Claude Léonetti and the mysterious Léode.

Having stumbled across the French progressive band Lazuli, I found myself recently perusing some of the bands music online. Lazuli released their self-titled debut album in 1999, and in the ensuing twenty years have mastered ethereal, dreamy prog atmospheres. The fact that they sing exclusively in their native French adds to the mystique; an element that may or may not be lost on those that understand the language. My mastery of maybe eight words of French does not give me much insight into the subject matter of the songs, but instead allows me to absorb the melodies floating above the intricate music.

In watching videos of performances of Lazuli, I was drawn to “guitarist” Claude Léonetti. Seated on stage, he wields an upright instrument that at first I took to be a Chapman Stick-Type apparatus. Watching him play, I couldn’t see any strings on the fretless neck. Claude’s emotive playing during their song “Capitaine Couer de Miel” sent me on a search for information on this instrument.

I didn’t have to look long. After a couple of dead ends I found the answer from Lazuli’s website. Founding member Claude was injured in a motorcycle accident which denied him full use of his left arm, and with it the ability to play his guitar. In a burst of inspiration that seems can only be triggered by such extreme necessity he dreamed up the Léode. The name is a combination of his last name and first name. Being a midi instrument, Léonetti can store a multitude of unique sounds to manipulate through his unique instrument. It seems to combine the best of exotic sounds with the expressiveness of the player’s fingers. While fingering notes on the board, he is indeed manipulating something near the “bridge” with his left hand. Without seeing one in person or a more in-depth video, it’s hard to tell what the coordinations are between the left hand and the right. What I can tell, is that it’s beautiful. I, for one, would love to see the exploration of this instrument expanded by other musicians.

Below is the link to a video where Claude explains how he came up with the Léode, and how he went about building it. It is entirely in French, but was pretty self-explanatory even to this writer whose vocabulary in that language consists of highly topical words like “Fish”, and “Sun”.

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