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Today the European Grid Infrastructure (EGI) launched the second episode of the ongoing Stories from the grid series of short documentaries. The new instalment is all about the epigonion – a musical instrument popular in Ancient Greece, but not heard for centuries.

The video takes us to Cambridge, where Domenico Vicinanza, a product manager at DANTE who is also a professional music composer, describes how he used a technique called physical modelling to recreate the sound of the epigonion’s 48 strings. Each string was modelled separately, taking into account information from ancient sources on what the instrument looked like, the materials it was made of, how the strings were constructed and the way it was played. The result is a set of 48 digital files containing the epigonion’s sounds that can be downloaded and played by any musician using a simple keyboard.{hwdvs-player}id=422|height=340|width=420|tpl=playeronly{/hwdvs-player}

“Creating sound libraries and making them available to everybody is much more attractive than building just one beautiful epigonion to be put in a museum and played by only a few lucky people,” says Domenico.

The epigonion is part of the Lost Sounds Orchestra, which features long-lost reconstructed instruments alongside modern violins, cellos and flutes. “We are recording a series of pieces for a CD with real musicians and an epigonion, which is a way to show people that we can use the epigonion as a modern instrument,” Domenico adds. 

Domenico used computing resources provided by EGI to bring the epigonion back to life. Thanks to grid computing, it took him just a few hours to create the 48 digital files. In a single core computer Domenico would have to wait a month.

“Domenico’s work is definitely different from a lot of the work we support,” explains Steven Newhouse, EGI’s director. “From high energy physics, and biomedical research to computational chemistry and the humanities, the breadth of science being done on EGI is immense. The flexibility of our infrastructure means that we can support many different research communities, I hope we see many more Domenicos using EGI.”

EGI is a pan-European project providing access to computing resources for researchers through a distributed computing infrastructure called a grid. Distributed grid computing has become an increasingly important and successful framework for collaborative research. This has been made possible thanks to the reliability of the high-bandwidth pan-European GÉANT network and its NREN (National Research and Education Networks) partners. GÉANT and the national networks connect up the grid resources to make them accessible to users (researchers and scientists to students), presenting a seamless network interface for moving data into and around the Grid for processing.

The diverse range of science supported by EGI is being showcased in the Stories from the grid series.  Each episode focuses on a particular piece of research that would have been near impossible without EGI. The first episode was launched in February 2012 and describes how the toxic venom used by the marine cone snail can be modified with the aid of grid computer models to produce new anaesthetics and alleviate the muscle spasms caused by the condition dystonia.