A strange and beautiful instrument from the mind of the great artist and inventor Leonardo Da Vinci recently had its moment in the spotlight after a pianist reconstructed the contraption and premiered it in Poland.
Polish musician Slawomir Zubrzycki attempted to stay fairly faithful to Da Vinci's original sketches of the ‘‘viola organista,’’ which the ingenius Renaissance artist included in his 12-volume collection of manuscripts, Codex Atlanticus, reports the Agence France-Presse.
Speaking to a rapt audience at the Academy of Music in Krakow, Poland, this October, Zubrzycki noted that the invention is something of a musical hybrid.
"This instrument has the characteristics of three we know: the harpsichord, the organ and the viola da gamba," he said, per the AFP. "I have no idea what Leonardo Da Vinci might think of the instrument I’ve made, but I’d hope he’d be pleased."
The resulting instrument looks amazing, beautifully painted in red, blue and gold. Incorporating sixty-one strings, foot pedals and four spinning wheels wrapped in horse-tail hair, the viola organista has a rich "sonorous sound" not unlike a cello, Slate writes.
"Further up the keyboard, we hear a reedy, organ-like sound with a hint of harpsichord brusqueness in the mix," Slate also says of the instrument. "Though the sound quality overall is pleasing, the instrument’s action -- the speed with which a musician’s movement produces a sound -- feels slightly delayed."
As far as many experts know, Da Vinci never built the instrument, per the AFP. In the nearly 500 years since his death, few have ever heard its unique sound.
The design and construction of the viola organista took Zubrzycki close to three years, according to a video produced about the project. Although he admitted that at times he felt he might not succeed, he persevered.
The Smithsonian points out that Zubrzycki is not the first aspiring inventor to attempt to copy the designs of a Da Vinci original. In 2009, a group of New Yorkers created a simpler version of the viola organista designed to be played while walking. Earlier this year, a Canadian team built and flew a human-powered helicopter Da Vinci designed.