Computer-modelling project recreates sounds of ancient Greek harp

New Kerala

Washington, September 4 : A new computer-modelling project has been successful in recreating the sound of the harp-like Epigonion musical instrument from Ancient Greece.

Researchers associated with the project named ASTRA (Ancient instruments Sound/Timbre Reconstruction Application) say that they have even performed one of the oldest known musical scores dating back to the Middle Ages.

The experts say that they achieved this fate by using the advanced GEANT2 and EUMEDCONNECT research networks to link high capacity computers together, and thereby sharing information to enable the computer-intensive modelling of musical sounds.

According to them, the knowledge of the Epigonion musical instrument, dating back from the Ancient Greek era, is based on archaeological findings, historical pictures and literature.

The researchers say that they transformed this archaeological data by a complex digital audio rendering technique to model the actual sound of the instrument, which created a virtual model of the instrument and reproduced the sound that the instrument might have made by simulating its behaviour as a mechanical system.

The Epigonion is a wooden string instrument that musicians have likened the sound to something similar to a modern harp or a harpsichord.

The ASTRA team say that they have thus far been successful in compiling the sounds of four Epigonion instruments to recreate a medieval musical piece.

They claim that it was all due to their efforts that these instruments have been heard performing together.

“This is an exciting project for us and for musicians and historians around the world. For the first time we can actually hear the musical sounds of the past, using modelling techniques rather than guesswork. Recreating the sound of the Epigonion instrument and the compilation of this musical piece is a great achievement and is the first step towards our goal of constructing a full orchestra in the future,” says Professor De Mattia, Director of the Conservatory of Music of Salerno and Co-ordinator of the ASTRA project.

“The combination of the high speed GeANT2 and EUMEDCONNECT networks and grid computing infrastructures provide the immense computing power vital for this exciting project. Previously the amount of computing power needed to recreate ancient music was unobtainable, but the use of high capacity research networks provides us with the ability to turn our research into reality,” says Dr La Rocca, Co-ordinator of ASTRA gridification.The physical modelling process needs extreme amounts of computing power, and it takes about four hours for a high-powered computer to correctly reproduce a sound lasting only 30 seconds.

To bring together sufficient power and to share information the ASTRA project is using the GILDA and EUMEDGRID grid computing infrastructures, which link computing resources across the Mediterranean at high speed (up to 2.5 Gbps) through the GeANT2 and EUMEDCONNECT research networks.

“The success of the ASTRA project demonstrates how high speed networking technology can underpin research collaboration across a wide range of subjects and allow the academic world to work together across multiple locations. This unique project is delivering a fascinating glimpse into the music of the past for the benefit of the students and researchers of today – we look forward to hearing more music as ASTRA develops,” said Dai Davies, General Manager, DANTE.

As regards the benefits of the collaborative approach used in this project, the researchers say that ASTRA not only makes it possible to recreate instruments that previously would have been either too expensive or too difficult to manufacture by hand, but it also allows any model and its associated data to be accessed by the collaborators.

They say that the research data can thus be shared around the world, making it a truly international project of immense value to working archaeologists and historians.

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