In 1737-8, Johann Sebastian Bach composed and performed a cantata, “O Jesu Christ, meins lebens licht” (”O Jesus Christ, light of my life”). Among the instruments called for in the score are “two Litui.” However, the Lituus is a forgotten instrument. No one has played or heard the instrument in modern times; there aren’t even illustrations of one.
Musicians at a Swiss conservatory, the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis (SCB), had heard of a computer program developed by a University of Edinburgh Ph.D. student to help in the design of modern brass instruments. The SCB provided a group of Edinburgh scientists with design requirements, such as notes that would have been played with the Lituus, how it sounded and how it might have been played. (Though likely made of wood, the Lituus qualifies as a brass instrument.) The result: a two-and-a-half-meter-long horn made of pine with a flared bell at one end and a mouthpiece made of cow horn at the other. And they built two.