Leornardo’s Viola Organista – or the importance of notebooks…

We all have ideas sometimes – whether strange, or beautiful, or unrealistic at the time it is worthwhile noting them down. Sharon keeps a journal, and a travel journal when travelling, I carry a notebook wherever I am – because you never know when the idea will strike. For us it might be a conversation, over a coffee, or getting a strange result on Google.

Leonardo da Vinci kept notebooks – jumping form one idea to the next. While he is known for his paintings and drawings, he is also known as a scientist – whether noting how the body works, or how people might fly like a bird, or swim underwater. He designed war machines, and textile machines, but above all he designed theatrical sets and special effects.

Hidden away in one of his notebooks were some sketches and notes for a musical instrument – part keyboard, part bowed instrument, the viola organista is like a bowed harpsichord – but sounds like a full string quartet. However, like many of his inventions, it was never built during Leonardo’s lifetime.

Enter, Polish instrument maker and pianist Slawomir Zubrzycki from Krakow. After 530 years hidden away in a notebook, the idea is brought to life when Zubrzycki decided to build the instrument to find out how it would have sounded. The result is both beautiful to look at, and beautiful to listen to. Let me know what you think in the comments ๐Ÿ™‚

– And don’t forget to keep a journal or notebook for your ideas!

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2 Responses to Leornardo’s Viola Organista – or the importance of notebooks…

  1. Hmm, interesting! I’d have liked to see a close up of the thing being played and seen how the internal mechanisms worked. Wonder if you could play vibrato on it??=)

    • I believe the internal mechanism is like a hurdy-gurdy – using a series of wooden wheels coated in rosin to play the strings. According to the maker there is a degree of vibrato available depending on the pressure applied to the key which can also increase/reduce the tension on the string a little. There are a couple of other version on YouTube, but I think the polish one is by far the best realisation of the design to date ๐Ÿ™‚


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