Page images
PDF
EPUB

supply its place. This circulation of warm and cool, i. e, of light and heavy, air, is easily rendered visible, in a room where there is a fire, by means of a little smoke.

In the passage of the electrified vapour to the northward, for instance, in the form of clouds, great part of it is precipitated, before it arrives at the polar regions, in rain, snow, or hail. That these contain electric matter, is rendered evident by receiving them in insulated vessels ; to which they communicate their electricity.

In the temperate regions, this electricity is readily received and imbibed by the earth; which, in those climates, is a good conductor; and which will receive it either filently, conveyed to it by the rain, &c. or suddenly, in the explosions attending thunder storms.

In the cold polar regions, however, the case will be different. That part of the electrified vapour which reaches them, and descends with the snow, does not fall on a conducting earth; but on a vitriform cake of ice, with which the earth is there eternally covered ; and which (particularly when the cold is ex. treme +) will not conduct electricity. The electric matter there- . fore not being able to penetrate through this non-conducting Aratum, will be accumulated on the surface of it, as on a plate of glass.

This plate of ice thus becoming overcharged, the electric matter will, at different times, burst from it, as happens when a Leyden vial has been overcharged ; and will break through the superincumbent atmosphere (lower here than at the equator) till it arrives at the vacuum, or highly rarefied air, above, which is a good conductor; where it will run along towards the equator, diverging as the degrees of longitude enlarge; and exhibiting appearances resembling those which the ele&ric matter is known to present, in our experiments made on it, in vacuo.

These are the principal outlines of the Author's hypothesis. The paper itself is thort, and aphoriftical; and is said to have been read to the Royal Academy of Sciences at Paris, at their meeting after Easter last year. The Editor has added to it feveral ingenious notes, consisting of illustrations, queries, fpeculations, &c. and bas hazarded a new conjecture on the subject.-For th:s, however, as well as many other pieces of the Author not noticed by us, we muft refer our Readers to the volume icleii; not without expressing our hopes that the ingenious

+ The Auihor had long ago observed, that ice, in America, would not conduct a shock. He does not seem to have been acquainted with the late fingular experiments on this subject, made by M. Achard; i ho found that, in a very considerable degree of cold, ice acquired electric qualities nearly approaching those of glass ; fo as even to bear a charge, &c.

Editor will proceed in the pious task of collecting the remaining valuable relicsfor many such, we are told, exift-of one for whom he expresses so great and well founded a veneration.

Part 1.

ITU

Ari. V. PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS of the Royal Society of London. Vol. LXIX.

For the Year 1779. 40. 7 s. 6 d. sewed. Davis. 1779.

Mus i c. T is fortunate that the gifted musical infant, who is the

subject of this curious Article, should meet with a cotemporary historian so well qualified, and so extensively and advantageously known in the literary world, as Dr. Burney, to record his marvellous musical talents and attainments, to which he has himself been an eye-witness. Having had repeated op. portunities of hearing and studying this extraordinary child; and after having ascertained his age by a recourse to the parish register; he prefaces his own observations on him by a relation, among others, of the following extraordinary facts, preceding his acquaintance with him; and these are founded on evidence, the authenticity of which cannot reasonably be disputed.

When he was only a year and a half old, he would leave his food to attend to an organ built by his father ; a plain man, who could barely play a few easy tunes upon it: and when he was two years old, he had acquired such a knowledge of the construction of that instrument, or of the situation of the keys of it, as to touch the key-note of his favourite tunes, in order to point out the particular tune which he wanted his father to play to him. Soon after this, he would strike the two or three first notes of a tune, not being able to name it, when he thought that the key-note alone did not sufficiently explain which he wilhed to have played.

At the precise age of two years and three weeks, he, on a sudden, commenced practical musician himself, to the great surprize of his father, then working in a room above; and who, on coming immediately down stairs, heard and saw him playing (assisted by an elder brotber, whom he had engaged to blow the bellows) the first part of God save great George our King : -a melody, ' which had the most frequently been administered to him as a narcotic by his mother, during the first year of his life,' and which he had often been accustomed to hear his father play. It seems too that his nerves, by this time on the full itretch, had been excessively agitated, on hearing the superior performance of Mrs. Lulman, a musical lady, who came to try his father's organ.

• 'The next day, fays Dr. Burney, he made himself master of the treble of the second part; and, the day after, be attempted the base, which he performed nearly correct in every particular, Rev. Mar. 1780.

P

except

except the note immediately before the close; which being an octave below the preceding sound, was out of the reach of his little hand.'

When he was two years and four months old, (in November 1777) having heard a voluntary performed on his father's organ, by Mr. Mully, a music-malter ;- as soon as he was gone, the child seeming to play on the organ in a wild and different manner from what his mother was accustomed to hear, fhe asked him what he was doing? And he replied, “ I am playing the gentleman's fine thing." But the was unable to judge of the resemblance: however, when Mr. Mully returned a few days after, and was asked, whether the child had remembered any of the paffages in his voluntary, he answered in the affirmative ;-and for a confiderable time after, he would play noshing else but these passages.'

At this time, says Dr. Burney, ' fuch was the rapid progress he made in judging of the agreement of sounds, that he played the Easter-Hymn with full harmony ; and in the tast two or three bars of Hallelujah, where the same found is sustained, he played chords with both hands, by which the parts were multipled to fix, which he had great difficulty in reaching on account of the shortness of his fingers.'- In making a base to tunes which he bad recently caught by his ear, whenever the harmony displeased him, he would continue the treble note till he had formed a better accompaniment.'

When Dr. Burney heard him, we apprehend he was about three years and three or four months old. About this time, on first hearing the voice of Signior Pacchierotti, he did not seem sensible of the superior taste and refinement of that exquisite performer ;-refinements indeed are not to be expected in the infancy of any art :- but he called out very soon after the air was begun—He is singing in F.—This, adds Dr. Burney, 'is one of the astonishing properties of his ear, that he can distinguith at a great distance from any instrument, and out of light of the keys, any note that is ftruck, whether A, B, C, &c. In this I have repeatedly tried him, and never found him mistaken even in the half notes ; a circumstance the more extraordinary, as many practitioners and good performers are unable to distinguish by the car, at the opera or elsewhere, in what key any air or piece of music is executed.

. But this child, Dr. Burney observes, was able to find any note that was struck in his hearing, when out of sight of the keys, at two years and a half old, even before he knew the letters of the alphabet.—This faculty accidentally discovered itself in January 1778. While his father was playing the organ, a particular note hung, or in the organ-builders language, ciphered; so that the tone was continued without the pressure of

the

the finger. The very maker of the instrument could not find out what note it was : but the infant, who was then amusing himself with drawing on the floor-for this child of Apollo is a painter too, as well as musician-left that employment, and going to the organ, immediately laid his hand on the note that ciphered. His father next day purposely caused several notes to cipher fuccellively; all which he instantly discovered : and at last he weakened the springs of two keys at once, which, by preventing the valves of the wind chest from closing, occafioned a double cipher ; both of which he directly found out.

Another part of his wonderful prematurity was the being able, at two years and four months old, to transpose into the molt extraneous and difficult keys whatever he played ; and now, in his extemporaneous Aights, he modulates into all keys with equal facility.'

Our testimony is by no means neceffary to corroborate that of Dr. Burney; yet it may not be amiss here to observe that, in September 1778, when he was about three years and nine weeks old, we had repeated occasions of observing, on his being interrupted in his voluntary playing, (of which he was very fond) by a request to play a particular tune; whenever he complied, he set off in the key he happened to be playing in at the time, and though he thus often became beset with a numerous host of Aats or Marps, he played with equal facility as in the natural keys. He indeed evidently appeared to possess a most intimate knowledge of all the keys, and of their powers ; or had present in his mind, a priori, the precise tone which any particular key would produce when put down ; and put it down accordingly with as much confidence, as that of a compositor at the press, when he lays hold of a particular letter; or of a painter dipping his pencil into a particular colour. But the compositor and painter have the actual letter or colour dirplayed before them; whereas in the case of young Crotch, the found which he seeks is only potential, or in fieri; and has no natural connection with the black or white keys before his eyes. But he did not often condescend to make use even of his eyes on the occasion. To us it did not appear the least extraordinary part of his performance, that he frequently played for a long time together without once looking at the instrument, though playing on the most aukward keys; which were therefore now evidently become as familiar to him from feeling, as originally from fight. Dr. Burney has taken notice of the Taine circumstance.

The last qualification which Dr. Burney points out as extraordinary in this infant-musician, is his being able to play an extemporary base, though certainly not correct according to the rules of counter point, to easy melodies performed by another

P 2

person person on the same inftrument. In this case, he observes that if the same passages are not frequently repeated, the changes of modulation must be few and flow; otherwise correctness cannot be expected, even from a professor. He found him as ready too at finding a treble to a base, as a base to a treble, if played in flow notes, even in chromatic passages. Thus, says the Author, o if, after the chord of G natural is ftruck, C be made sharp, he soon finds out that A makes a good base to it; and, on the contrary, if after the chord of D, with a sharp third, F is made natural, and A is changed into B, he instantly gives G for the bafe. From a variety of experiments which Dr. Burney tried upon this infant contrapuntift, he selects the following as an example; in which the Doctor played the upper part, and left it to the feelings and genius of young Crotch to follow his lead, and attend him with a proper base.

[graphic]

Oct

Some have considered harmony as a mere creature of art; but this infant's ready and spontaneous adoption of it furnishes a proof that its principles are innate in man: though art has greatly improved and refined upon them, so as to render modern harmony a very complicated and difficult science, full of conventional, as well as natural, beauties. The specimens that have been exhibited by this young, untutored, and unprejudiced mind are such, as cannot be ascribed to a servile imitation of what he had heard and remembered; but must owe their origin to certain pleasurable sensacions, excited in him by particular combinations of sounds; and instinEtively prompting and directing him to the natural accompaniment to a given melody. Instruction is here out of the question. He had never had any, nor was capable of submitting or giving attention to any.

Dr. Burney mentions fome other instances of musical prodigies; and particularly the two sons of the Rev. Mr. Wesley; the youngest of which, before he was six years old, arrived at such knowledge in music, that his extemporary performance on keyed instruments, like Mozart's, was so masterly in point of invention, modulation, and accuracy of execution, as to furpass, in many particulars, the attainments of most professors at any period of their lives.'—An account of these two young músicians is proposed soon to be given to the Public, by the Hon. Mr. Barrington.

ASTRO

« PreviousContinue »