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Design History Music

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

November 18, 2013

Christopher Jobson

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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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Documentary Music

Take a Death-Defying Ride Alongside India’s Well of Death Riders

October 3, 2013

Christopher Jobson

This fantastic bit of filmmaking blends music video and documentary in a new clip for British rock group Django Django’s 2010 track WOR. The subjects of the video are Allahabad’s Well of Death riders who risk life and limb daily to earn money at local melas (fairs) by driving cars and motorcycles inside a temporary cylindrical structure about 25 feet high and 30 feet across. The cars are held in the air by centripetal force and needless to say there’s very little room for error. The Well of Death is extremely risky for both performers and audience members, but regardless, it frequently draws a huge crowd as evidenced in this video. Directed by Jim Demuth, based on an original concept by Vincent Neff. More music video documentaries, please. (via Vimeo)

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Music

Percussive Maintenance: A Supercut of People Banging on Broken Technology in Film and TV

September 25, 2013

Christopher Jobson

Y’know that moment in every TV show and film ever made where the computer/jukebox/radio/appliance stops working and out of desperation the exasperated lead character gives it a good whack? Duncan Robson scoured decades of popular television shows and movies to find dozens of nearly identical moments and gathered them together in Percussive Maintenance. If you liked this also check out Gravity (the same idea but with people falling). (via Laughing Squid)

 

 



Design Music

Ark Nova: World’s First Inflatable Concert Hall Will Tour Recovering Areas in Japan

September 24, 2013

Christopher Jobson

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Designed through a unique collaboration between sculptor Anish Kapoor, architect Arata Isozaki, and the Lucerne Festival, Ark Nova is the first large-scale infalatable concert hall ever constructed. Conceived over a year ago, the mobile structure will open to the public on October 14th and will be host to concerts, events, and workshops in tsunami-damaged areas around the country.

Made from a translucent purple membrane reminiscent of a parachute, the organic structure can inflate in roughly two hours and seats up to 500 people, and will be easily transported around the region. Additionally, wood from tsunami-damaged cedar trees at the Zuiganji Temple in Matsushima was repurposed to build seating and acoustic reflectors in the hall’s interior. You can read more about it over on Spoon & Tamago and see more photos on Lucerne Festival Ark Nova’s Facebook page.

 

 



Art Music

Disarm: A Mechanized Orchestra of Instruments Built from Decommissioned Weapons

September 13, 2013

Christopher Jobson

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As part of his ongoing effort to transform weapons into musical instruments, artist Pedro Reyes (previously) constructed a fully mechanized orchestra. Titled Disarm, the collection of eight new instruments were built through a collaboration with several musicians and Cocolab, a media studio in Mexico City.

The team acquired a variety of rifles, pistols, and shotguns seized from drug cartels by the Mexican army and used them to build the musical devices that are controlled by computers and can be pre-programmed to play music. In the video above the Creator’s Project recently sat down with Reyes to learn more about how he “transforms negative instincts into creative instincts.” It’s well worth a watch to see the instruments in use.

You can see more photos of Disarm over at Lisson Gallery in London where it debuted earlier this year. Additionally, many of the Disarm instruments will be at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh starting October 5, 2013 and the artist is also giving a talk on October 1st.

 

 



Music

Polybius: Music Made with Old Technology

August 21, 2013

Christopher Jobson

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As he sits at the bottom of a dry swimming pool, musician Julian Corrie is joined by an orchestra of outmoded technology in this brief new music video titled Polybius, directed by James Houston and produced by Bold Yin. In place of drums or other instruments, Houston instead used a SEGA Mega Drive, a Commodore 64, several floppy disk drives and old hard drives to create the accompaniment. The artist refers to the track as a “nostalgic farewell to forgotten friends,” and although it ends a bit abruptly, I found it to be unexpectedly lovely.

You might remember a similar piece by Houston from almost five years ago when he created a killer cover of Radiohead’s “Nude” using a similar approach. Not to be outdone, PURETUNE also covered House of the Rising Sun using a wide variety of legacy computer equipment. (via The Fox is Black)