Sound Houses mj292

Sound-Houses in New Atlantis mj292 (2010)

In 1624, Francis Bacon published a brief novel, The New Atlantis, where all the attributes of New Atlantis are boasted to the author. One particular passage, describing Sound Houses, seems to foretell the BBC radiophonic workshop. Once Malcolm Hill saw the mention of quartertones, he started integrating the sentences (sung in a different order) with passages from a quartertone string sextet which he had written in 1993. He showed the text to Doug Kessler who the following day produced requested words for a choral coda which parodies the banalities of modern advertising slogans.

“Wee have also Sound-Houses, wher wee practise and demonstrate all Sounds, and their Generation. Wee have Harmonies which you have not, of Quarter-Sounds, and lesser Slides of Sounds. Diverse Instruments of Musick likewise to you unknowne, some sweeter then any you have; Together with Bells and Rings that are dainty and sweet. Wee represent Small Sounds as Great and Deepe; Likewise Great Sounds, Extenuate and Sharpe; Wee make diverse Tremblings and Warblings of Sounds, which in their Originall are Entire. Wee represent and imitate all Articulate Sounds and Letters, and the Voices and Notes of Beasts and Birds. Wee have certaine Helps, which sett to the Eare doe further the Hearing greatly. Wee have also diverse Strange and Artificiall Eccho’s, Reflecting the Voice many times, and as it were Tossing it; And some that give back the Voice Lowder then it came, some Shriller, and some Deeper; Yea some rendring the Voice, Differing in the Letters or Articulate Sound, from that they receyve. Wee have also meanes to convey Sounds in Trunks and Pipes, in strange Lines, and Distances.”

From Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis