Polish pianist Slawomir Zubrzycki has constructed a one-of-a-kind keyboard instrument from plans drawn up by none other than Leonardo Da Vinci. Called the Viola Organista, it just may be the original (and ultimate) "string synthesizer." Using a mechanism similar to a hurdy-gurdy, four rotating wheels near the keyboard action act as continuous bows. Pressing one or more keys brings strings into contact with these bowing wheels.
We've seen this principle in action once before at the 2013 Winter NAMM Show. Los Angeles instrument restorers Antiquity Music were exhibiting their Wheelharp, which came in both a barrel-shaped version and a form factor closer to a small harpsichord, with note ranges from three to five octaves in either. The Viola Organista differs in that it has four wheels instead of just one, and amounts to a real acoustic string ensemble you can play from a traditional 12-note keyboard.
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