GRCC Student Crafts Ancient Instrument for Technology and Humanity Course


Brad Burns holds the lyre that he constructed as part of an experiment for Technology and Humanity, HU 245. Here, Brad and fellow HU 245 students enjoy a family-style, sit-down dinner with family, friends, and instructors Jacquelyn and Harold Lee. The class met in Shipshewana to tour the Mennohof Museum, afterwards enjoying good food and fun at the home of a local Amish couple.

Brad, who has enjoyed a passion for working with wood for many years, not only built the lyre, but learned to play “Epitaph of Seikilos,” which Brad learned was found on an ancient tombstone and is considered the oldest complete piece of music that has been discovered. He also composed a song for the ancient instrument, using a tablature program to create a drum and flute accompaniment.

In HU 245, students contract to perform four experiments in which they volunteer to give up some form of modern, electronic technology, with each experiment lasting an increasing number of days. Students are challenged to create a project that better enhances the Aristotelian virtues of truth, beauty, goodness, and unity than does being passively “plugged in” to electronic devices.

For Experiment #1 (three days), Brad gave up use of his cell phone and spent his uninterrupted time building the lyre. For Experiment #2 (five days), Brad gave up watching television and learned to play “Epitaph of Seikilos.” For Experiment #3 (five days), Brad gave up listening to radio and created his own music for the lyre.

Brad’s creative endeavor “shines” with the message of the ancient Greek song that he plays:

While you live, shine
Don’t suffer anything at all;
Life exists only a short while
And time demands its toll.

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