Just some simple sketches, with no technical details . . . but the idea was clearly there-- a keyboard instrument that creates the sound of a stringed instrument.
About 100 years after DaVinci's sketches, German instrument maker Hans Haiden built an instrument that was very similar to DaVinci's idea. It was not directly based on DaVinci's sketches, but it did make the sound of a stringed instrument through a keyboard. However, this instrument's popularity was short-lived, and no models remain today. It wasn't until close to 400 years later, in 2012, that Da Vinci's interesting and beautiful musical idea would be constructed and listened to.
Although the spark was DaVinci's creativity, the actual enactment of this invention required a great deal of technical know-how combined with master craftsmanship. This work was the special project of a Polish pianist and instrument maker, Slawomir Zubrzycki, who spent four years building the new instrument-- called a "viola organista"-- beginning in 2009.
The Italian word "viola de gamba" means "violin of the leg," because these instruments were held upright between the legs of the musician. The modern violin family (which came later, in Italy in the 1500's) is called "viola de braccia"-- "violin of the arm"-- although only the smallest members of this family are held near the arm.
Well, this new "viola-organista," built by Zubrzycki, has the distinct sound of a viola de gamba-- when its lower and middle keys of the keyboard are played-- and also has the sound of an organ-- when the upper keys are played.
The announcement of this new instrument, and its first public recital, was made in October 2013, in Poland, during the International Royal Cracow Piano Festival. Since then, Slawomir Zubrzycki has been transporting his instrument to various locations in Europe, for concerts.
Would you like to hear this musical invention? You can both see and hear it, in the introductory video below:
In my opinion, it's awesome to see this new-and-old viola organista; the product of several people's combined creative energies, over about 500 years. It certainly looks and sounds wonderful. Kudos to Slawomier Zubrzycki!