The Complete Works in Philosophy, Politics and Morals of the late Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Vol. 2 [of 3]

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 265

of that arising from the
scenery and dancing. Most tunes of late composition, not having
this natural harmony united with their melody, have recourse to the
artificial harmony of a bass, and other accompanying parts.[64] This
support, in my opinion, the old tunes do not need, and are rather
confused than aided by it. Whoever has heard James Oswald play them
on his violoncello, will be less inclined to dispute this with me.
I have more than once seen tears of pleasure in the eyes of his
auditors; and yet, I think, even _his_ playing those tunes would
please more, if he gave them less modern ornament.

I am, &c.

B. FRANKLIN.

FOOTNOTE:

[64] The celebrated Rousseau in his Dictionnaire de Musique, printed
1768, appears to have similar sentiments of our modern harmony, viz.

"M. Rameau prétend que les dessus d'une certaine simplicité suggerènt
naturellement leur basse, & qu'un homme ayant l'oreille juste & non
exercée, entonnera naturellement cette basse. C'est-là un préjugé
de musicien, démenti par toute expérience. Non seulement celui qui
n'aura jamais entendu ni basse ni harmonie, ne trouvera, de lui-même,
ni cette harmonie ni cette basse; mais elles lui déplairont si on les
lui fait entendre, & il aimera beaucoup mieux le simple unisson.

Quand on songe que, de tous les peuples de la terre, qui tous ont
une musique & un chant, les Européens sont les seuls qui aient une
harmonie des accords, & qui trouvent ce mélange agréable; quand
on songe que le monde a duré tant de siècles, sans que, de toutes
les nations qui ont cultivé les beaux arts, aucune ait connu cette
harmonie; qu'aucun animal, qu'aucun oiseau, qu'aucan être dans la
nature ne produit d'autre accord que l'unisson, ni d'autre musique
que la mélodie; que les langues orientales, si sonores, si musicales;
que les oreilles Grecques, si délicates, si sensibles, exercées avec
tant d'art, n'ont jamais guidé ces peuples voluptueax & passionnés
vers notre harmonie; que, sans elle, leur musique avoits des effets
si prodigieux: qu'avec elle la nôtre en a de si foibles: qu'entin
il étoit réservé à des peuples du Nord, dont les organes durs &
grossiers sont plus touchés de l'éclat & du bruit des voix, que de la
douceur des accens, & de la mélodie des inflexions, de faire cette
grande découverte, & de la donner pour principe à toutes les régles
de l'art; quand, dis-je, on fait attention à tout cela, il est bien
difficile de ne pas soupçonner que toute notre harmonie n'est qu'une
invention gothique & barbare, dont nous ne nous fussions jamais
avisés, si nous fussions été plus sensibles aux

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Text Comparison with Franklin's Autobiography (Eclectic English Classics)

Page 13
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Page 43
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Page 109
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=86.
Page 176
Do you think that Emerson's definition of "genius" as given in the first paragraph of his essay on "Self-Reliance" can be justly applied to Franklin? You will be interested in following Franklin's experiments in determining the value of oil in stilling the waves, and also his investigations of the Gulf Stream and of the nature of storms.