MACCHINE – SCIENCE AND MUSIC FROM THE TIME OF LEONARD DA VINCI

MACCHINE – SCIENCE AND MUSIC FROM THE TIME OF LEONARD DA VINCI

 

In commemoration of the 500-year anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death, Lucidarium has created a program exploring the music of his time. Leonardo, like any intellectual of his era, was an accomplished singer and
also played the Lira da braccio, which he probably used to accompany himself while singing, presumably also improvising verses. In addition to performing, Leonardo also used his creativity energy to invent a number of fantastical musical instruments. Like his other inventions: his parachute, bicycle or car, they often foreshadow later discoveries, and like them, were probably never built: or if they ever were, have disappeared without a trace. For this project, Lucidarium will be working in close collaboration with some of Europe’s foremost instrument-builders in order to recreate some of these extravagant, sound-producing macchine, bringing them back to life for the first time in 500 years, or, perhaps, for the first time ever…

The music beloved by the intellectuals and artists of Leonardo’s era was based on two contrasting, but intertwined ideals that would finally be reconciled at the end of the 15th century. On the one side, the Northern maestri of the international polyphonic school were fervently experimenting with complex rhythmic proportions, chromaticism, avant-garde forms of notation, and
musica ficta. They saw polyphony as a terrain for experimentation, where research brought immediate, tangi
le re
sults. Music was the place where mathematical experiments could be brought to life, where composers could give musical form to the mathematical proportions that were the basis of their perception of the world.

In contrast to this complex universe, a different kind of music began to be heard in culture’s highest echelons. Inspired by their interest in the past, the Humanists began experimenting with new forms; using a style that they believed was the revival of the Classical tradition: the monodic declamation of poetic verses. In these simple, sparsely accompanied songs, often half-sung and half-spoken, it was the content of the text (and the performer’s skill in expressing it) that mattered, rather than a composer’s ability to construct fantastic musical structures. The two positions were finally reconciled thanks to polyphonic composers like Tinctoris or Gaffurius who were also convinced Humanists. This led to a ‘fusion’ repertoire of simpler, more intuitive polyphonic forms, some probably based on monodic declamation, that were better suited to Italian taste. The music for these simpler pieces could very well be based on folk music: popular, orally-transmitted, melodic formulas.

Leonardo’s imaginary, extravagant macchine designed to produce music include the “viola organista”, the “tamburo elastico” (precursor of the modern timpani), a horsehead viola, flauti glissatti (a kind of Renaissance slide whistle) and others. These were working, visionary instruments, not just mechanical toys or curios, and part of the fervent desire for experimentation fueled by the twin catalysts of Art and Sci
ence. To the great minds of the day, architecture, mathematics and geography, counterpoint, poetry and perspective, astronomy, and color theory were all marvelous machines. Macchine that Renaissance Man used to measure and interpret that which he considered the greatest gift of all: the natural World and its wonders.

In commemoration of the 500-year anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death, Lucidarium has created a program exploring the music of his time. Leonardo, like any intellectual of his era, was an accomplished singer and also played the Lira da braccio, which he probably used to accompany himself while singing, presumably also improvising verses. In addition to performing, Leonardo also used his creativity energy to invent a number of fantastical musical instruments. Like his other inventions: his parachute, bicycle or car, they often foreshadow later discoveries, and like them, were probably never built: or if they ever were, have disappeared without a trace. For this project, Lucidarium will be working in close collaboration with some of Europe’s foremost instrument-builders in order to recreate some of these extravagant, sound-producing macchine, bringing them back to life for the first time in 500 years, or, perhaps, for the first time ever…

The music beloved by the intellectuals and artists of Leonardo’s era was based on two contrasting, but intertwined ideals that would finally be reconciled at the end of the 15th century. On the one side, the Northern maestri of the international polyphonic school were fervently experimenting with complex rhythmic proportions, chromaticism, avant-garde forms of notation, and musica ficta. They saw polyphony as a terrain for experimentation, where research brought immediate, tangible results. Music was the place where mathematical experiments could be brought to life, where composers could give musical form to the mathematical proportions that were the basis of their perception of the world.

In contrast to this complex universe, a different kind of music began to be heard in culture’s highest echelons. Inspired by their interest in the past, the Humanists began experimenting with new forms; using a style that they believed was the revival of the Classical tradition: the monodic declamation of poetic verses. In these simple, sparsely accompanied songs, often half-sung and half-spoken, it was the content of the text (and the performer’s skill in expressing it) that mattered, rather than a composer’s ability to construct fantastic musical structures. The two positions were finally reconciled thanks to polyphonic composers like Tinctoris or Gaffurius who were also convinced Humanists. This led to a ‘fusion’ repertoire of simpler, more intuitive polyphonic forms, some probably based on monodic declamation, that were better suited to Italian taste. The music for these simpler pieces could very well be based on folk music: popular, orally-transmitted, melodic formulas.

Leonardo’s imaginary, extravagant macchine designed to produce music include the “viola organista”, the “tamburo elastico” (precursor of the modern timpani), a horsehead viola, flauti glissatti (a kind of Renaissance slide whistle) and others. These were working, visionary instruments, not just mechanical toys or curios, and part of the fervent desire for experimentation fueled by the twin catalysts of Art and Science. To the great minds of the day, architecture, mathematics and geography, counterpoint, poetry and perspective, astronomy, and color theory were all marvelous machines. Macchine that Renaissance Man used to measure and interpret that which he considered the greatest gift of all: the natural World and its wonders.

26 marzo 2017 Programs

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Reviews

Raze/Raise

Lucidarium is an irresistibly fun group, a light-hearted collection of friends out to relish each other’s company by making music together. That unbuttoned ethos is a welcome intrusion in the concert hall, one that will hopefully infect other performers.

Basler Zeitung

Next to their stylistic confidence and saddle-sure historical interpretation, Ensemble Lucidarium shows us just how contagiously vivacious the reconstruction of medieval sounds can be.

Tagblatt.ch

The six members of Lucidarium let their listeners dive into a completely enchanting world… The musical poetry of the Middle Ages was brought back to life in the most beautiful way possible

New York Times

… The Ensemble Lucidarium, an Italian group, in a program of vocal works (and a couple of high-energy saltarellos) on Wednesday afternoon, performed in a style free of vibrato and other forms of modern polish but plentifully adorned with florid vocal embellishments…

American Recorder Society Magazine

Anyone who arrived thinking of Medieval repertoire as “minor” or as music that ‘all sounds alike’ left with changed ideas.

The Arts Desk

There was a naturalness and relaxedness to their performance that was immensely pleasing.

Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace

… it was enough to be swept away, by the refinement and conviction of the performers, to a place where magic reigns.