the theoretical viewpoint, you're coming from the practical. In the theoretical, a solution merely has to satisfy the problem even if we can't imagine the hardware that could make it practical.

                That's a useful metric because there are some problems that have no known solution even for that generous definition of solution.

        • by Yogiz (1123127)

          Chess can not only be brute-forced but completely solved. Given enough computational power and storage for the solutions one could simply find out all the possible states for the game and then only select ones which lead to victory each turn. That would make chess as interesting to play as tic-tac-toe but we're still a bit off regarding our computers : P. Game theory is an interesting thing.

          To not be completely offtopic, the modeling they use (if I understood correctly without RTFA) reminds me of how newer

        • by m50d (797211)
          Actually, brute-forcing a game of chess IS trivial. Computationally intensive, but it is not a complicated algorithm.

          That's true for any brute-force algorithm. If only there were a name that reflected this kind of approach...

  • well it could be recreated from a prop to a real time traveling device on some far away island...er..wait..not that Lost..
  • None are left? (Score:2, Interesting)

    So they completely modeled after images and assumptions?

    I would understand that no instrument remains playable after >300 years.
    But I'm a bit surprised that there aren't any left at all. 300 years
    isn't that long, even on the "human history" scale.

    What happened?
    • by c6gunner (950153) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @05:32AM (#28157007)

      They sounded so frigging awful that people went out of their way to destroy them?

      • They played them for 2000 years, and THEN just figured it out? Doubtful. Especially since the Jonas Brothers still records.

    • People probably learned how to mass-produce the "coiled" version of bass instruments about that time. Trumpets, Trombones, Tubas, etc are all 6,12, 20 foot of brass tubing wound up with buttons added to make playing easier. At the time people probably turned in their 8 foot straight horns to have the metal reused in smaller, more versatile instruments. Raw metal was rather valuable so I'd expect horns were recycled into other objects as well.

  • yea right. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mustafap (452510)

    >even though no one alive today has heard, played or even seen a picture of this forgotten instrument."

    So in fact he could make it sound like any old shit, and who is to disagree with him? :)

  • great research (Score:4, Interesting)

    by speedtux (1307149) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @05:54AM (#28157087)

    And the best thing about it--nobody can prove it wrong.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Daimanta (1140543)

      Well, if you make a piece of Bach sound awful, you know you have failed in your task.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Hurricane78 (562437)

        Depends on your taste of music. Bach is something for the mathematicians of the music students. So something that real existing people with a real life enjoy. ^^

        • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

          by Hurricane78 (562437)

          Damnit! I meant: NOT something that real existing people with a real life enjoy.

          That's what I get for partying all night and sleeping all day. :/

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Threni (635302)

          > Depends on your taste of music. Bach is something for the mathematicians of the music students. So something that real existing people with a real
          > life enjoy.

          Only if by 'real people' with a 'real life' excludes pretty much any serious classical composer from the last couple of hundred years (as well as lot of jazz, rock etc musicians). You'll have to look pretty hard to find any composer or performer who doesn't appreciate what Bach did.

      • by hey! (33014)

        Well, the players are obviously having trouble getting notes out the thing. Where they do, some of them sound flat to me, which makes me wonder whether they got the instrument this piece was designed for correct. Can the instrument actually produce the scale the piece was written for?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mabhatter654 (561290)

          CAN the instrument do it, or can they play it? It sounds like these were built strictly to the plans provided by the computer and not "polished" by a craftsman. A few revisions from practiced craftsmen would probably improve the scale and playability of the horn without changing its sound too much. I'd think that would be an interesting lesson in polishing their software with how real-world craftsmen tweak and build instruments.

    • I think it's surprising that a kind of instrument that's been use for millennia apparently doesn't have much in the way of surviving examples in any condition.

  • From images on Roman coins and walls, you could get an idea how original version of the instrument looked like. What these guys re-created is version from Bach's time, and after watching the video, I admit it matches character of music :). (I love Bach BTW)

    I would like to see original version, though.

  • We still have these instruments in some parts of Romania, they are called "bucium" or "tulnic" (varies across the regions of the country).
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bucium [wikipedia.org]
    http://i41.tinypic.com/6jgkk8.jpg [tinypic.com]

  • To quote TFA, they created an instrument based on one no one has ever seen before, how is this the same instrument? It is simply an instrument that might make similar sounds, and probably looks quite different...
  • Ummm yes....... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SurlyToad (932526)
    The allegedly "Roman" Lituus looks remarkably like the Swedish NÃverlur http://files.reseguiden.se/files/0/rg_738300_m600.jpg [reseguiden.se]. I remember David Munrow demonstrating something like it in his Early Music TV programme back in the mid-70s. It sounds very difficult to keep in pitch and I'd suggest that a Renaissance Cornett (perhaps even a Lysard, but not a Serpent) would be a more appropriate instrument for the performance.

    Conjectural instruments like the Lituus aren't really worth the effort.
  • Not lost... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 31, 2009 @07:27AM (#28157429)

    Not sure why this study and article claims the instrument was "lost", and that no one knows what it looks like â" there are -countless- details and elaborate accounts on the various Lituus in musical history. Furthermore, the "long horn" type of instrument shown as being the recreation of the "lost Lituus nobody has ever seen" is not a Lituus at all â" it's nothing short a very common design of long horn from the european medievals.

  • by skroops (1237422)
    For a second I was worried I'd be pushing a button every 108 minutes [wikia.com]
  • by antdude (79039)

    Dang, I thought it was related to television/TV series [go.com]!

  • was it anything created by the Dharma Initiative?

  • Aren't these the things they hang banners on and play when the king shows up to the joust, in like, every movie ever made?
  • by geckoFeet (139137) <gecko@dustyfeet.com> on Sunday May 31, 2009 @09:40PM (#28163475)

    Please read the second link in the summary. It's completely bonkers to think that an ancient Roman instrument just happened to survive into Bach's time, and then disappeared without a trace. We have descriptions of instruments and musical practice from Bach's time, and there is no lituus. We also have descriptions of ancient Roman (and Greek and Biblical) instruments from Bach's time, stuff that Bach would have known, and there are Litui in there. Bach took the name of an ancient Roman instrument because for some reason, probably having to do with the original purpose of that particular "cantata" (more likely it was a funeral motet), a fancy Latin name was more appropriate. The instrument itself would have been a horn or, less likely, a trumpet pitched in Bb. The difference between a Baroque horn and Baroque trumpet of that pitch would have been only the exact shape of the bore and the configuration of the mouthpiece.

    Sorry, but the only evidence for the existence of the ancient Lituus in Bach's time is the occasional use of a Latin term in place of a German or Italian or some other vernacular term. That adds up to exactly zero evidence.

    That said, the modelling software is pretty neat.

    ---

    I am a musicologist, but I am not your musicologist, and this message does not constitute musicological advice. (In most juristictions.)

    • Maybe it's a trumpet (mostly cylindrical bore) not a horn (conical bore). The other instruments don't have Latin labels, but if this was indeed a funeral motet, the use of a Latin name for the trumpet could have been to get around guild restrictions, since the use of trumpets (and timpani) was tightly, although somewhat incoherently, regulated. Bach wouldn't have been allowed to hire a "tromba" or "clarino" player, but give the instrument another name, and it's ok. (The guild regs really were that ridiculou

  • " The software opens up the possibility that brass instruments could be customized more closely to the needs of individual players in the future -- catering more closely to the differing needs of jazz, classical and other players all over the world."

    Please. This has been the case for years! As someone who has played a brass instrument for 18 years, I can authoritatively tell you that there are already significant differences between a trombone made for jazz music, classical music, and beginning players, to

    • by Liche_UK (1567205)

      Indeed, you are entirely correct, and I am well aware of this fact (I have spent a couple of enjoyable afternoons at the http://www.rathtrombones.com/ [rathtrombones.com] factory...). In defence of the author of the article, they have written "more closely", which I think is reasonable. The tool was also intended for use by modern manufacturers to refine good instruments; as you point out, modern instrument design is becoming ever more customised to the specific needs of the individual player, so a tool to help the designers w

  • Greetings. I am the developer of the software referred to in this article, and the underlying techniques. The discussion on this page has been of considerable interest and value, and I would like to answer a few of the queries it has raised. 1) None of us thought that Bach used the same instrument as the Romans did, as the article suggested. This conclusion could, however, have been reached with 5 minutes, google, and not a great deal of thought. 2) The object of the project was a single musical performan
    • by Liche_UK (1567205)

      Sorry about the lack of formatting. It has swallowed my paragraphs.

      Have since figured out how to do this, but I can't edit the above comment. Fail.

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