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1673 __ « Phonurgia Nova sive conjugium mechanico-physicum artis & naturae paranympha phonosophia concinnatum » — Statua citofonica
Athanasius Kircher (1608-1680)
Comment : “Phonurgia Nova” is A book about acoustics. In this book Kircher treated the problems of amplifying and controlling sounds and how to construct and build rooms with good acoustic properties. He showed how many such problems could be solved by the use of two methods, anaclasis, reflexion, and anacampsis, refraction. Reflection is still in use, while "refraction", i.e. the use of tubes and funnels, has been outdated by modern amplifiers. The book also deals with the design of echo chambers and different kinds of "funnel-amplifiers" for various purposes, how to use underwater bell-bouys as a substitute for lighthouses and how to measure the speed of sound . It contains a famous description of a puppet that dances only when certain tones are played on an instrument. (Mats Rendels)An illustration in Phonurgia Nova depicts a piazza-listening device: the voices from the piazza are taken by the horn up through the mouth of the statue in the room on the piano nobile above, allowing both espionage and the appearance of a miraculous event. (Glasgow University Library, 2002)Description of devices that created the illusion of talking statuary, hydraulically powered mechanical music-playing automata, the æolian harp (which was revived and venerated by the English romantic poets as a model of divine inspiration), the hearing aid, the “tuba stentorophonica” (loud trumpet), and the “arca musarithmica”: a primitive mechanical computer that would compose simple random compositions, as well as write messages in cipher, calculate the date of Easter in any year, and design fortifications. Surviving examples of this device are held by the Museum of the History of Science in Florence and the Pepys Library at Magdalene College, Cambridge.The Kircher's talking statue (“statua citofonica”), which is even trickier than it seems, has a hidden intercom system. By standing in another room and speaking through a tube connected to the statue, you can make it appear to speak. Or by putting your ear to the tube, you can overhear what the people in the other room with the statue are saying. Other devices created the illusion of hydraulically powered mechanical music-playing automata, the æolian harp, the hearing aid, and the arca musarithmica: a primitive mechanical computer that would compose simple random compositions, as well as write messages in cipher, calculate the date of Easter in any year, and design fortifications. Various acoustic experiments show how a person in a room inside a building could eavesdrop on people talking in the street outside by means of a sound receiver, and how music being played inside a building could be transmitted and enjoyed by those outside the building. Kircher also played on the boundary of decency. He made a magnetic Jesus that would walk on water and embrace an image of Peter. And a startling number of his machines do nothing but wretch and vomit. Kircher was not beyond tormenting animals either. He planned a cat piano. If you struck a single key on this piano, a sharp spike would be driven into a cat's tail, causing it to yowl. By arranging many cats according to the pitch of their yowls, Kircher could make music. He produced a donkey choir on similar principles. One of Kircher's most cunning inventions was a catoptric box or chamber of mirrors, which could be used in a number of ways. If you put a coin in, you could watch people grab for the illusionary riches. Or if you put a cat in, you could watch it chase the many reflections of itself until it would finally give up in a state of rage and indignation. (Compiled from various sources)
French comment : Kircher applique au son les lois de l'optique qu'il connaît mal (il ne connaît pas les ouvrages de Descartes). Il théorise d'une façon ésotérique (mécanique fantastique) certains phénomènes acoustiques, comme la propagation du son et l'écho. Dans la tradition des anciens traités, particulièrement les arabes, il dresse des tableaux symboliques attribuant des formes musicales à des caractères nationaux ou sociaux. Il dessine et théorise une machine à composer, « l'arcamusirithmica ». Enfin, il développe, à la suite des traditions médiévales, une théorie « mondaine », assise sur l'harmonie des sphères et des nombres, liée la religion. Contrairement au mouvement critique de relecture des textes anciens qui agite le monde savant de son époque, Kircher prend les mythes anciens pour argent comptant, et à sa manière les re-rationalise. Il corrige ainsi Martianus Capella, qui décrit la musique que le vent produit dans les arbres du verger d'apollon à Cirrha. Pour Capella, les branches du haut, du milieu et du bas forment les intervalles d'une octave, d'une quinte et d'un ton. Kircher pense au contraire que ce sont les différentes hauteurs des arbres qui sont proportionnelles. Et il cherche dans le nature, des plantes harmonieusement proportionnées. Même les animaux peuvent « résonner » par sympathie. Ainsi, il observe, lors de son voyage en Sicile avec le landgrave, comment les pêcheurs attirent les espadons avec des cloches et des chansons. Il raconte comment un concert de luth le mena à la transe qui lui « permit d'atteindre la lumière divine à travers les sept sphères planétaires. ». (Jean-Marc Warszawski, musicologie.org)Le second ouvrage du P. Kircher qui a pour objet spécial une branche de la musique, a pour titre : "Phonurgia Nova". Cet ouvrage est le développement de quelques parties des premier et sixième livres de la "Musurgia Universelle", avec quelques inventions d'instruments acoustiques dont l'exécution n'aurait peut-être pas répondu aux résultats que Kircher en attendait. Cependant ce livre n'est pas sans intérêt : il renferme un certain nombre de faits qui paraissaient merveilleux à l'époque où l'auteur écrivait, mais dont on a depuis lors vérifié la réalité, et dont on a trouvé les lois. (François Joseph Fétis, "Biographie Universelle des Musiciens et Biblographie Générale de la Musique", Tome V, Firmint-Didot & Cie, 1878 Elibron Classics, 2005, pp. 36-37)
Original excerpt : « Inside a room ABCD, where a spiral-shaped tube (cocleato) was put and moved in E or in the vertical conduit S, lies a statue having moving mouth and eyes and having breathing life through the entire mass of the body. This statue must be located in a given place, in order to allow the end section of the spiral-shaped tube to precisely correspond to the opening of the mouth. In this manner it will be perfect, and capable to emit clearly any kind of sound : in fact the statue will be able to speak continuously, uttering in either a human or animal voice; it will laugh or sneer; it will seem to really cry or moan; sometimes with great astonishment it will strongly blow. If the opening of the spiral-shaped tube is located in correspondence to an open public space, all human words pronounced, focused in the conduit, would be replayed through the mouth of the statue : if it is a dogs bark, the statue will bark, if someone sings, the statue will answer with singing and so on. If the wind blows, this will taken into the spiral-shaped tube; therefore the statue sill be forced to emit very strong breaths. Applying the breath to a pipe, it will play. Bringing the trumpet near to mouth of the statue, the musical instrument will play and it will make innumerable fun effects of this kind, provided that the spiral-shaped tube is disposed with the greatest of attention. [...] The ‘delectationes’ were developed particularly to amplify voices inside places, to call at a distance, to send music to different rooms, to eavesdrop. » (Translated from Latin by Galia Mastromatteo)
Source : L. Tronchin, I. Durvilli and V. Tarabusi, “The marvellous sound world in the ‘Phonurgia Nova’ of Athanasius Kircher, DIENCA - CIARM, University of Bologna, Acoustics’08 Conference, Paris, June 29 - July 4, 2008, p. 4185-4190.
Urls : http://intellagence.eu.com/acoustics2008/acoustics2008/cd1/data/articles/000807.pdf (last visited ) http://www.musicologie.org/Biographies/k/kircher.html (last visited ) http://special.lib.gla.ac.uk/exhibns/month/nov2002.html (last visited ) http://www.phonurgia.se/rendel/cgi-bin/kircher/kircherianum1.cgi (last visited ) http://echo2.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/content/jesuit/jesuit_sciences (last visited ) http://echo.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/ECHOdocuView?mode=imagepath&url=/mpiwg/online/permanent/library/B398U3SN/pageimg&viewMode=images (last visited ) http://echo.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/ECHOdocuView?url=%2Fmpiwg%2Fonline%2Fpermanent%2Flibrary%2FNXS3BTBA%2Fpageimg&start=141&viewMode=images&pn=150&mode=imagepath (last visited ) http://echo.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/ECHOdocuView?start=191&viewMode=images&ws=2&mode=imagepath&url=%2Fmpiwg%2Fonline%2Fpermanent%2Flibrary%2FNXS3BTBA%2Fpageimg&pn=197 (last visited ) http://echo.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/ECHOdocuView?start=191&viewMode=images&ws=2&mode=imagepath&url=%2Fmpiwg%2Fonline%2Fpermanent%2Flibrary%2FNXS3BTBA%2Fpageimg&pn=198 (last visited ) http://echo.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/ECHOdocuView?start=191&viewMode=images&ws=2&mode=imagepath&url=%2Fmpiwg%2Fonline%2Fpermanent%2Flibrary%2FNXS3BTBA%2Fpageimg&pn=200 (last visited ) http://echo.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/ECHOdocuView?start=211&viewMode=images&ws=2&mode=imagepath&url=%2Fmpiwg%2Fonline%2Fpermanent%2Flibrary%2FNXS3BTBA%2Fpageimg&pn=212 (last visited ) http://echo.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/ECHOdocuView?start=211&viewMode=images&ws=2&mode=imagepath&url=%2Fmpiwg%2Fonline%2Fpermanent%2Flibrary%2FNXS3BTBA%2Fpageimg&pn=214 (last visited ) http://echo.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/ECHOdocuView?start=211&viewMode=images&ws=2&mode=imagepath&url=%2Fmpiwg%2Fonline%2Fpermanent%2Flibrary%2FNXS3BTBA%2Fpageimg&pn=216 (last visited ) http://kircher.stanford.edu/gallery/contents.html (last visited )

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