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Hear Leonardo da Vinci's 500-year-old instrument play for the first time (video)

Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
November 20, 2013
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Leonardo da Vinci invented numerous devices that he never built, including the viola organista -- a machine-like instrument that combines a harpsichord, an organ and a viola da gamba. This 500-year-old idea is now a reality, however, thanks to Polish musician Slawomir Zubrzycki. His 5,000-hour project faithfully recreates da Vinci's concept, using a keyboard to press steel strings against moving wheels wrapped in horse hair. The results are sweet-sounding, despite the seemingly odd approach; as you'll hear in a debut performance after the break, Zubrzycki effectively becomes a one-man string ensemble. While it's doubtful that you'll ever find a viola organista in the local music shop, the one-off creation proves that da Vinci knew how to blend technology and art.

[Image credit: Tomasz Wiech AFP/Getty Images]

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