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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