Page images

223. THE harp hath the concave not along the strings, but across the strings; and no instrument hath the sound so melting and prolonged, as the Irish harp. So as I suppose, that if a virginal were made with a double concave, the one all the length, as the virginal hath; the other at the end of the strings, as the harp hath; it must needs make the sound perfecter, and not so shallow and jarring. You may try it without any sound-board along, but only harp-wise at one end of the strings; or lastly, with a double concave, at each end of the strings one.

Experiments in consort touching the mixture of


224. THERE is an apparent diversity between the species visible and audible in this, that the visible doth not mingle in the medium, but the audible doth. For if we look abroad, we see heaven, a number of stars, trees, hills, men, beasts, at once. And the species of the one doth not confound the other. But if so many sounds came from several parts, one of them would utterly confound the other. So we see, that voices or consorts of music do make an harmony by mixture, which colours do not. It is true nevertheless that a great light drowneth a smaller, that it cannot be seen; as the sun that of a glow-worm; as well as a great sound drowneth a lesser. And I suppose likewise, that if there were two lanthorns of glass, the one a crimson, and the other an azure, and a candle within either of them, those coloured lights would mingle, and cast upon a white paper a purple colour. And even in colours, they yield a faint and weak mixture for white walls make rooms more lightsome than black, etc. but the cause of the confusion in sounds, and the inconfusion in species visible, is, for that the sight worketh in right lines, and maketh several cones; and so there can be no coincidence in the eye or visual point: but sounds, that move in oblique and arcuate lines, must needs encounter and disturb the one the other.

225, THE Sweetest and best harmony is, when

every part or instrument is not heard by itself, but a conflation of them all; which requireth to stand some distance off, even as it is in the mixture of perfumes; or the taking of the smells of several flowers in the air.

226. THE disposition of the air in other qualities, except it be joined with sound, hath no great operation upon sounds: for whether the air be lightsome or dark, hot or cold, quiet or stirring, except it be with noise, sweet-smelling, or stinking, or the like; it importeth not much; some petty alteration or difference it may make.

227. BUT sounds do disturb and alter the one the other: sometimes the one drowning the other, and making it not heard; sometimes the one jarring and discording with the other, and making a confusion; sometimes the one mingling and compounding with the other, and making an harmony.

as one.

228. Two voices of like loudness will not be heard twice as far as one of them alone; and two candles of like light, will not make things seen twice as far off The cause is profound; but it seemeth that the impressions from the objects of the senses do mingle respectively, every one with his kind; but not in proportion, as is before demonstrated: and the reason may be, because the first impression, which is from privative to active, as from silence to noise, or from darkness to light, is a greater degree than from less noise to more noise, or from less light to more light. And the reason of that again may be, for that the air, after it hath received a charge, doth not receive a surcharge, or greater charge, with like appetite as it doth the first charge. As for the increase of virtue, generally, what proportion it beareth to the increase of the matter, it is a large field, and to be handled by itself.

Experiments in consort touching melioration of


229. ALL reflections concurrent do make sounds greater; but if the body that createth either the original sound, or the reflection, be clean and smooth, it maketh them sweeter. Trial may be made of a lute

or viol, with the belly of polished brass instead of wood. We see that even in the open air, the wirestring is sweeter than the string of guts. And we see that for reflexion water excelleth; as in music near the water, or in echos.

230. IT hath been tried, that a pipe a little moistened on the inside, but yet so as there be no drops left, maketh a more solemn sound, than if the pipe were dry but yet with a sweet degree of sibilation or purling; as we touched it before in the title of equality. The cause is, for that all things porous being superficially wet, and, as it were, between dry and wet, become a little more even and smooth; but the purling, which must needs proceed of inequality, I take to be bred between the smoothness of the inward surface of the pipe, which is wet, and the rest of the wood of the pipe unto which the wet cometh not, but it remaineth dry.

231. IN frosty weather music within doors soundeth better. Which may be by reason not of the disposition of the air, but of the wood or string of the instrument, which is made more crisp, and so more porous and hollow: and we see that old lutes sound better than new for the same reason. And so do lutestrings that have been kept long.

232. SOUND is likewise meliorated by the mingling of open air with pent air; therefore trial may be made of a lute or viol with a double belly; making another belly with a knot over the strings; yet so, as there be room enough for the strings, and room enough to play below that belly. Trial may be made also of an Irish harp, with a concave on both sides; whereas it useth to have it but on one side. The doubt may be, lest it should make too much resounding; whereby one note would overtake another.

233. IF you sing in the hole of a drum, it maketh the singing more sweet. And so I conceive it would, if it were a song in parts sung into several drums; and for handsomeness and strangeness sake, it would not be amiss to have a curtain between the place where the drums are and the hearers.

234. WHEN a sound is created in a wind-instrument between the breath and the air, yet if the sound be communicated with a more equal body of the pipe, it meliorateth the sound. For, no doubt, there would be a differing sound in a trumpet or pipe of wood; and again in a trumpet or pipe of brass. It were good to try recorders and hunters horns of brass, what the sound would be.

235. SOUNDS are meliorated by the intension of the sense, where the common sense is collected most to the particular sense of hearing, and the sight suspended: and therefore sounds are sweeter, as well as greater, in the night than in the day; and I suppose they are sweeter to blind men than to others: and it is manifest that between sleeping and waking, when all the senses are bound and suspended, music is far sweeter than when one is fully waking.

Experiments in consort touching the imitation of sounds.

236. It is a thing strange in nature when it is attentively considered, how children, and some birds, learn to imitate speech. They take no mark at all of the motion of the mouth of him that speaketh, for birds are as well taught in the dark as by light. The sounds of speech are very curious and exquisite: so one would think it were a lesson hard to learn. It is true that it is done with time, and by little and little, and with many essays and profers: but all this dischargeth not the wonder. It would make a man think, though this which we shall say may seem exceeding strange, that there is some transmission of spirits; and that the spirits of the teacher put in motion, should work with the spirits of the learner a predisposition to offer to imitate; and so to perfect the imitation by degrees. But touching operations by transmissions of spirits, which is one of the highest secrets in nature, we shall speak in due place; chiefly when we come to inquire of imagination. But as for imitation, it is certain that there is in men and other creatures a pre-disposition to imitate.

We see

how ready apes and monkeys are to imitate all motions of man; and in the catching of dottrels, we see how the foolish bird playeth the ape in gestures: and no man, in effect, doth accompany with others, but he learneth, ere he is aware, some gesture, or voice, or fashion of the other.

237. IN imitation of sounds, that man should be the teacher is no part of the matter; for birds will learn one of another; and there is no reward by feeding, or the like, given them for the imitation; and besides, you shall have parrots that will not only imitate voices, but laughing, knocking, squeaking of a door upon the hinges, or of a cart-wheel; and, in effect, any other noise they hear.

238. No beast can imitate the speech of man but birds only; for the ape itself, that is so ready to imitate otherwise, attaineth not any degree of imitation of speech. It is true, that I have known a dog, that if one howled in his ear, he would fall a howling a great while. What should be the aptness of birds in comparison of beasts, to imitate the speech of man, may be further inquired. We see that beasts have those parts which they count the instruments of speech, as lips, teeth, etc. liker unto man than birds. As for the neck, by which the throat passeth, we see many beasts have it for the length as much as birds. What better gorge or artery birds have, may be farther inquired. The birds that are known to be speakers, are parrots, pies, jays, daws, and ravens. Of which parrots have an adunque bill, but the rest not.

239. But I conceive, that the aptness of birds is not so much in the conformity of the organs of speech, as in their attention. For speech must come by hearing and learning; and birds give more heed, and mark sounds more than beasts; because naturally they are more delighted with them, and practise them more, as appeareth in their singing. We see also that those that teach birds to sing, do keep them waking to increase their attention. We see also, that cock birds amongst singing birds are ever the better singers; which may be because they are more lively and listen more.

« PreviousContinue »