Saturday, May 30, 2009

A long-lost musical instrument re-created

The BBC reports that a musical instrument of Bach's time has been successfully re-created after intensive research, and is lending a newly authentic tone to one of his motets.

New software has enabled researchers to recreate a long forgotten musical instrument called the Lituus.

The 2.4m (8ft) long trumpet-like instrument was played in Ancient Rome but 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, this 18th Century composition has been played as it should have been heard.

Researchers from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the University of Edinburgh collaborated on the study.

Performed by the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis (SCB) the Lituus produced a piercing trumpet-like sound interleaving with the vocals.

Until now, no one had a clear idea of what this instrument looked or sounded like.

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

The result was a 2.4m (8ft) -long thin straight horn, with a flared bell at the end.

It is an unwieldy instrument with a limited tonal range that is hard to play. But played well, it gives Johann Sebastian Bach's motet a haunting feel that couldn't be reproduced by modern instruments.

There's more at the link.

The same software used to re-design the lituus might also be able to recreate other long-forgotten musical instruments. Who knows? We might be able to hear the sound of ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Assyrian and Babylonian instruments one day. Now that's exciting!


1 comment:

Christina LMT said...

Thank you so much, Peter! This reminds me of the crumhorn (krummhorn, really) that I played in high school in Germany in a music ensemble comprised of instruments from the Baroque and Renaissance.