Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V22, Page 780 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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RACK, an homonymous word of which the principal branches are the words meaning (1) a mass of cloud driving before the wind in the upper air, (2) to draw off wine or other liquor from the lees, (3) a bar or framework of bars, (4) an instrument of torture. The etymology of (1) shows that it is ultimately to be connected with " wreck " and " wrack," drifted seaweed, and means that which is driven by or drifts with the wind; cf. Norw. rak, wreckage, refuse, Icel. reka, to drive, toss. In (2) the term seems to have come from the Gascon wine-trade, as Skeat (Etym. Dict., 1910) points ;out, and was adapted from Prov. arracar, to decant wine, rata; the stems and husks of grapes, dregs. Both (2) and (3) are in origin to be connected. The O. E. reccan and Ger. recken mean " to stretch," and so " rack " means something stretched out, a straight bar or rail, especially a toothed bar gearing with a cog-wheel, a framework of bars, as in the cradle of upright bars in which fodder can be placed for cattle, and the instrument of torture, which in Ger. is Recke or Rackbank. The " rack " for torture was an oblong frame of wood, slightly raised from the ground, having at one end a fixed bar to which the legs were fastened, and at the other a movable bar to which the hands were tied. By means of pulleys and levers this latter could be rolled on its own axis, thus straining the ropes till the sufferer's joints were dislocated. Its first employment in England is said to have been due to John Holland, 4th duke of Exeter, constable of the Tower in 1447, whence it was popularly known as " the Duke of Exeter's daughter." In 1628 the whole question of its legality was 'raised by the attempt of the privy council to rack John Felton, the assassin of the duke of Buckingham. This the judges resisted, unani- mously declaring its use to be contrary to the laws of England. RACKETT, or RACKETT-BASSOON (Fr. cervelas or cervelat; Ger. Racket', Rankett or Wurstfagott), a kind of dwarf bassoon, now obsolete, with a body measuring only from 41 to I1 in. in length, but nevertheless containing the necessary length of tubing to give the bassoon or contra-bassoon pitch. The rackett consists of a barrel-like body, resembling the barrel drone of the musette (see BAGPIPE), made of wood or ivory. Round a centre tube are grouped eight parallel channels of very narrow cylindrical bore communicating with each other and forming a continuous tube nine times the length of the small body. A reed mouthpiece in combination with a cylindrical tube invests the latter with the acoustic properties of a closed pipe by creating a node at the. mouthpiece end; the fundamental note given by such a tube is, therefore, an octave deeper in pitch than would be an open pipe of the same length. The bassoon has a conical bore and the properties of the open pipe,wherefore the aggregate length of the channels in the rackett only requires to be half that of the bassoon, a physical phenomenon to which this curious freak owed its existence. In the rackett the holes are bored obliquely through from the channels to the circumference—three in front for the left and three for the right hand, with an additional hole for the little finger; while at the back are placed the vent and three holes, one for the left thumb and two for the right, the second hole being controlled by the ball of the thumb. The rackett is played by means of a large double reed placed within a pirouette or cap, so that the From Capt. C. R. lips do not come into contact with the reed, but nay's Catilague ,f only send a stream of compressed air into the Musical Instru- i mews, by prouette, whereby the reed is set in vibration. p°rtnis- sion of Eyre & The consequence of this principle of construction, Spottiswoode. peculiar to the bagpipe chaunter and drones (with a slight variation) and to cromornes, hautbois de Poitou and a few other obsolete instruments, is that no harmonics can be obtained, since the vibrating length and the tension of the reed cannot be controlled by the player; the compass is therefore obtained by means of the fundamental and of the ten holes of the instrument, aided by cross-fingering. (K. S.)
End of Article: RACK
LOUIS RACINE (1692-1763)

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