Recreating the Lituus

Although the BBC article only mentions Rome in passing, some folks have done the computer thang and have recreated what the Lituus might have sounded like, at least in the context of one of the last pieces written (by Bach) for the instrument which fell into desuetude a few centuries ago. Listen to it here (perhaps to recover from the Death Metal mentioned below …).

UPDATE (a little later): make sure you read Ajax’ comment …

5 thoughts on “Recreating the Lituus

  1. What they reconstructed is actually not the Etruscan-Roman lituus, which had a crooked end — see here: —, but a mediaeval trumpet that was also called “lituus”, a late instrument that was rather similar to the Roman tuba — see here: — than to the actual ancient lituus. Two completely different instruments that only share the same name.

  2. Ajax commented that “[w]hat they reconstructed is actually not the Etruscan-Roman lituus, which had a crooked end.”

    So would it be safe to say then that the reconstructed instrument does not pass the lituus test? 😉

    1. ;D LOL

      PS: I have to slightly revise what I wrote. They are not “completely different” instruments. Although from different eras, both are brass instruments, a terminology based not on the material but on the method of sound production (embouchure etc.). So they are only “different” as much as e.g. a piccolo trumpet and a tenor trombone are different.

      In any case, the Roman lituus was already reconstructed a long time ago. I have played one myself. Well… I tried. 😉 It has a brightly piercing and harsh sound, very much unlike Bach’s mediaeval lituus, which we can hear on the BBC recording. The ancient instrument is definitely more suitable as a heralding or signalling instrument.

      Another (very famous) image showing the crooked lituus in front of the two cornicines as the heralding instrument at the front of the funeral procession (relief from Amiternum):

      (Below are four musicians playing the tibiae, not a flute but a reed woodwind, something like a double-shawm, and behind the cornua are two praeficae, the wailing women performing the nenia, the dirge.)

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