Francis Bacon.

The works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 1) online

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times made straight, and not oblique, arc ever greater
at the lower end. It would be tried also in pipes, be-
ing made far larger at the lower end ; or being made
with a belly towards the lower end, and then issuing
into a straight concave again.

140. There is in Saint James's fields a conduit of
brick, unto which joineth a low vault ; and at the
end of that a round house of stone : and in the brick
conduit there is a window ; and in the round house
a slit or rift of some little breadth : if you cry out in
the rift, it will make a fearful roaring at the window.
The cause is the same with the former ; for that all
concaves, that proceed from more narrow to more broad,
do amplify the sound at tlie coming out.

l^l. Hawks bells, that have lioles in the sides,
give a greater ring, than if the pellet did strike upon


brass in the open air. The canse is the same witli the
first instance of the trunk ; namely, for that the sound
inclosed witli the sides of the bell cometh forth at the
holes unspent and more strong.

142. In drums, the closeness round about, that
preserveth tlie sound from dispersing, maketh the noise
come forth at the drum-hole far more loud and strong
than if you should strike u[)on the like skin extended
in tlie open air. The cause is the same with the two

143. Sounds are better lieard, and farther off, in
an evening or in the niglit, than at the noon or in the
day. The cause is, for that in tlie day, when the air
is more thin, no doubt, the sound pierceth better ;
but when the air is more thick, as in the night, the
sound spendeth and spreadeth abroad less : and so it
is a degree of inclosure. As for the night, it is true
also that the general silence helpeth.

144. There be two kinds of reflexions of sounds;
the one at distance, which is the echo ; wherein the
original is heard distinctly, and the reflexion also dis-
tinctly ; of which we shall speak hereafter : the other
in concurrence ; when the sound reflecting, the re-
flexion being near at hand, returneth immediately
upon the original, and so iterateth it not, but ampli-
fleth it. Therefore we see, that music upon the water
soundeth more ; and so likewise music is better in
chambers wainscotted than hanged.

145. The strings of a lute, or viol, or virginals,
do give a far greater sound, by reason of the knot,
and board, and concave underneath, tlian if there were
nothing but only the flat of a board, witliout that hol-
low and knot, to let in the upper air into the lower.
The cause is the communication of the upper air with
the lower, and penning of both from expence or dis-

146. An Irish harp hath open air, on both sides of
the strings : and it hath the concave or belly not along
the strings, but at the end of the strings. It maketh
a more resounding sound than a bandora, orpharion,or
cittern, which have likewise wire-strings. I judge


the cause to be, for that open air on both sides helpeth,
so that there be a concave; which is therefore best placed
at the end.

147. In a virginal, when the lid is down, it maketh
a more exile sound than when the lid is open. The
cause is, for that all shutting in of air, where there is
no competent vent, dampeth the sound : which main-
taineth likewise the former instance ; for the belly of
the lute or viol doth pen the air somewhat.

148. There is a church at Gloucester, and, as I
have heard, the like is in some other places, where if
you speak against a wall softly, another shall hear your
voice better a good way off, than near at hand. In-
quire more particularly of the frame of that place. I
suppose there is some vault, or hollow, or isle, behind
the wall, and some passage to it towards the farther
end of that wall against which you speak ; so as the
voice of him that speaketh slideth along the wall, and
then entereth at some passage, and communicateth
with the air of the hollow ; for it is preserved some-
what by the plain wall ; but that is too weak to give
a sound audible, till it hath communicated with the
back air.

149. Strike upon a bow-string, and lay the horn
of the bow near yom* ear, and it will increase the
sound, and make a degree of a tone. The cause is, for
that the sensory, by reason of the close holding, is per-
cussed before the air disperseth. The like is, if you
hold the horn betwixt your teeth : but that is a plain
delation of the sound from the teeth to the instrument
of healing ; for there is a great intercourse between
those two parts ; as appeareth by this, that a harsh
grating tune setteth the teeth on edge. The like fal-
leth out, if the horn of the bow be put upon the tem-
ples ; but that is but the slide of the sound from thence
to the ear.

150. If you take a rod of iron or brass, and hold the
one end to your ear, and strike upon the other, it
maketh a far greater sound than the like stroke upon
the rod, made not so contiguous to the ear. By which,
and by some other instances that have been partly


touched, it should appear, that sounds do not only slide
upon the surface of a smooth body, but do also commu-
nicate with the spirits, that are in the pores of the body.

151. I remember in Trinity College, in Cambridge,
there was an upper chamber, which, being thought
weak in the roof of it, was supported by a pillar of
iron of the bigness of one's arm in the midst of the
chamber ; which if you had struck, it would make a
little flat noise in the room where it was struck, but it
would make a great bomb in the chamber beneath,

152. The sound which is made by buckets in a
well, when they touch upon the water, or when they
strike upon the side of the w ell, or when two buckets
dash the one against the other, these sounds are deeper
and fuller than if the like percussion were made in
the open air. The cause is the penning and inclosure
of the air in the concave of the well.

153. Barrels placed in a room vmder the floor of
a chamber, make all noises in the same chamber more
full and resounding.

8o that there be five ways, in general, of majoration
of sounds : inclosure simple ; inclosure with dilatation ;
communication ; reflexion concurrent ; and approach
to the sensory.

154. For exility of the voice or other sounds ; it
is certain that the voice doth pass through solid and
hard bodies if they be not too thick : and through
water, which is likewise a very close body, and such
an one as letteth not in air. But then the voice, or
other sound, is reduced by such passage to a great
weakness or exility. If therefore you stop the holes
of a hawk's bell, it will make no ring, but a flat noise
or rattle. And so doth dttites or eagle-stone, which
hath a little stone within it.

155. And as for water, it is a certain trial : let a
man go into a bath, and take a pail, and turn the
bottom upward, and carry the mouth of it, even, down
to the level of the water, and so press it down under
the water some handful and an half, still keeping it
even, that it may not tilt on either side, and so the
air get out : then let him that is in the bath dive


with liis head so far under water, as he may put his
liead into the pail, and there will come as much air
bubbling forth, as will make room for his head. Then
let him speak, and any that shall stand mthout shall
hear his voice plainly; but yet made extreme sharp and
exile, like the voice of puppets : but yet the articulate
sounds of the worils will not be confounded. Note,
that it may be much more handsomely done, if the
pail be put over the man's head above water, and
then he cower down, and the pail be pressed down with
him. Note, that a man must kneel or sit, that he
may be lower than the water. A man would think that
the Sicilian poet had knowledge of this experiment ;
for lie saith, that Hercules's page, Hylas, went with
a water pot to fdl it at a pleasant fountain that was
near the shore, and that the nymphs ;of the fountain
fell in love with the boy, and pulled him under
water, keeping him alive ; and that Hercules missing
his page, called him by his name aloud, that all the
shore rang of it; and that Hylas from within the water
answered his master, but, that which is to the present
purpose, with so small and exile a voice, as Hercules
thought he had been three miles off, when the foun-
tain, indeed, was fast by.

156. In lutes and instruments of strings, if you
stop a string high, whereby it hath less scope to trem-
ble, the sound is more treble, but yet more dead.

157. Take two saucers, and strike the edge of the
one against the bottom of the other, within a pail of
water ; and you shall find, that as you put the saucers
lower and lower, the sound groweth more flat ; even
while part of the saucer is above the water ; but that
flatness of sound is joined with a harshness of sound ;
which no doubt is caused by the inequality of the
sound which cometh from the part of the saucer under
the water, and from the part above. But when the
saucer is wholly under the water, the sound becometh
more clear, but far more low, and as if the sound came
from afar off.

158. A soft body dampeth the sound much more
than a liard ; as if a bell hath cloth or silk wrapped
about it, it dcadcth the sound more than if it were


wood. And tlieicfore in clcrit»als the keys are lined :
and in colleges tlicy used to line the tablemen.

159. Trial was made in a recorder after these
several manners. Tlie bottom of it was set against
the palm of the hand ; stopped with wax round
about ; set against a damask cushion ; thrust into
sand ; into ashes ; into water, half an inch under the
water ; close to the bottom of a silver bason ; and
still the tone remained : but the bottom of it was set
against a woollen carpet ; a lining of plush ; a lock
of w'ool, though loosely put in ; against snow ; and
the .sound of it was quite deaded, and but breath.

160. Iron hot produceth not so full a sound as
when it is cold ; for w^hile it is hot, it appeareth to
be more soft and less resounding. 80 likewise warm
water, when it falleth, maketh not so full a sound as
cold; and I conceive it is softer, and nearer the
nature of oil ; for it is more slippery, as may be per-
ceived in that it scowreth better.

161. Let there be a recorder made with two fipples,
at each end one ; tlie trunk of it of the length of two
recorders, and the holes answerable towards each end ;
and let two play the same lesson upon it at an unison ;
and let it be noted whether the sound be confounded, or
amplified, or dulled. 80 likewise let a cross be made
of two trunlcs, throughout, hollow ; and let two
speak, or sing, the one long-ways, the other traverse ;
and let two hear at the opposite ends ; and note whe-
ther the sound be confounded, amplified, or dulled.
Which two instances will also give light to the mix-
ture of sounds, whereof we shall speak hereafter.

162. A bellows blown in at the hole of a drum,
and the drum then struck en, maketh the sound a little
flatter, but no other apparent alteration. The cause is
manifest ; partly for that it hindereth the issue of the
sound ; and partly for that it maketh the air, being
blown together, less moveable.

Experiments in consort touching the loudness or softness of
sounds, and their carriage at longer or shorter distance.

163. The loudness and softness of sounds is a thing
distinct from the masjnitude and exilitv of sounds ;


for a base string, thougli softly struckeii, giveth the
greater sound ; but a treble string, if hard strucken,
will be heard much farther off. And the cause is,
for that the base string striketh more air, and the
treble less air, but with a sharper percussion.

164. It is therefore the strength of the percussion,
that is a principal cause of the loudness or softness of
sounds ; as in knocking harder or softer ; winding of
a horn stronger or weaker ; ringing of a hand-bell
harder or softer, etc. And the strength of this per-
cussion consisteth as much or more in the hardness of
the body percussed, as in the force of the body per-
cussing : for if you strike against a cloth, it will give
a less sound ; if against wood, a greater ; if against
metal, yet a greater ; and in metals, if you strike
against gold, which is the more pliant, it giveth the
flatter sound; if against silver or brass, the more ring-
ing sound. As for air, where it is strongly pent,
it matcheth a hard body. And therefore we see in
discharging of a piece, what a great noise it maketli.
We see also, that the charge with bullet, or with
paper wet and hard stopped, or with powder alone
rammed in hard, maketh no great difference in the
loudness of the report.

165. The sharpness or quickness of the percussion,
is a great cause of the loudness, as well as the strength ;
as in a whip or wand, if you strike the air with it ; the
sharper and quicker you strike it, the louder sound it
giveth. And in playing upon the lute or virginals, the
quick stroke or touch is a great life to the sound. The
cause is, for that the quick striking cuttcth the air spee-
dily; whereas thesoft striking doth rather beat than cut.

Experiments in consort touching the communication of sounds.

The communication of sounds, as in bellies of lutes,
empty vessels, etc. hath been touclied obiter in the
majoration of sounds ; but it is fit also to make a title
of it apart.

166. The experiment for greatest demonstration of
communication of sounds,is the chiming of bells; where
if you strike with a hammer upon the upper part, and


then upon the midst, and then upon the lower, you
shall find the sound to be more treble and more base,
according unto the concave on the inside, though the
percussion be only on the outside.

167. When the sound is created between the blast
of the mouth and the air of the pipe, it hath never-
theless some communication with the matter of the
sides of the pipe, and the spirits in them contained ;
for in a pipe, or trumpet, of wood, and brass, the sound
will be diverse ; so if the pipe be covered with cloth
or silk, it will give a diverse sound from that it would
do of itself; so if the pipe be a little wet on the in-
side, it will make a differing sound from the same
pipe dry.

168. That sound made within water doth commu-
nicate better with a hard body through water, than
made in air it doth with air, vide Experimentum 134.

Experiments in consort touching equality and inequality of

We have spoken before, in the inquisition touching
music, of musical sounds, whereunto there may be a
concord or discord in two parts ; which sounds we call
tones : and likewise of immusical sounds ; and have
given the cause, that the tone proceedeth of equality,
and the other of inequality. And we have also ex-
pressed there, w^hat are the equal -bodies that give
tones, and what are the unequal that give none. But
now we shall speak of such inequality of sounds, as
proceedeth not from the nature of the bodies them-
selves, but is accidental ; either from the roughness
or obliquity of the passage, or from the doubling of
the percutient, or from the trepidation of the motion.

169. A bell, if it have a rift in it, whereby the
sound hath not a clear passage, giveth a hoarse and
jarring sound ; so the voice of man, when by cold taken
the weasand groweth rugged, and, as we call it, furred,
becometh hoarse. And in these two instances the
sounds are ingrate, because they are merely unequal :
but if they be unequal in equality, then the sound is
grateful, but purling.


170. All instruments that have either returns, as
trumpets ; or flexions, as cornets ; or are drawn up,
and put from, as sackbuts ; have a purling sound : but
the recorder, or flute, that have none of these inequa-
lities, give a clear sound. Nevertheless, the recorder
itself, or pipe, moistened a little in the inside, sound-
eth more solemnly, and with a little purling or hiss-
ing. Again, a ^vl•eathed string, such as are in the base
strings of bandoras, giveth also a purling sound.

171. But a lute-string, if it be merely unequal in
its parts, giveth a harsh and untuneablc sound ; which
strings we call false, being bigger in one place than in
another ; and therefore wire strings are never false.
We see also, that when we try a false lute-string, we
use to extend it hard between the fingers, and to fillip
it ; and if it giveth a double species, it is true ; but if
it giveth a treble, or more, it is false.

172. Waters, in the noise they make as they run,
represent to the ear a trembling noise ; and in regals,
where they have a pipe they call the niglitingale-pipe,
which containeth water, the sound hath a continual
trembling : and children have also little things they
call cocks, w^hich have water in them ; and when they
blow or whistle in them, they yield a trembling noise ;
which trembling of water hath an affinity with the
letter L. All which inequalities of trepidation are
rather pleasant than otherwise.

173. All base notes, or very treble notes, give an
asper sound ; for that the base striketh more air, than
it can well strike equally : and the treble cuttcth the
air so sharp, as it returneth too swift to make the sound
equal: and therefore a mean or tenor is the sweetest part.

17J^. We know nothing that can at pleasure make
a musical or immusical sound by voluntary motion,
but the voice of man and birds. The cause is, no
doubt, in the weasand or wind-pipe, which we call
aspera artcria, whicli being well extended, gathercth
equality ; as a bladder that is wrinkled, if it be ex-
tended, becometh smooth. The extension is always
more in tones than in speech : therefore the inward
voice or whisper can never give a tone. And in


singing, there is, manifestly, a greater working and
labour of the throat, than in speaking ; as appeareth
in the thrusting out or drawing in of the chin, when
we sing.

175. The humming of bees is an unequal buzzing,
and is conceived by some of the ancients not to come
forth at their mouth, but to be an inward sound ; but,
it may be, it is neither ; but from the motion of their
wings : for it is not heard but when they stir.

176. All metals quenched in water give a sibila-
tion or hissing sound, which hath an affinity with the
letter Z, notwithstanding the sound be created be-
tween the water or vapour, and the air. Seething
also, if there be but small store of water in a vessel,
giveth a hissing sound ; but boiling in a full vessel
giveth a bubbling sound, drawing somewhat near to
the cocks used by children.

177. Trial would be made, whether the inequality
or interchange of the medium will not produce an in-
equality of sound ; as if three bells were made one
within another, and air betwixt each ; and then
the outermost bell were chimed with a hammer, how
the sound would differ from a simple bell. So like-
wise take a plate of brass, and a plank of wood, and
join them close together, and knock upon one of them,
and see if they do not give an unequal sound. So make
two or three partitions of wood in a hogshead, with
holes or knots in them ; and mark the difference of
their sound from the sound of an hogshead without
such partitions.

Experiments in consort touching the more treble, and the
more base tones, or musical sounds,

178. It is evident, that the percussion of the greater
quantity of air causeth the baser sound ; and the less
quantity the more treble sound. The percussion of
the greater quantity of air is produced by tlie great-
ness of the body percussing ; by the latitude of the
concave by which the sound passeth ; and by the lon-
gitude of the same concave. Tliercfore we see that a
base string is greater than a treble ; a base pipe hath



a greater bore than a treble ; and in pipes, and the
Hke, the lower the note-holes be, and the further off'
from the mouth of the pipe, the more base sound they
yield ; and the nearer the mouth, the more treble.
Nay more, if you strike an entire body, as an andiron
of brass, at the top, it maketh a more treble sound ;
and at the bottom a baser.

179. It is also evident, that the sharper or quicker
percussion of air causeth the more treble sound ; and
the slower or heavier, the more base sound. So we
see in strings; the more they are wound up and strained,
and thereby give a more quick start-back, the more
treble is the sound ; and the slacker they are, or less
wound up, the baser is the sound. And therefore a
bigger string more strained, and a lesser string less
strained, may fall into the same tone.

180. Children, women, eunuchs, have more small
and shrill voices than men. The reason is, not for that
men have greater heat, which may make the voice
stronger, for the strength of a voice or sound doth make
a difference in the loudness or softness, but not in the
tone, but from the dilatation of the organ ; which, it
is true, is likewise caused by heat. But the cause of
changing the voice at the years of puberty, is more
obscure. It seemeth to be, for that when much of
the moisture of the body, which did before irrigate
the parts, is drawn down to the spermatical vessels, it
leaveth the body more hot than it was ; whence
Cometh the dilatation of the pipes : for we see plainly
all effects of heat do then come on ; as pilosity, more
roughness of the skin, hardness of the flesh, etc.

181. The industry of the musician hath produced
two other means of straining or intension of strings,
besides their winding up. The one is the stopping of
the string with the finger ; as in the necks of lutes,
viols, etc. The other is the shortness of the string, as
in harps, virginals, etc. Both these have one and the
same reason; for they cause the string to give a quicker

182. In the straining of a string, the further it is
strained, the less superstraining gocth to a note ; for


it requircth good winding of a string before it will
make any note at all : and in the stops of lutes, etc.
the liigher they go, the less distance is between the frets.

183. If you fill a drinking-glass with water, espe-
cially one sharp below, and wide above, and fillip upon
the brim or outside ; and after empty part of the wa-
ter, and so more and more, and still try the tone by
filliping ; you shall find the tone fall and be more base,
as the glass is more empty.

Experiments in consort touching the proportion of treble
and base tones.

The just and measured proportion of the air per-
cussed, towards the baseness or trebleness of tones, is
one of the greatest secrets in the contemplation of
sounds. For it disco vereth the true coincidence of
tones into diapasons ; which is the return of the same
sound. And so of the concords and discords between
the unison and the diapason, which we have touched
before in the experiments of music ; but think fit to
resume it here as a principal part of our inquiry touch-
ing the nature of sounds. It may be found out in the
proportion of the winding of strings ; in the propor-
tion of the distance of frets ; and in the proportion of
the concave of pipes, etc. but most commodiously in
the last of these.

184. Try therefore the winding of a string once
about, as soon as it is brought to that extension as will
give a tone ; and then of twice about, and thrice about,
etc. and mark the scale or difference of the rise of the
tone : whereby you shall discover, in one, two effects ;
both the proportion of the sound towards the dimen-
sion of tlie winding ; and the proportion likewise of
the sound towards the string, as it is more or less
strained. But note that to measure this, the way
will be, to take the length in a right line of the string,
upon any winding about of the peg.

185. As for the stops, you are to take the number
of frets ; and principally the length of the line, from
the first stop of the string, unto such a stop as shall

X 2


produce a diapason to the former stop upon the same

186. But it will best, as it is said, appear in the
bores of wind-instruments : and therefore cause some
half dozen pipes to be made, in length and all things
else alike, with a single, double, and so on to a sex-
tuple bore ; and so mark what fall of tone every one
giveth. But still in these three last instances, you
must diligently observe, what length of string, or dis-

Online LibraryFrancis BaconThe works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 1) → online text (page 34 of 52)