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Viola Organista

Robert Sorokanich for Gizmodo:

From the audience, this instrument looks like a typical grand piano. Then the maestro takes his seat and begins to play. It’s a sound nobody has heard before, because this instrument, designed by Leonardo Da Vinci five centuries ago, has just been built for the very first time. And it sounds heavenly.

The viola organista was invented by da Vinci with characteristics of a harpsichord, an organ and a cello. In the place of a piano’s felt hammers, spinning wheels draw across the strings like a violinist’s bow. The player operates a foot pedal to spin the wheels, playing notes on a keyboard identical to a piano’s. But the sound, sinewy like a stringed instrument but with a piano’s direct, well-defined tones, defies comparison to traditional instruments.