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Da Vinci Instrument Design Brought to Life for First Time by Polish Pianist

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Marisa Kabas


By Marisa Kabas on November 18, 2013


If you’ve ever seen the 1998 flick Ever After, you know that Drew Barrymore is surprisingly good at pulling off dishwater brown hair, and that Leonardo Da Vinci wasn’t just a badass painter but also a devoted inventor.

One such invention was the “viola organista,” an experimental instrument which was never actually built. A Polish concert pianist named Slawomir Zubrzycki decided it was time to bring Da Vinci’s design to life for the first time and debuted it in a performance at the Academy of Music in Krakow.

The instrument sounds mega-complicated, which might explain why it took Zubrzycki three years (5,000 hours) to complete.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald:

The flat bed of its interior is lined with golden spruce. Sixty-one gleaming steel strings run across it, similar to the inside of a baby grand.
 
Each is connected to the keyboard, complete with smaller black keys for sharp and flat notes. But unlike a piano, it has no hammered dulcimers. Instead, there are four spinning wheels wrapped in horse-tail hair, like violin bows.
 
To turn them, Zubrzycki pumps a pedal below the keyboard connected to a crankshaft. As he tinkles the keys, they press the strings down onto the wheels, emitting rich, sonorous tones reminiscent of a cello, an organ and even an accordion.

Zubrzycki said “I have no idea what Leonardo da Vinci might think of the instrument I’ve made, but I’d hope he’d be pleased.”

After all that time and effort we’d hope so, too.

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[via Sydney Morning Herald, h/t Popular Science]
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