January 09, 2009

Quotes: William Billings' Numb-Skull, & inharmonic Caverns

Kind Reader, No doubt you (do, or ought to) remember, that about eight years ago, I published a Book entitled, The New-England Psalm-Singer, &c. And truely a most masterly and inimitable Performance, I then thought it to be. Oh! how did my foolish heart throb & beat with tumultouos joy! With what impatience did I wait on the Book-Binder, while stitching the sheets and putting on the covers, with what extacy, did I snatch the yet unfinished Book out of his hands, and pressing it to my bosom, with rapturous delight, how lavish was I, in encomiums on this infant production of my own Numb-Skull? Welcome; thrice welcome; thou legitimate offspring of my brain, go forth my little Book, go forth and immortalize the name of your Author; may your sale be rapid and may you speedily run thru ten thousand Editions, may you be a welcome guest in all companies and what will ad tenfold to thy dignity, may you find your way into the Libraries of the Learned.
Billings also included a dissonant song called Jargon in response to "critics of the harmonic vocabulary of his first tune book." He includes a long discourse, addressed "To the Goddess of Discord":
I have been sagacious enough of late, to discover that some evil-minded persons have insinuated to your highness, that I am utterly unmindful of your Ladyship's importance; and that my time, as well as my talents, was wholly taken up in paying my divoto to your most implacable enemy and strenuous opposer, viz. the GODDESS OF CONCORD, which representation is as false as it is ill-natured; for as your Ladyship may believe me without hesitation, when I assure you on the word of an honest man, that knowing your Ladyship to be of a very cautious disposition; I have always been very careful of trespassing on your grounds for fear of incuring your displeasure, so far as to exite you to take vengeance (which is well known to be your darling attribute.)

I have likewise been informed, that some of my most implacable enemy's are some of your Majesty's privy council, and that your Majesty's Secretary at war, viz. Lord Jargon, was about to send some of your other Lords in waiting, viz. Lord second, Lord 7th, Lord 9th, alias 2d, junior [i.e. dissonant musical intervals], with some others, to beat a tattoo apon the drum of my ear, with so great a number of contra-vibrations without the intervention of a single coincidence, and with so much Forte as to dislocate my auditory; upon which was, to repel force by force, and we had even proceeded as far as to order Lord Consonance, our Secretary at peace to furnish our life guard with an infinite number of coincidences, without the intervention of one contravibration; and altho we have the majority on our side, yet we held it in scord to take any advantage from our numbers, therefore we had selected an equal number of those who had attained unto the first three, viz. Lord Unison, Lord Diapente, Lord Octave, alias Lord Unison, jun'r, and for their Aid de camps, we had chosen two twin brothers, viz. Major and Minor Trio, together with Major Sixth, &c we had proceeded thus far when in turning over a very antient history I met with the following passage, viz. "by wise council thou shalt make thy war, and in multitude of cousellors there is safety." [...]
This goes on for several more pages, & continues with a response from the goddess herself:

No comments: