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Software Enables Re-Creation of 'Lost' Instrument

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the but-does-it-run-lituus dept.

Music 136

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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136 comments

Frist psot! (0, Redundant)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#28156741)

lats psot [wikipedia.org]

Re:Frist psot! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28156811)

Faggot [goatse.fr] powered slashdot no longer lets ACs see -1 posts.

Re:Frist psot! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28156893)

You have the same problem too? I thought it was a bug in my browser. Quite hypocritical for a site that pretends to have an anti-censorship stance!

Re:Frist psot! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28156941)

Slashdot's "1.5 million users" are just 6 fat guys with pizza grease dripping from their multiple chins as they post with rotating usernames and unlimited karma from cum-stained armchairs.

The only real people here are the trolls.

Re:Frist psot! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28157855)

I suspect it's a bug as the slider behaves inconsistently for me, but pressing [ on the keyboard a few times (when not in a text input field) still works to move the slider down.

re-creation? ITS A GUESS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28156751)

they keep saying re-creation, and it sounds unique and what not -- sounds like a million squeaky horns i've heard before.

Re:re-creation? ITS A GUESS (5, Funny)

thunrida (950858) | more than 4 years ago | (#28156777)

It reminds me of Matrix quote: Because you have to wonder: how do the machines know what Tasty Wheat tasted like? Maybe they got it wrong...

Re:re-creation? ITS A GUESS (2, Insightful)

djsmiley (752149) | more than 4 years ago | (#28157089)

I was thinking something along these lines too - H2G2 Has something about making predictions of the future - one nice tip - Predict something that can never be proven wrong (or at least is very unlikely to be proven wrong).

Isn't this what these guys have done, but instead taken a bit of the past, and proven it, without it being unprovable? Also if one of these horns was now found in original condition, they could simply go "well thats not the right horn, this : (insert newly created horn) is the one we remade, that must be some other type of horn!".

And its likely some students passed their courses via this too. I mean, they have created some impressive technology, the ability to create usable, realistic instruments... but dont claim its solving some unsolvable problem. To solve that problem it must come up with ONE and ONLY ONE solution, and im sure you could do lots of with the horn and still get something which sounds close enough to be concidered the "correct" one.

Re:re-creation? ITS A GUESS (4, Insightful)

Chysn (898420) | more than 4 years ago | (#28157847)

To solve that problem it must come up with ONE and ONLY ONE solution, and im sure you could do lots of with the horn and still get something which sounds close enough to be concidered the "correct" one.

And "close enough" is important here, because there never was a One True Lituus. Modern acoustic musical instruments exhibit a great deal of variety in dimensions, materials, shape, and even UI (for example, number of keys or valves), and still go by the same name. It's always been that way.

So they know the instrument's range and typical length. They know what materials were available in the past. It's an interesting exercise to have a computer reproduce it, but hardly necessary, given the skill of the makers. What they have here can almost certainly be called a Lituus.

Re:re-creation? ITS A GUESS (2, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#28156949)

they keep saying re-creation, and it sounds unique and what not -- sounds like a million squeaky horns i've heard before.

We'll know when the inevitable "Oh, we've had one of those in our family for generations, didn't realize they were supposedly extinct. Sounds kind of like it but not quite" comes forward.

Re:re-creation? ITS A GUESS (2, Interesting)

paganizer (566360) | more than 4 years ago | (#28156997)

I really don't want to say anything, But I would swear i remember seeing one of those hanging on the wall of my great-uncle's barn 35 or so years ago; the barn is in Extreme Rural Tennessee, so you could imagine my surprise.
I'll see if I can get my mm to investigate.

Re:re-creation? ITS A GUESS (5, Funny)

Threni (635302) | more than 4 years ago | (#28157641)

> I'll see if I can get my mm to investigate.

It's supposed to be quite a large instrument - you might be better off asking your cm or maybe even your m to help out.

Re:re-creation? ITS A GUESS (0, Redundant)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 4 years ago | (#28158805)

Will someone with mod points please mod this up "+1: Funny"?

Re:re-creation? ITS A GUESS (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28159883)

and you down for being useless

Re:re-creation? ITS A GUESS (4, Funny)

apparently (756613) | more than 4 years ago | (#28158135)

But I would swear i remember seeing one of those hanging on the wall of my great-uncle's barn 35 or so years ago; the barn is in Extreme Rural Tennessee, so you could imagine my surprise.

I hate to tell you this, but that was just a horse dildo. Funny, the things age does to memory: one minute you're looking at a horse dildo, the next minute, you're convinced that ancient instruments are hanging out in rural Tennessee.

Re:re-creation? ITS A GUESS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28159323)

More likely it's some kind of alphorn... perhaps a bucium (a Romanian instrument someone pointed out earlier), but it's worth checking.

...ahem... (4, Funny)

viyh (620825) | more than 4 years ago | (#28156795)

Ricoooooooolllllaaaaaaaaa

Re:...ahem... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28156983)

What do you mean?

Anyway, there is a great rpg-like game in flash mybrute.com [mybrute.com] . Give it try if you have some spare time, its just a great time killer ;-)

Re:...ahem... (3, Funny)

SerpentMage (13390) | more than 4 years ago | (#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... (4, Informative)

jbengt (874751) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Lost instrument (2, Interesting)

moon3 (1530265) | more than 4 years ago | (#28156819)

Looks a bit like those Slovak Fujara pipes, but the sound is not so convincing, Fujara sound is amazing!

Dupe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28156821)

Software has been giving /. readers the horn for YEARS.

400 years from now... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:400 years from now... (4, Funny)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#28156927)

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

Nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

Re:400 years from now... (1)

bertoelcon (1557907) | more than 4 years ago | (#28157153)

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.

Re:400 years from now... (0)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#28157163)

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...)

Re:400 years from now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28158933)

but... uh...it's what plants crave

Re:400 years from now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28157335)

The RIAA part is funny.

As for Linux, I don't know what this 'desktop' is you refer to, perhaps its some ill-suited metaphor for how one uses a computer, perhaps it means 'dumbed-down so idiots can pretend they know how to use a computer', but I've been using Linux on "my" computer for a good decade or so.

Re:400 years from now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28157437)

I think he's referring to the /.'s long running gag about 20NN being the "year of linux on the desktop"

Re:400 years from now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28157481)

But since RIAA at the time is basically runs the all governments

Damn, I knew we should have voted for Skynet.

Let sleeping dogs lie (4, Insightful)

OpenSourced (323149) | more than 4 years ago | (#28156881)

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.

Re:Let sleeping dogs lie (5, Insightful)

Zenne (1013871) | more than 4 years ago | (#28156923)

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.

Re:Let sleeping dogs lie (3, Insightful)

nametaken (610866) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Let sleeping dogs lie (1)

fbjon (692006) | more than 4 years ago | (#28159979)

It may be that some crucial details are missing that would make it easier to play, perhaps around the mouthpiece. IANAwind player, though.

Re:Let sleeping dogs lie (5, Insightful)

Takichi (1053302) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Let sleeping dogs lie (4, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Let sleeping dogs lie (1)

inviolet (797804) | more than 4 years ago | (#28157769)

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 they SUCK. This thing probably did NOT sound "pretty", or there would still be a few around. These guys kept tweaking their software until it sounded "pretty", because that what us moderns want, not because that's how an ancient Roman instrument must've sounded.

Re:Let sleeping dogs lie (3, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#28158389)

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.

Re:Let sleeping dogs lie (1)

ockegheim (808089) | more than 4 years ago | (#28158449)

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 the only known piece and almost certainly the only post-ancient piece for Lituus.

Re:Let sleeping dogs lie (1)

chrismeidinger (1469419) | more than 4 years ago | (#28158251)

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.

Re:Let sleeping dogs lie (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 4 years ago | (#28157601)

> 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.

Re:Let sleeping dogs lie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28157777)

If it was any good, Bach would have released a CD featuring those instruments

Yeah, but if it was *REALLY* good he would have uploaded the .flac files to the pirate bay. I understand modern technology was abundant in the seventeeth century (as were pirates).
-
This post was made in complete sincere Seriousity, as such any attempts to derive humour are doomed to instant failure.

Um.. Nobody has heard, seen or played it (1, Troll)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 4 years ago | (#28157703)

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.

 

Re:Um.. Nobody has heard, seen or played it (5, Informative)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Good enough for "Global Warming" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28159627)

Please those types of models are always good enough for "Global Warming".
Why do you think they reset their models every few years? The "old models" diverge way too radically from actual data. So, to hide the "we just made it all up" factor, they reset their models so the divergence is now 0 and start fresh.
The models can't back predict and they can't forward predict with any accuracy. But since those are "computer models" (Ohh , Ahhhh) and therefore they have to be right.

Oh and I am sorry I forgot it isn't "Global Warming" anymore, it is now "Climate Change" because it was becoming tough to sell warming when the Earth has been cooling since the peak temperatures in 1998 and in our new "de-politicized science" science is now all about marketing.

Re:Let sleeping dogs lie (1)

machine321 (458769) | more than 4 years ago | (#28158521)

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

Re:Let sleeping dogs lie (4, Insightful)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Liitus see ... (1)

upside (574799) | more than 4 years ago | (#28156913)

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".

Re:Liitus see ... (1)

phme (1501991) | more than 4 years ago | (#28157063)

Don't you think it already pretty much looks like -- or at least sound like -- Klingon?

Reverse PM? (1)

marsu_k (701360) | more than 4 years ago | (#28156931)

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:Reverse PM? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28157057)

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" reverse the effect of gravity. And a computer which plays chess "just" needs to calculate the best moves. It's hardly a trivial task, and it is news.

Re:Reverse PM? (3, Informative)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:Reverse PM? (2, Informative)

Threni (635302) | more than 4 years ago | (#28157627)

> 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.

Re:Reverse PM? (1)

smallfries (601545) | more than 4 years ago | (#28157665)

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.

Re:Reverse PM? (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 4 years ago | (#28157739)

> 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 assumptions I should have thought obviously implied) could actually use, is less trivial.

Re:Reverse PM? (1)

smallfries (601545) | more than 4 years ago | (#28157907)

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 operations per second without getting to far ahead of what we have now. That's 2^52 operations per second. Or about 2^18 seconds, roughly 2 days +/- some fudge factor. That fudge factor is how many atomic operations it takes to evaluate a position. On a commodity machine it will be a large number, on a custom architecture (like Deep Blue) it will be very low.

So brute-forcing chess is currently on the horizon of what can be done now. Memory for the game tree would be more of an issue than processing speed. Because we can loop through the same position the game tree is really a dag, so it is not feasible to compute local solutions to sub-trees. As a (very) loose estimate of the lower bound on the memory required: assume an average branching factor of 32, each position can be stored in 70 bits, so 70*(32+1) bits per tree node is about 2^11 bits, so the tree would need 2^81 bits. That is a hell of a lot, but memory densities are increasing exponentially as well. I don't know how big the Googleplex is, but researchers are starting to consider exabyte-sized systems. It will probably be done by somebody in 10-20 years.

As far as the living breathing human part goes, I think that was the OP's point. We can solve the game with a "dumb" approach, so it is not amongst the hardest of problems (those that we can't evaluate solutions to effectively). Whether or not that "dumb" approach is effective depends entirely where you are on the current exponential curve of processing power.

PS I mean MaskedSlacker's point, not the OP. I can see that the AC he was answering was actually using trivial in completely the wrong sense.

Re:Reverse PM? (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 4 years ago | (#28158067)

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!

Re:Reverse PM? (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#28158265)

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.

Re:Reverse PM? (1)

Yogiz (1123127) | more than 4 years ago | (#28157643)

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 text-to-speech engine voices are made. They don't just contain random values that distort the sound in random ways but basically describe the features of a human vocal tract according to which the sounds are created.

Re:Reverse PM? (1)

m50d (797211) | more than 4 years ago | (#28158561)

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...

I guess the Frozen Donkey Wheel is out.. (0, Offtopic)

Ka D'Argo (857749) | more than 4 years ago | (#28156953)

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? (2, Interesting)

the_other_chewey (1119125) | more than 4 years ago | (#28156959)

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?

Re:None are left? (3, Funny)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 4 years ago | (#28157007)

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

Re:None are left? (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 4 years ago | (#28157151)

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

Re:None are left? (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 4 years ago | (#28158761)

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.

Re:None are left? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28159403)

Half right. Niggers stole musical instruments and sold them as scrap metal.

yea right. (2, Insightful)

mustafap (452510) | more than 4 years ago | (#28156965)

>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? :)

heh (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28157043)

funny, i was just listening to Toccatas BWV 910-916 Glenn Gould-01-Toccata in D major, BWV 912.flac

Sounds false (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28157059)

Sounds extremely false in many places. Either they still need to learn to play these instruments or the design is not good at all.
 
The instrument's sound resembles slightly a cornetto (also a revived instrument). Here you can listen to it played perfectly: "Le Concert Brisé - Musique Transalpine" [amazon.com] .

great research (3, Interesting)

speedtux (1307149) | more than 4 years ago | (#28157087)

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

Re:great research (2, Insightful)

Daimanta (1140543) | more than 4 years ago | (#28157101)

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

Re:great research (1, Interesting)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#28157183)

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:great research (0, Offtopic)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#28157213)

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:great research (2, Informative)

Threni (635302) | more than 4 years ago | (#28157619)

> 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.

Re:great research (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 4 years ago | (#28157811)

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:great research (2, Insightful)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 4 years ago | (#28158799)

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.

Re:great research (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 4 years ago | (#28157645)

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.

Headline had me going for a while (0)

Leemeng (970560) | more than 4 years ago | (#28157135)

I thought someone had created that Swan electromagnetic thingy from "Lost"!

Lituus - not a Roman one (1)

hubert.lepicki (1119397) | more than 4 years ago | (#28157155)

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.

Department of Redundancy Department (DRD) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28157219)

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.

It should also be noted that nobody had a clear idea of this instrument's appearance and sound, and that a program was recently used to make a replica, which nobody had heard for hundreds of years, by the way.

We still have them in some parts of Romania (2, Interesting)

galaad2 (847861) | more than 4 years ago | (#28157271)

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]

How is this the same instrument (1)

GreenTech11 (1471589) | more than 4 years ago | (#28157295)

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....... (2, Interesting)

SurlyToad (932526) | more than 4 years ago | (#28157325)

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.

why not PM synthesis? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28157331)

Physical Modelling synthesis has been around for a long time and produces great results. Why go through all the trouble of making an actual instrument when PM synthesis would have allowed the recreation of the sound on a much more limited budget, and without the trouble of finding people to try to play the thing ?

Re:why not PM synthesis? (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 4 years ago | (#28158843)

the software was designed to improve real instruments and match them to their players better to produce the sound and style of music the player wanted. They used the software "backwards" rather than analyze an existing instrument for flaws or tuning they took a set of parameters like the scale and size and tried to predict how a real instrument that had those specs would be made. I'd say that's the peak of analytical software to recreate what you have no way of knowing for sure convincingly.

Re:why not PM synthesis? (1)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 4 years ago | (#28158971)

Why go through all the trouble of making an actual instrument

Why do people try to put Linux on an iPod or some other obscure bit of hardware?

Because it's a challenge and it's fun.

Not lost... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Extinct for a reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28158077)

Of course it is extinct....the little kiddies kept having all of their teeth bashed out and breaking the instruments whenever they moved them around. Little Timmy hated carrying the 8ft plus thing around. Eating and playing are very difficult with no front teeth, and Dad isn't buying a new one every time Timmy decides to use it as a lever or play lances with his neighbor. Dad went out and bought him something far more easy and safe to carry and handle, a Tuba or drumset.

They have already found an instrument like this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28158279)

You can actually buy it at e-Bay: http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/-Roman-lituus(100-AD)for-reenactors-Rome%27s-army-AH3870T_W0QQitemZ370193812188QQcmdZViewItemQQimsxZ20090428?IMSfp=TL090428139003r20522

Do a search from "Lituus" on Google and you will find how it really looks like.

I've seen one of those before in monty python (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28158443)

http://www.pages.drexel.edu/~jg95/graphics/avatars/100/mphg_trumpets.jpg

Excuse me? (1)

WheelDweller (108946) | more than 4 years ago | (#28158557)

Do we really have scientists that have nothing to do?

Are they trying to get onto American Idol with the pseudo-trumpet?

I'd love for someone to tell me one useful application of a restored instrument...a new way to play "I like big butts"? Does someone think it'll play all the music of the really, really, really old days all on it's own?

This is folly, is it not? Can we have someone NOT being paid by the government to look at the fossil record and tell the government who wants complete power, that CO2 is not only not a problem, but removing it will make the climate hotter? (The truth)

I'm sorry, this is not-quite as stupid as resurrecting a wolly mammoth from DNA.

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