Polish Concert Pianist Builds a ‘Viola Organista’ Based on a 500-Year-Old Leonardo Da Vinci Sketch 

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Viola Organista built by Slawomir Zubrzycki

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Codex Atlanticus by Leonardo Da Vinci, (page 93r)

Buried in the pages of Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous 15th century notebooks, amongst the sketches of flying machines, parachutes, diving suits, and armored tanks, was a curious idea for a musical instrument that merged the harpsichord and cello. The Italian Renaissance polymath referred to it as the viola organista. The general idea for the instrument was to correlate keyboard fingerwork with the sustained sound of a stringed instrument, but among the dozens of ideas pursued by the gifted artist and inventor, this was one he never explored further. Nearly 100 years would pass before an organist in Nuremberg would build the first functional bowed keyboard instrument, and many others would try throughout history to realize Da Vinci’s vision with various levels of success.

Now, after an estimated 5,000 hours of work over three years and nearly $10,000 invested in the project, Polish concert pianist Slawomir Zubrzycki has unveiled his own version of the viola organista. Not only is the new instrument gorgeous, it’s fully functional and Zubrzycki demonstrated it in public for the first time at the 5th International Royal Krakow Piano Festival a few weeks ago. Above is a video of that performance where you can hear how beautiful the strange instrument sounds. Via the Hindustan Times:

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 one 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 peddle 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. The effect is a sound that da Vinci dreamt of, but never heard; there are no historical records suggesting he or anyone else of his time built the instrument he designed.

Here’s an additional interview with Zubrzycki, where you can see the instrument up close (click the “CC” icon for English captions):

You can learn more about Zubrzycki and the history of the viola organista over at the History Blog.

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Sculptor Zheng Chunhui Spent 4 Years Carving the World’s Longest Wooden Sculpture 

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Photo by Lv Ming

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Photo by Lv Ming

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Photo by Lv Ming

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Photo by Lv Ming

Chinese artist Zheng Chunhui recently unveiled this exceptionally large wooden sculpture that measures some 40 feet (12.286) meters long. Four years in the making, the tree carving is based on a famous painting called “Along the River During the Qingming Festival,” which is a historical holiday reserved to celebrate past ancestors that falls on the 104th day after the winter solstice. On November 14th the Guinness World Records arrived in Fuzhou, Fujian Province where the piece is currently on display to declare it the longest continuous wooden sculpture in the world. You can see many more photos over on China News. (via Shanghaist)

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An Infinite Staircase by David McCracken 

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Photo by William Patino

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Leighton Wallis

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Paul Davis

Currently on view at this year’s annual Sculpture by the Sea in Bondi, Australia is this fun piece titled Diminish and Ascend by artist David McCracken. The welded aluminum stairsteps appear to create an infinite path into the sky, depending on the angle and/or the presence of clouds. Reminds me somewhat of Do Ho Suh’s piece Karma in New Orleans. Photos courtesy William Patino, Paul Davis, and Leighton Wallis.

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Ships That Sail Through the Clouds: Meet Luigi Prina, the 83-Year-Old Builder of Flying Model Ships 

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Photo by Gianluca Giannone courtesy Blinking City

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Photo by Gianluca Giannone courtesy Blinking City

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Photo by Gianluca Giannone courtesy Blinking City

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Photo by Gianluca Giannone courtesy Blinking City

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Photo by Gianluca Giannone courtesy Blinking City

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Photo by Gianluca Giannone courtesy Blinking City

flying-8Photo by Gianluca Giannone courtesy Blinking City>

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Photo by Gianluca Giannone courtesy Blinking City

When he was just 16 years old Luigi Prina entered and won a national aircraft modeling competition. When he went to collect the prize money the organizers asked the boy why his father couldn’t come and collect it himself. Nearly fifty years later the now successful architect met a painter and boat builder named Eugenio Tomiolo and while they were talking made a bet that perhaps Prina could take one of his small model ships and make it fly like an airplane. Tomolio accepted and it wasn’t long before a small flying boat was whirring in circles around his small studio that coincidentally had clouds painted on the ceiling. A new passion was born and Prina has since dedicated nearly 20 years of his later life to building flying model boats, bicycles and other unconventional aircraft.

The folks over at Blinking City along with photographer Gianluca Giannone recently sat down with the model building for this beautiful photo essay and video. (thnx, Andrea!)

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