“The Notebook of Leonardo da Vinci” brings and end to inauguration weekend

Colligate Chorale, Decorah Chorale, and select orchestra musicians get ready to perform.

Kieran Benson ('23) Chips

Colligate Chorale, Decorah Chorale, and select orchestra musicians get ready to perform.

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On Nov. 3,W the Luther College Collegiate Chorale, the Decorah Chorale, and select orchestral musicians premiered “The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci” composed by Jocelyn Hagen. The performance was held in the Center for Faith and Life.

Prior to the show, Hagen gave a lecture on Oct. 24. The performance concluded the inaugural weekend for President Jennifer Ward. “The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci” also features a soprano, alto, tenor, bass, chorus, and orchestra, but video projections that highlight Da Vinci’s drawings, inventions, and text.

Hagen has produced large-scale multimedia works, electro-acoustic music, dance, opera, and owns a publishing company with her husband, composer Timothy C. Takach. She holds degrees in Music Theory, Vocal Music Education, and Music Composition. Her commissions include those of the Minnesota Opera, the Minnesota Orchestra, and the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, among others. “The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci” was commissioned by the Minnesota Chorale and the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra and funded by consortium members, including Luther College’s Associate Professor of Music Jennaya Robison. In 2019, choirs and orchestras across the country are premiering this multimedia work that took Hagen around four and a half years to complete.

The video projections used in the work were made possible by MUSÉIK software from Ion Concert Media. With this software videos follow conductors, giving conductors the ability to play at any tempo and have the digital files flow along with it.

“As audience members, we are conditioned to expect a certain relationship between film and music,” Hagen said. “But as the composer, who is the creative director for the entire project, I created an opportunity in which the music meets the film on equal ground, where the music is the foundation for the film.”

“The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci” displays Da Vinci’s artistry in nine movements. Hagen chose to compose the lyrics to her piece in English, even though Da Vinci’s note book was in Italian. The first movement of the piece, “Painting and Drawing,” featured the choir, orchestra, and video projections, as well as words on the projection from Da Vinci’s notebooks. The screen lit up with Da Vinci’s backwards scroll that started from right to left.

Camille Blanford (‘22) was impressed that the video projections did not require a click track. “I thought it was really beautiful how they got all the video and the music to work together,” Blanford said. “And, it was also really cool to know that it was actually Dr. Robison conducting everything, and it wasn’t just some machine clicking in her ear.”

The fourth movement is titled “The Greatest Good.” This movement featured only the Collegiate Choir and explores Da Vinci’s thoughts on knowledge, which he believes is the greatest good.

The next movement was entitled “The Vitruvian Man,” which displayed a dancer in the video, while the orchestra played and the choir sang about the anatomical writings’ Da Vinci had in his notebooks. “Invention” a movement that included only the orchestra and projections showcasing animations of Da Vinci’s drawings of machinery.

The final movement was entitled “Look at the Stars” included both the orchestra and choir, as they sang some of Da Vinci’s most famous lines. This advanced computer program, along with the notebook pages of Leonardo Da Vinci, inspired Hagen to create this piece. Hagen also traveled to Italy to research Da Vinci. this research helped her compose the pieces for “The Notebook of Leonardo Da Vinci.” “I went to Italy, and what was so amazing was that I was able to get an Airbnb that had a piano in it,” Hagen said. “So, I went every day to the museum, and then I’d have a lovely lunch, and then I’d come home and write. So, the second movement, which is called “Practice,” was written completely in Milan.”

Professor of English Amy Weldon states that there is a lot to be learned from Da Vinci. Even though Da Vinci wrote nearly everything down, he had the tendency to not finish projects, such as the panel of St. Jerome in the Vatican Museums.

“Leonardo has a little trouble finishing things, and not really because he is interested in so many things,” Weldon said. “The good thing about being an artist is being curious, the bad thing about being an artist is being curious. The thrill of that starting up and that pursuit is something an artist knows.”

Hagen believes that this piece can help to celebrate beauty and human ingenuity. She also aims for the piece to remind people that human beings have no limits when it comes to creativity.

“The heart of my work, ‘The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci,’ is that I want people to walk away from the concert believing in the power of human creativity and the beautiful things that we are capable of,” Hagen said.

Photo courtesy of Photo Bureau
Colligate Choir sang at “The Notebook of Leonardo da Vinci” performance.

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