Ongoing History Daily: The mysterious instrument known as the “lituus.”

Bored with traditional guitar/bass/drums arrangements for rock?  Then maybe you need the Lituus.

This was an eight-foot trumpet-like instrument that rocked ancient Rome.  The problem was that no one knew what one looked like or sounded like.  The last guy to write for the Lituus was Bach, who composed something 300 years ago.

But then about ten years ago, scientists at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the University of Edinburgh re-created the Lituus in all its glory.  How did they recreate an instrument that no one had ever seen or heard?  They used special software to look at music that was written for the Lituus and extrapolated what kind of instrument would be needed to play notes like that.  I

t’s hard to move around, pretty limited in what it can do and is hard to play.  It sort of sounds like a trumpet, too.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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