Published online by Cambridge University Press: 29 August 2010
To Sir John Herschel.
Camden Street, June 8, 1856.
My dear Sir John,—I have long had the idea of a pianoforte in which each set of strings belonging to one note is to communicate with a pipe for resonance; and sometimes I have thought that a spring at the mouth of a pipe struck by a hammer would make a good instrument. In this case we might have various pedals opening and closing the upper end of the pipe. But I never imagined anything so grand as the introduction of a vast force by means of electro-magnetism. I should propose to call your instrument the electro-magnetic whack-row-de-dow.
What is the reason why thirds and sixths, major or minor, are more pleasant to the ear than fourths and fifths, which are consonances of simpler ratio of vibration? Fifths, by themselves, have a certain something which the ear does not like much of, and consecutive fifths we all know are forbidden. But thirds and sixths are very pleasant. If Dr. Smith's theory of beats be true, I almost suspect I spy a way to explain this. But I must get hold of an organ tuner, and learn whether they are actually effective.