A New Sound from an Old Sketchbook

Leonardo Da Vinci strikes again! Well, with a lot of help from his friends and admirers.

Especially with the help of one particular Polish admirer and astonishing polymath named Slawomir Zubrzycki.  He took a look at this drawing and made a whole lot more sense of it than I can:

Meet Da Vinci’s invention, the “viola organista,” as drawn in his sketchbook.

Here is a video from the AFP News Agency that gives you both a glimpse of the instrument in action, and a taste of its sound:

Give yourself a moment to sit back, maximize your screen for a good view, and listen to this amazing new sound, extrapolated from the pages of one of Leonardo’s sketchbooks.

Here’s another video, showing Zubrzycki at the keyboard, performing about ten and a half minutes worth of music for a concert audience in Krakow, Poland.  This video was recorded Oct. 18, 2013 at the International Royal Cracow Piano Festival:

I wanted a closer look at this instrument, and I thought you might, too:

Mr. Zubrzycki and his amazing construction: no muted hues for Mr. Z!
Here’s one view “under the hood” of the Viola Organista.
And a bit more detailed close-up.  I still don’t know how it works.

I’d like to thank the NPR blog, Deceptive Cadence from NPR Classical, for turning me on to this instrument’s existence.  There also is an interesting article on the background of this instrument on the Musical Assumptions blog by Elaine Fine.

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to Wikipedia, for Da Vinci’s sketchbook image of the viola organista, shown at the top of this post. Many thanks also to the AFP News Agency and YouTube for the first video, and to Slawomir Zubrzycki and YouTube for the second, longer video. The three photos of Zubrzycki at the keyboard and the “under the hood” views are from Tygodnik Powszechny and Tomaz Wiech/AFP, via Laughing Squid (You may enjoy the accompanying articles, too!).

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jansgephardt

Kansas City-based Jan S. Gephardt is a writer, artist, and teacher. She makes nationally-recognized paper sculpture and writes sf mystery novels about a sapient police dog.

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