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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except it be joined with sound, hath no great operation



CENT, in.] NATURAT- HISTORY. 325

upon souiuls : for whctlier the air be liglitsome or dark,
hot or cold, quiet or stirring, except it he with noise,
sweet-smeUing, 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 tlie one drowning the other, and
making it not heard ; sometimes the one jarring and
discording with the other, and making a confusion ;
sometimes tlie one mingling and compounding with the
other, and making an harmony.

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 as
one. 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 pro-
portion, 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 toucliing melioration oj sounds.

229. AH reflexions concurrent do make sounds
greater ; but if the body that createth either the ori-
ginal sound, or the reflexion, 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 wire-string is
sweeter than the string of guts. And we sec that for
reflexion water excelleth ; as in music near the water,
or in echos.

230. It hath been tried, that a pipe a little moist-
ened on the inside, but yet so as there be no drops left,

VOL. I. Y



326 NATURAL HISTORY. [CENT. III.

maketli a more solemn sound, than if the pipe were dry ;
but yet with a sweet degree of sibilation or pm-liug ;
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 disposi-
tion of the air, but of the wood or string of the instru-
ment, 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 lute-strings
that have been kept long.

232. Sound is likewise meliorated by the mingling
of open air witli pent air ; therefore trial may be made
of a lute or viol with a double belly ; making another
belly with a k^iot 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
commimicated 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 ])ipc of brass. It were good
to try recorders and luuiters liorns of brass, what the
sound would be.



CENT. III.] NATURAL HISTORY. 327

235. Sounds arc meliorated by the intension of tlic
sense, where the common sense is collected most to
the particular senseof 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 ma-
nifest, 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 louching the imitation of sounds.

236. It is a thing strange in nature when it is at-
tentively considered, how children, and some birds,
learn to imitate speech. Tliey 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 proffers; but all this dis-
chargeth 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 sliould
work with the spirits of the learner a pre-disposition
to offer to imitate; and so to perfect the imitation by
degrees. But touching operations by transmissions of
spirits, w^hich is one of the highest secrets in nature,
we shall speak in due place ; cliiefly 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 fecd-

V 2



328 NATURAL HISTORY. [CENT. II f.

ing, or the like, given them for the imitation ; and be-
sides, 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 com-
parison 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 w^hich 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 in-
quired. 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 witli them, and practise them more, as
appearcth 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 arc more lively and listen more.

240. LaboTU- and intention to imitate voices, doth
conduce mucli to imitation : and therefore we see tliat
there be certain paiitomimi, that will represent the
voices of players of interludes so to life, as if you see
them not you would think they were those players them-
selves ; and so the voices of other men that they hear.

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Online LibraryFrancis BaconThe works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 1) → online text (page 36 of 52)