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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tance of stop, or concave of air, maketh what rise of
sound. As in the last of these, which, as we said, is
that which giveth the aptest demonstration, you must
set down what increase of concave goeth to the making
of a note higher ; and what of two notes ; and what
of three notes ; and so up to the diapason : for then
the great secret of numbers and proportions will appear.
It is not unlike that those that make recorders, etc.
know this already : for that they make them in sets :
and likewise bell-founders, in fitting the tune of their
bells. So that inquiry may save trial. Surely it hath
been observed by one of the ancients, that an empty
baiTel knocked upon with the finger, giveth a diapa-
son to the sound of the like barrel full ; but how that
should be I do not well understand ; for that the
knocking of a barrel full or empty, doth scarce give
any tone.

187. There is required some sensible difference in
the proportion of creating a note, towards the sound
itself, which is the passive : and that it be not too
near, but at a distance. For in a recorder, the three
uppermost holes yield one tone ; which is a note lower
than the tone of the first three. And tlie like, no
doubt, is required in the winding or stopping of strings.

Experimenls in consort touching exterior and interior sounds.

There is another difference of sounds, which we will
call exterior and interior. It is not soft nor loud : nor
it is not base nor treble : nor it is not musical nor im-
musical : though it be true, that there can be no tone
in an interior sound ; but on the other side, in an ex-
terior sound there may be both musical and immusical


Wc sliall tlicref'oio ciuiineratc them, rather than pre-
cisely distinguish them ; though, to make some adum-
bration of that wc mean, tlie interior is rather an
impulsion or contusion of the air, than an elision or
section of the same: so as the percussion of the one to-
wards the other dittereth as a blow differeth from
a cut.

188. In speech of man, the whispering, which they
call susun^us in Latin, whether it be louder or sof-
ter, is an interior sound ; but the speaking out is an
exterior sound ; and therefore you can never make
a tone, nor sing in whispering ; but in speech you
may : so breathing, or blowing by the mouth, bellows,
or wind, though loud, is an interior sound ; but the
blowing through a pipe or concave, though soft, is an
exterior. So likewise the greatest winds, if they have
no coarctation, or blow not hollow, give an interior
sound ; the whistling or hollow wind yieldeth a sing-
ing, or exterior sound ; the former being pent by some
other body ; the latter being pent in by its own den-
sity : and therefore we see, that when the wind blow-
eth hollow, it is a sign of rain. The flame, as it
movcth within itself or is blown by a bellows, giveth
a murmur or interior sound.

189- There is no hard body, but struck against an-
other hard body will yield an exterior sound greater
or lesser : insomuch as if the percussion be over-soft,
it may induce a nullity of sound ; but never an inte-
rior sound ; as when one treadeth so softly that he is
not heard.

190. Where the air is the percutient, pent or not
pent, against a hard body, it never giveth an exterior
sound ; as if you blow strongly with a bellows against
a wall.

191. Sounds, both exterior and interior, may be
made as well by suction as by emission of the breath :
as in whistling or breathing.

Experimejits in consort touching articulation of souvdf.

192. It is evident, and it is one of the strangest
secrets in sounds, that the whole sound is not in the


whole air only ; but the whole sound is also in every
small part of the air. So that all the curious diversity
of articulate sounds, of the voice of man or birds, will
enter at a small cranny inconfused.

193. The unequal agitation of the winds and the
like, though they be material to the carriage of the
sounds farther or less way ; yet they do not confound
the articulation of them at all, within that distance
that they can be heard ; though it may be, they make
them to be heard less way than in a still ; as hath
been partly touched.

194. Over-great distance confoundeth the articula-
tion of sounds ; as we see, that you may hear the sound
of a preacher's voice, or the like, when you cannot dis-
tinguish what he saith. And one articulate sound will
confound another, as when many speak at once.

195. In the experiment of speaking under water,
when the voice is reduced to such an extreme exility,
yet the articulate sounds, which are the words, are not
confounded, as hath been said.

196. I conceive, that an extreme small or an ex-
treme great sound cannot be articulate ; but that the
articulation requireth a mediocrity of sound : for that
the extreme small sound confoundeth the articulation
by contracting ; and the great sound by dispersing :
and although, as was formerly said, a sound articu-
late, already created, will be contracted into a small
cranny ; yet the first articulation requireth more di-

197. It hath been observed, that in a room, or in
a chapel, vaulted below and vaulted likewise in the
roof, a preacher cannot be heard so well, as in the like
places, not so vaulted. The cause is, for that the sub-
sequent words come on before the precedent words va-
nish : and therefore the articulate sounds are more con-
fused, though the gross of the sound be greater.

198. The motions of the tongue, lips, throat, pa-
late, etc. which go to the making of the several alpha-
betical letters, arc worthy inquiry, and pertinent to the
present inquisition of sounds : but because they are
subtle, and long to describe, wc will refer them over.


and place them amongst the experiments of speecli.
The Hebrews have been diligent in it, and have as-
signed which letters are labial, which dental, which
guttural, etc. As for the Latins and Grecians, they
have distinguished between semi-vowels and mutes ;
and in mutes between miitce tcmies, medicE, and aspi-
ratce ; not amiss, but yet not diligently enough. For
the special strokes and motions that create those
sounds, they have little inquired : as, that the letters
J5, P, F, iM, are not expressed, but with the contract-
ing or shutting of the mouth ; that the letters N and B,
cannot be pronounced but that the letter N will turn
into M ; as hecatonha will be hecatomba. That M
and T cannot be pronounced together, but P will come
between ; as emtus is pronounced emptus ; and a num-
ber of the like. So that if you inquire to the full, you
will find, that to the making of the whole alphabet
there will be fewer simple motions required than there
are letters.

199. The lungs are the most spungy part of the
body ; and therefore ablest to contract and dilate it-
self; and where it contractcth itself, it expelleth the
air; which through the artery, throat, and mouth,
m;iketh the voice : but yet articulation is not made
but wdth the help of the tongue, palate, and the rest
of those they call instruments of voice.

200. There is found a similitude between the sound
that is made by inanimate bodies, or by animate bo-
dies, that have no voice articulate, and divers letters
of articulate voices : and commonly men have given
such names to those sounds, as do allude unto the ar-
ticulate letters ; as trembling of water hath resem-
blance with the letter L; quenching of hot metals with
the letter Z ; snarling of dogs with the letter R ; tlie
noise of screech-owls with the letter Sh ; voice of cats
with the diphthong Eu ; voice of cuckows with the
diphthong On ; sounds of strings witli the letter Ng;
so that if a man, for curiosity or strangeness sake,
would make a puppet or other dead body to pronounce
a word, let him consider, on the one part, the motion


of the instruments of voice ; and on the other part,
the like sounds made in inanimate bodies ; and what
conformity there is that causeth the similitude of
sounds; and by that he may minister light to that



Experiments in consort touching the motions of soimdsj in
what lines they are circular, oblique, straight, upivards,
doiunwards, forwards, hachvards.

201. All sounds whatsoever move round; that is
to say, on all sides ; upwards, downwards, forwards,
and backwards. This appeareth in all instances.

202. Sounds do not require to be conveyed to the
sense in a right line, as visibles do, but to be arched;
though it be true, they move strongest in a right line;
which nevertheless is not caused by the rightness of
the line, but by the shortness of the distance ; tinea
recta brevissima. And therefore we see if a wall be
between, and you speak on the one side, you hear it
on the other ; which is not because the sound passeth
through the wall, but archeth over the wall.

203. If the sound be stopped and repercussed, it
cometh about on the other side in an oblique line. So,
if in a coach one side of the boot be down, and the
other up, and a beggar beg on the close side ; you will
think that he were on the open side. So likewise, if
a bell or clock be, for example, on the north side of a
chamber, and the window of that chamber be upon the
south ; he that is in the chamber will think the sound
came from the south.

204. Sounds, though they spread round, so that
there is an orb or spherical area of the sound, yet they
move strongest, and go farthest in the fore-lines, from
the first local impulsion of the air. And therefore in
preaching, you shall hear the preacher's voice better
before the pulpit than behind it, or on the sides, though
it stnud open. So a liarijuebu.s, or ordnance, will be


farther heard forwards from the mouth of the piece, than
backwards, or on the sides.

205. It may be doubted, that sounds do move bet-
ter downwards than upwards. Pulpits are placed high
above the people. And when the ancient generals
spake to their armies, they had ever a mount of turf
cast up, whereupon they stood ; but this may be im-
puted to the stops and obstacles which the voice meet-
eth with, when one speaketh upon the level. But there
seemeth to be more in it ; for it may be that spiritual
species, both of things visible and sounds, do move
better downwards than upwards. It is a strange
thing, that to men standing below on the ground,
those that be on the top of Paul's seem much less than
they are, and cannot be known ; but to men above,
those below seem nothing so much lessened, and may
be known : yet it is true, that all things to them above
seem also somewhat contracted, and better collected
into figure : as knots in gardens shew best from an
upper window or terras.

206. But to make an exact trial of it, let a man
stand in a chamber not much above the ground, and
speak out at the window, through a trunk, to one
standing on the ground, as softly as he can, the other
laying his ear close to the irunk : then via versa, let
the other speak below, keeping the same proportion of
softness; and let him in the chamber lay his ear to the
trunk : and this may be the aptest means to make a
judgment, whether sounds descend or ascend better.

Experiments in consort touching the lasting and perishing of
sounds ; and totiching the time they require to their gene-
ration or delation.

207. After that sound is created, which is in a mo-
ment, we find it continueth some small time, melting
by little and little. In this there is a wonderful error
amongst men, who take this to be a continuance of
the first sound; whereas, in truth, it is a renovation,
and not a continuance ; for tlie body percussed hath,
by reason of the percussion, a trepidation wrought in
the minute parts, and so reneweth tlie percussion of
the air. 'Vhis appeareth manifestly, because that the


melting sound of a bell, or of a string strucken, which
is thought to be a continuance, ceaseth as soon as the
bell or string are touched. As in a virginal, as soon
as ever the jack falleth, and toucheth the string, the
sound ceaseth ; and in a bell, after you have chimed
upon it, if you touch the bell, the sound ceaseth.
And in this you must distinguish that there are two
trepidations : the one manifest and local ; as of the
bell when it is pensile : the other secret, of the minute
parts ; such as is described in the ninth instance.
But it is true, that the local helpeth the secret greatly.
We see likewise that in pipes, and other wind-instru-
ments, the sound lasteth no longer than the breath
bloweth. It is true, that in organs there is a confused
murmur for a while after you have played ; but that
is but while the bellows are in falling.

208. It is certain, that in the noise of great ord-
nance, where many are shot off together, the sound
will be carried, at the least, twenty miles upon the
land, and much farther upon the water. But then it
will come to the ear, not in the instant of the shooting
off, but it will come an hour or more later. This
must needs be a continuance of the first sound ; for
there is no trepidation which should renew it. And
the touching of the ordnance would not extinguish
the sound the sooner : so that in great sounds the
continuance is more than momentany,

209. To try exactly the time wherein sound is de-
lated, let a man stand in a steeple, and have with him
a taper ; and let some vail be put before the taper ;
and let another man stand in the field a mile off.
Then let him in the steeple strike the bell ; and in
the same instant withdraw the vail ; and so let him in
the field tell by his pulse what distance of time there
is between the light seen, and the sound heard : for it
is certain that the delation of light is in an instant.
This may be tried in far greater distances, allowing
greater lights and sounds.

210. It is generally known and observed that light,
and the object of sight, move swifter than sound : for
we see the flash of a piece is seen sooner than the noise


is heard. And in hewing wood, if one be some distance
off, he shall see the arm lifted up for a second stroke,
before he hear the noise of the first. And the greater
the distance, the greater is the prevention : as we see
in thunder which is far off, where the lightning pre-
cedeth the crack a good space.

211. Colours, when they represent themselves to the
eye, fade not, nor melt not by degrees, but appear still
in the same strength ; but sounds melt and vanish by
little and little. The cause is, for that colours parti-
cipate nothing with the motion of the air, but sounds
do. And it is a plain argument, that sound partici-
pateth of some local motion of the air, as a cause sine
qua non, in that it perisheth so suddenly ; for in every
section or impulsion of the air, the air doth suddenly
restore and reunite itself; which the water also doth,
but nothing so swiftly.

Experiments in consort touching the passage and interceptions
of' sounds.

In the trials of the passage, or not passage of sounds,
you must take heed you mistake not the passing by
the sides of a body, for the passing through a body ;
and therefore you must make the intercepting body
very close ; for sound will pass through a small chink.

212. Where sound passeth through a hard or close
body, as through water ; through a wall ; through me-
tal, as in hawks bells stopped, etc. the hard or close
body must be but thin and small ; for else it deadeth
and extinguisheth the sovmd utterly. And therefore
in the experiment of speaking in air under water, the
voice must not be very deep within the water : for then
the sound pierceth not. 8o if you speak on the far-
ther side of a close wall, if the wall be very thick you
shall not be heard ; and if there were an hogshead
empty, whereof the sides were some two foot thick,
and the bunghole stopped ; I conceive the resounding
sound, by the communication of the outward air with
the air within, would be little or none : but only you
shall hear the noise of the outward knock, as if the
vessel were full.


213. It is certain, that in the passage of sounds
through hard bodies the spirit or pneumatical part of
the hard body itself doth co-operate ; but much better
when the sides of that hard body are struck, than when
the percussion is only within, without touch of the sides.
Take therefore a hawk's bell, the holes stopped up, and
hang it by a thread within a bottle glass, and stop the
mouth of the glass very close with wax ; and then shake
the glass, and see whether the bell give any sound at
all, or how weak : but note, that you must instead of
the thread take a wire ; or else let the glass have a
great belly ; lest when you shake the bell, it dash upon
the sides of the glass.

214. It is plain, that a very long and downright arch
for the sound to pass, will extinguish the sound quite ;
so that that sound, which would be heard over a wall,
will not be heard over a church ; nor that sound,
which will be heard if you stand some distance from
the wall, will be heard if you stand close under the

215. Soft and foraminous bodies, in the first creation
of the sound, will dead it ; for the striking against
cloth or furr will make little sound ; as hath been said :
but in the passage of the sound, they ^vill admit it better
than harder bodies ; as we see, that curtains and hang-
ings will not stay the sound much ; but glass windows,
if they be very close, will check a sound more than the
like thickness of cloth. We see also in the rumbling
of the belly, how easily the sound passeth through the
guts and skin.

216. It is worthy the inquiry, whether great sounds,
as of ordnance or bells, become not more weak and exile
when they pass through small crannies. For the sub- •
tilties of articulate soiuids, it may be, may pass through
small crannies not confused ; but the magnitude of the
sound, perhaps, not so well.

Experiments in consort touching the medium of sounds.

217. The mediums of sounds are air ; soft and porous
bodies ; also water. And hard bodies refuse not alto-


gether to be mediums of sounds. But all of them are
dull and unapt deferents, except the air.

218. In air, the thinner or drier air carrieth not the
sound so well as the more dense ; as appeareth in night
sounds and evening sounds, and sounds in moist wea-
ther and southern winds. The reason is already men-
tioned in the title of maj oration of sounds ; being for
that thin air is better pierced ; but thick air preserveth
the sound better from waste : let further trial be made
by hollowing in mists and gentle showers ; for, it may
be, that will somewhat dead the sound.

219. How far forth flame may be a medium of
sounds, especially of such sounds as are created by air,
and not betwixt hard bodies, let it be tried in speaking
where a bonfire is between ; but then you must allow
for some disturbance the noise that the flame itself

220. Whether any other liquors, being made me-
diums, cause a diversity of sound from water, it may
be tried : as by the knapping of the tongs ; or striking
of the bottom of a vessel, filled either with milk or
with oil ; which though they be more light, yet arc
they more unequal bodies than air.

Of the natures of the mediums we have now spoken ;
as for the disposition of the said mediums, it doth con-
sist in the penning, or not penning of the air ; of which
we have spoken before in the title of delation of sounds:
it consistcth also in the figure of the concave through
which it passeth; of which we will speak next.

Experiments in consort, what the figures of the pipes, or con-
caves, or the bodies deferent, conduce to the sounds.

How the figures of pipes, or concaves, through which
sounds pass, or of othej- bodies deferent, conduce to the
variety and alteration of the sounds ; either in respect
of the greater quantity, or less quantity of air, which
the concaves receive ; or in respect of the carrying of
sounds longer and shorter way ; or in respect of many
other circumstances ; they have been touched, as fall-
ing into other titles. But those figures which we now
are to speak of, we intend to be, as they concern the


lines through which the sound passeth ; as straiglit,
crooked, angular, circular, &c.

221. The figure of a bell partaketh of the pyramis,
but yet coming off and dilating more suddenly. The
figure of a hunter's horn and cornet is oblique ; yet
they have likewise straight horns ; which, if they be
of the same bore with the oblique, differ little in sound,
save that the straight require somewhat a stronger
blast. The figures of recorders, and flutes, and pipes,
are straight ; but the recorder hath a less bore and a
greater, above and below. The trumpet hath the figure
of the letter S : which maketh that purling sound, &c.
Generally the straight line hath the cleanest and
roundest sound, and the crooked, the more hoarse and

222. Of a sinuous pipe that may have some four
flexions, trial would be made. Likewise of a pipe
made like a cross, open in the midst. And so likewise
of an angular pipe : and see what will be the effects of
these several sounds. And so again of a circular pipe ;
as if you take a pipe perfect round, and make a hole
wherein to you shall blow, and another hole not far from
that ; but with a traverse or stop between them ; so
that your breath may go the round of the circle, and
come forth at the second hole. You may try likewise
percussions of solid bodies of several figures ; as globes,
flats, cubes, crosses, triangles, &c. and their combi-
nations, as flat against flat, and convex against convex,
and convex against flat, &c. and mark well the diversi-
ties of the sounds. Try also the difference in sound
of several crassitudes of hard bodies percussed ; and
take knowledge of the diversities of the sounds. I
myself have tried, that a bell of gold yieldeth an excel-
lent sound, not inferior to that of silver or brass, but
rather better : yet we see that a piece of money of
gold soundeth far more flat than a piece of money of

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 sounds.

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 workcth in right lines, and
maketh several cones ; and so there can be no coinci-
dence 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, wlicn every
part or instrument is not heard by itself, but a confla-
tion of them all ; which requireth to stand some dis-
tance 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,

Online LibraryFrancis BaconThe works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 1) → online text (page 35 of 52)