The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci

for SATB choir, orchestra, and video projections

by Jocelyn Hagen

Specs:

Instrumentation:  
Full Orchestra: 2.2.2.2  /  4.2.2.1  /   timp.3perc  / hp  /  str

Chamber Ensemble:  1.1.1.1  /  1.0.0.0  /  timp.2perc  /  pn.hp  / str

Duration: 40 minutes

Media: 1920×1080 video

Synchronizing Technology: MUSÉIK software from Ion Concert Media

 

Utilizing the latest in video syncing technology, Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks are brought to life through his words and drawings in an unforgettable multimedia concert experience created for SATB choir, full orchestra, and video projections.  

 

As the composer who is the creative force behind both the music and visual component, I have designed the work so that the music serves as the foundation for the film instead of it functioning as purely a supporting musical soundtrack.

 

The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned by a consortium of ensembles from across the country and has received over two dozen performances since 2019. It is now available to groups outside the commissioning consortium for performances starting in 2023.

Concept

In the summer of 2016 I attended an exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts featuring da Vinci’s Codex Leicester. Seeing these pages with my own eyes cemented my devotion to developing this project. The liquidity of his mind and the way he connects disparate ideas as a means of understanding them is genuinely inspiring. And da Vinci was known as much for his failures as his successes. That’s inspiring as well. He wasn’t afraid to take ideas out of context or take risks.

 

Because da Vinci’s intricate handwriting and sketches are stunningly beautiful, it would be odd not to include them as a visual component to this project. As a writer, da Vinci wrote from right to left, backwards, as if in a mirror. These beautifully scribed words scroll above the musicians and add a wonderful texture to the performance. Many sketches in the notebooks are of the human form, corresponding perfectly to his observations on the proportions of the body. Filmmaker Isaac Gale took these images and breathed life into them with a living Vitruvian Man in the fifth movement.

 

Ion Concert Media created MUSÈIK (pronounced mew-ZAY-ik), the world’s most advanced digital sync software, a few years ago in Minnesota, and ever since I learned about the technology I had a strong desire to create a project that utilizes it to its fullest potential. The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci is the first large concert work to be created with this technology in mind.

 

Check out my Tedx Talk on creating Notebooks below.

“Though human ingenuity may make various inventions, it will never devise any inventions more beautiful, nor more simple, nor more to the purpose than Nature does; because in her inventions nothing is wanting, and nothing is superfluous.”
~ Leonardo da Vinci

 

 

 

Instrumentation

The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci is written for SATB Choir and either Full Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra, or Chamber Ensemble of 14 players. Notebooks isn’t available in any other instrumentation. Here’s a comparison:

 

Full Orchestra Chamber Ensemble
2 Flutes
2 Oboes (Ob. 2 = English Horn)

2 Clarinets (Cl. 2 = Bass Clarinet)

2 Bassoons (Bsn. 2 = Contrabassoon)

4 Horns in F (preferred, but 2 will suffice) 

2 Trumpets in C (+ optional 3rd Trumpet) 

2 Trombones

Tuba

Timpani

3 Percussionists – Vibraphone, Marimba, Glockenspiel, Chimes, Wind Chimes, Bass Drum, Multi-Bass Drum, 4 Low-Mid Toms,

5 Roto-Toms, Brake Drum, Temple Block (high), Suspended Cymbal, Triangle, Tambourine

Harp 

Strings 

1 Flute

1 Oboe

1 Bb Clarinet 

1 Horn

1 Bassoon

Piano

2 Percussionists – Timpani (2), Vibraphone, Marimba, Glockenspiel, Chimes, Wind Chimes, Bass Drum, Multi-Bass Drum, 4 Low-Mid Toms, 5 Roto-Toms, Brake Drum, , Temple Block (high), Suspended Cymbal, Triangle, Tambourine

Harp 

Strings* 

*Can also be performed as Chamber Orchestra with fuller string section. 

 

Notebooks was originally conceived as a work for full orchestra, choir, and projections. About halfway through the composition I decided that I would also create a chamber orchestra/ensemble version. If you have the space, budget, and a large choir, I highly recommend the full orchestra version. That being said, I’ve been thrilled with how well this piece translates to different sized groups and spaces. I’ve heard chamber choirs perform with the chamber ensemble version (of 14 players) with a small screen in an intimate space, and I’ve seen larger choirs perform with the chamber orchestra version, which is the same as the chamber ensemble version, just with additional strings. 

 

The same can be said of the projections. I’ve seen it on big, brilliant screens that are large and above the choir as originally intended. I’ve seen the film split and projected on two different screens, one on the left side and one on the right. I’ve seen the film projected on natural architecture to great effect.

Tech and Training

The theory behind Muséik was developed by Ion Concert Media founder and CEO Scott Winters, who is also a conductor. He wanted a sync solution that behaved like the rest of the ensemble and stayed out of his way in rehearsal and performance. The result is a digital media playback solution that behaves exactly like a musical instrument, capable of following the conductor’s tempi in real time and keeping up in chaotic rehearsals that jump from one rehearsal number to another. 

 

There are two ways to approach the multimedia aspect of Notebooks: Self-produced or contracting out. Self-producing requires training and management of all aspects of the tech, whereas contracting out is a more hands-off experience. Your budget may also play a role in this decision. 

 

Whichever direction you’re considering, Ion Concert Media, the creator of MUSÈIK, is your partner in this from the very start! It’s not just music first and projections after– you’re considering producing an immersive multimedia experience. Hiring an Ion-trained tech engineer or someone who’s done Notebooks before is ideal, and for those new to MUSÈIK, it is required to get training directly from Ion. They want to help make it the best it can be, so consider this your invitation to connect with Scott Winters and his team for a free consultation. 

 

It’s also important to select a musician to be behind the laptop for Notebooks since they’re a member of your ensemble. For those in University settings, consider engaging a student musician who has a passion for technology to take on this role! Student conductors might also value being a part of your ensemble in this way.

Budget Considerations

There are some additional costs associated with mounting a larger multi-media work like Notebooks beyond purchasing the scores and parts for you and your ensemble. All in all, you can most likely make this happen with your ensemble for under $5000 depending on your screen and lighting set-up and not inclusive of any venue costs you might have. Here are some things to think through as you budget:

 

  • Scores, parts, and projections in Muséik software: Please contact Laura Krider at laurakrider@gmail.com to request a quote for your ensemble.
  • Venue’s tech, lighting, and projection capabilities: What is built-in and what needs to be rented? These are great questions to ask when you’re considering venues for performance. A large projection screen and projector along with lighting manipulation are required for this work. Some venues may have everything you need and some may require you to rent a projector, screen, and more along those lines. 
  • Ion Fee and Musèik Operator: Ion will charge $150 for use of the Muséik platform, personalized training on the platform, and tech support. This fee will be billed directly to your ensemble and is in addition to the film screening fee.  If you are self-producing the multimedia you will also need to budget for your Muséik operator. For anyone new to Muséik software, it is required that you obtain training and support from Ion Concert Media. I could also help put you in touch with others who have run it before.
  • Stand and folder lights: The darker the hall, the better the immersive multimedia experience. Musician lights are therefore strongly encouraged. You may want to buy these for your ensemble to have on hand for other projects or ask your players to provide their own. I can also rent them to you for a small fee plus shipping, so please reach out if you’re interested in a price quote. Don’t forget to budget for batteries whether you purchase your lights or rent them from me!
  • Number of performances: Aside from the obvious venue and tech costs tied to each performance, those considering more than three performances might be subject to an additional video licensing fee. Performances outside the United States will also incur an additional international fee.
  • Workshop with me!: If you’d like to invite me to do a residency or workshop with you and your ensemble, please contact Laura Krider at laurakrider@gmail.com to offer some details and request a quote.  
Programming Ideas

The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned and designed to be the second half of a program. It is a satisfying and brilliant closer to end a concert.  I’ve seen it partnered with some really creative programming these past few years, so I wanted to share some ideas with you as you start to envision yours.

 

  • Bach’s Magnificat, which centers on a female subject, composed by a man, is a lovely foil to Notebooks, which centers on a male subject (the Vitruvian Man), and is composed by a woman.
  • Gaffurio’s Mass. I source excerpts of this work by da Vinci’s contemporary in the third movement, “Ripples.”
  • “Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine” by Eric Whitacre
  • Ottorino Respighi’s Botticelli Triptych, with the paintings projected above the orchestra
  • Cecilia McDowall’s Da Vinci Requiem
Press and Reviews

Next Steps/Contact

If you have any questions about The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci including pricing, technician contact information, inquiries for workshops and residencies, or anything else that would assist you as you consider your programming, please reach out to Laura Krider at laurakrider@gmail.com

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