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Ancient Barbiton instrument played for the first time in two thousand years at GÉANT Launch Event
14 December 2009 | Cambridge, UK

The sound of the Barbiton, an ancient Greek instrument similar to the double bass, has been heard for the first time in 2,000 years, due to the power of research networking.

Recreated by the ASTRA (Ancient instruments Sound/Timbre Reconstruction Application) project, using computer modelling technology and the high-bandwidth pan-European GÉANT and EUMEDCONNECT networks, the Barbiton took part in a unique inter-continental concert earlier this month as part of the GÉANT Launch Event in Stockholm, Sweden. It was joined by another ancient Greek musical instrument, the harp-like Epigonion which was first heard again in 2008.

Accompanied by percussion, the instruments were played by the Lost Sounds Orchestra, following melodies from a musical score written by Dr Domenico Vicinanza of DANTE, the organisation that operates the GÉANT and TEIN3 networks. The background music underpinning the melodies was based upon network traffic flows in the GÉANT and Asia-Pacific TEIN3 networks, converted into sound through a “data sonification” process developed by Dr Vicinanza, which converts seismic data into sound-waves.

The music was sent 9,300 km from the venue in Stockholm across the GÉANT and TEIN3 research networks to provide music for dancers from the Arts Exchange of Asia, allowing them to perform to the music at a simultaneous event in Kuala Lumpur, the ASEM (ASIA-Europe Meeting) workshop Gala Dinner.


If you cannot see the video above you can view the performance by downloading the file and watching it in an external player . Click here to download media file

“Being able to hear the sound of the Barbiton, lost for many centuries, is a major step forward in our understanding and makes the past real for researchers and academics,” commented Dr Vicinanza. "The sound-waves generated by the network have an incredible power and intrinsic richness. It was a fascinating challenge to write this piece of music for a dance performance based on the data the network engineers use every day. The sound of percussions and the warm notes of the Barbiton worked perfectly with the background melody from the GÉANT and TEIN3 networks. The fact that we were providing music for a live dance performance on another continent only added to the challenge and the impact.”

The Barbiton is a heavy, multi-stringed instrument popular in ancient Greece. Producing a sound similar to a double bass, it was described in many poems and paintings of the time, and is known to have been played by the poets Alcaeus and Sappho. The ASTRA project used archaeological data as an input and then transformed it by a complex digital audio rendering technique to model the actual sound of the instrument. This advanced physical modelling synthesis creates a virtual model and visualisation of the instrument and reproduces the sound that it might have made by simulating its behaviour as a mechanical system.

ASTRA’s computer modelling procedure demands enormous computing power. To achieve this it uses the advanced GÉANT and EUMEDCONNECT research networks to link high capacity computers together, sharing information across grid computing infrastructures to enable the computer-intensive modelling of musical sounds.

DANTE is a non-profit organisation, coordinator of large-scale projects co-funded by the European Commission, and working in partnership with European National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) to plan, build and operate advanced networks for research and education. Established in 1993, DANTE has been fundamental to the success of pan-European research and education networking. DANTE has built and operates GÉANT, which provides the data communications infrastructure essential to the success of many research projects in Europe. DANTE is involved in worldwide initiatives to interconnect countries in the other regions to one another and to GÉANT. DANTE currently manages projects focussed on the Mediterranean, Asia-Pacific and central Asia regions through the EUMEDCONNECT, TEIN and CAREN projects respectively. For more information, visit

GÉANT is the high speed European communication network dedicated to research and education. In combination with its NREN partners, GÉANT creates a secure, high speed research infrastructure that serves 40 million researchers in over 8,000 institutions across 40 European countries. Operating at speeds of up to 10 Gbps, GÉANT is the world’s largest and most advanced multi-gigabit network dedicated to research and education. Building on the success of its predecessors, GÉANT has been created around the needs of users, providing flexible, end to end services that transform the way that researchers collaborate. GÉANT is at the heart of global research networking through wide ranging connections with other world regions, underpinning vital projects that bridge the digital divide and benefit society as a whole.

Co-funded by the European Commission under the EU’s 7th Research and Development Framework Programme, GÉANT is the e-Infrastructure at the heart of the EU’s European Research Area and contributes to the development of emerging internet technologies. The project partners are 32 European National Research and Education Networks (NRENs), TERENA and DANTE. GÉANT is operated by DANTE on behalf of Europe’s NRENs. For more information, visit

The ASTRA projects aims to reconstruct the sound or timbre of ancient instruments using archaeological data as fragments from excavations, written descriptions and pictures. The technique uses is the physical modelling synthesis, a complex digital audio rendering technique which allows modelling the time-domain physics of the instrument. Sound is then generated using parameters that describe the physical materials used in the instrument and the user's interaction with it. For more information, visit

Paul Maurice
+44 (0)1223 371 300

Chris Measures/Matt Watson
Speed Communications (on behalf of DANTE)
+44(0)20 7842 3200