Bee Music by Charles Butler, 1609 – ‘De Feminine Monarchie’

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‘This is arguably the single most influential or at least important apiculture book ever released in the english language. Butler conclusively overturned the prevailing myth of bee patriarchy by identifying the Queen as female ruler and the drones as male. The theory was more fully elucidated later by Jan Swammerdam.

The background to this music sheet image is quite extraordinary. Butler was attempting to transcribe bee sounds in musical notation. What began as a simple triplicate metre representation of rival queen bee sounds in the first edition was augmented later to become a madrigal (multi-voice unaccompanied by music) for 4 singers with the music appearing in such a way that a soprano and tenor on one side of the page could read the music at the same time as the countertenor and bassus on the opposite side’. ¬†(‘Peacay’)

Footnote – The buzzing sound of a bee is caused by the vibration of its wings. Scientists have calculated that a bee’s wings can beat over 250 times a second.

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