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Another example may help to render this more intelligible.
In pronouncing these examples, if the proper sound is given to the emphatic words, all the rest must be spoken essentially as here described. It follows that the most direct means of curing artificial tones, is to acquire a correct emphasis. But,
2. In order to this, another attainment seems indispensable, namely, some good degree of discrimination as to vocal tones and inflections.
Some, who can imitate a sound, immediately after hearing it from another voice, suppose this to be the only way in which it can be done. But let a thousand persons, who understand the English language, repeat the familiar question, “Do you expect to gó, or stay?" —And will not every one of the thousand give the same turn of voice on the words in Italics? Where is the difficulty then of placing such a mark on these turns of voice, that they may be transferred to any other word ? This simple principle suggested to Walker his notation of sounds for the eye; and incomplete as it is, something of the kind is so necessary to the student of elocution, that, without it, the aid of a living teacher cannot supply the defect. And in most cases, nothing is wanting to derive advantage from such a theory but a little patience and perseverance in its application.
Sect. 3.—Pitch of Voice.
This is a relative modification of voice; by which we mean that high or low note, which prevails in speaking, and which has a governing influence upon the whole scale of notes employed. In every one's voice, this governing note varies with circumstances, but it is sufficiently exact to consider it as threefold; the upper pitch, used in calling to one at a distance; the middle, used in conversation; and the lower, used in cadence, or in a grave, emphatic under key. Exertion of voice on the first, exposes it to break;
and and on the last, renders articulation thick and difficult,
leaves no room for compass below the pitch. The middle key, or that which we spontaneously adopt in earnest conversation, allows the greatest variety and energy in speaking
Whether this is high or low, compared with that of another man, is not essential, provided it be not in extreme. Among the first secular orators of Britain, some have spoken on the grave, bass-key; while Pitt's voice, it is said, was a full tenor, and Fox's a treble.
The voice that is on a bass-key, if clear and well toned, has some advantages in point of dignity. But a high tone, uttered with the same effort of lungs, is more audible than a low one. Without referring to other proofs of this, the fact just now mentioned is sufficient, that we spontaneously raise our key, in calling to one at a distance; for the simple reason that we instinctively know he will be more likely to hear us, in a high note than a low one. So universal is this instinct, that we may observe it in very little children, and even in the call and response of the parent bird and her young, and in most brute animals that have voice.
The influence of emotion on the voice, is also among the philosophical considerations pertaining to this subject. A man under strong in tellectual excitement, walks with a firmer and quicker step than when he is cool; and the same excitement which braces the muscles, and gives energy to the movements of the body, has a correspondent effect on the movements of the voice. Earnestness in common conversation assumes a higher note, as it proceeds, though the person addressed is at no greater distance than before.
A practical corollary from these suggestions is, that the speaker or reader should avoid a high pitch, at the beginning, lest he rise, with the increase of interest, to painful and unmanageable elevation.
The proper means of avoiding extremes, is to learn the "distinction between force and elevation; and to acquire the power of swelling the voice on a low note. This introduces our next topic of consideration.
Sect. 4.- Quantity.
This term I use, not in the restricted sense of grammarians and prosodists, but as including rotundity and fulness of tone, loudness, and time.
Rotundity and fulness.-As to inflection, emphasis, and the varied adaptation of tones to sentiment, the only laws of voice, in deliberate speaking and reading, that can be considered as natural, are derived from conversation But in another respect, the habits acquired from this source, occasion some of the most stubborn difficulties, which the
learner in elocution has to surmount. For, to what purpose has he heen accustomed to use his voice? Almost exclusively in a hurried utterance of a sentence or two at once, to an individual, or a small number of persons, so near him, or so well acquainted with what he is saying, as to understand him, though it be but half spoken. Thus, by using his voice only in conversation, (excepting occasionally, when he has opened his organs to a fuller note, in speaking a word or two, to some one at a distance,) he has become confirmed in a rapid, indistinct, seeble enunciation of the chief elementary sounds.
But when he comes to train his organs, in exercises of elocution; that is, when he comes to read or speak any thing, so that it may be audible and interesting to a considerable number of hearers, a new task is imposed on his vocal powers. Cost what it may, he must exchange the clipping, slurring, jerking sounds of fireside-talk, for a clear, open articulation, or he cannot speak nor read well. Dignity and force in delivery, depend much on the power of filling, and swelling, and protracting an open vowel sound; but no one attains this power, without pains and care; and without a process different from any thing that is ordinarily acquired in conversation.
It requires very little skill in sounds, to perceive that a in hat, is shorter than a in hate; that is, in the former case, the organs pass quickly over the vowel to the consonant,in the latter, there is more continuance on the vowel. Now this continuance may be protracted, more or less, at pleasure; for it requires only that we begin the sound of a in hate, and keeping the organs in exactly the same position, let the stream of sound proceed; thus,--ha .... te,
te. Just so, if you bring the organs to the proper position, and begin the sound of a in hat, you may protract it through the whole stream of breath, if you please, before the t is spoken,-ha ...... t.
But as every experiment of this kind implies a longer
note on the vowel sound, and tends almost of course to a louder and higher note, it will be better illustrated in connexion with the following articles.
Loudness. In theory, perhaps, every one can easily understand, that a sound may be either loud or soft, on the same note. The only difference, for example, betwixt the sound produced by a heavy stroke, and a gentle one, on the same bell, is in the quantity or momentum. This distinction as applied to music, is perfectly familiar to all acquainted with that art. As applied to elocution, however, it is not so easily made; for it is a common thing for speakers to confound high sounds with loud, and low with soft. Hence we often hear it remarked of one, that he speaks in a low voice, when the meaning is, a feeble one; and perhaps if he were told that he is not loud enough, he would instantly raise his key, instead of merely increasing his quantity on the same note.
If any one, who has given no attention to this point, thinks it too easy to demand attention, he may be better satisfied by a single experiment. Let him take this line of Shakspeare,
0, you hard hearts, you cruel men of Rome ! and read it first in a voice barely audible. Then let him read it again and again, on the same pitch, doubling his quantity or impulse of sound, at each repetition, and he will find that it requires great care and management to do this, without raising his voice to a higher note.
Strength of voice depends on the possession of perfect vocal organs, and on the due exercise of these.
The lungs, trachea, larynx, glottis, and epiglottis, are organs of sound, but not of speech, without the aid of others, namely the tongue, palate, lips, teeth, and 'nostrils, which are also organs of articulation. When these organs are all good, the voice of a speaker has sometimes been trained to such power as to be distinctly heard by twenty thousand people.
To strengthen the voice by exercise, observe these directions; (1) Whenever you use your voice on common occasions, use as much voice as propriety will permit. „(2) Read aloud, as a stated exercise. (3) Avoid all extreme efforts of lungs, especially in cases of hoarse
(4) Avoid habits that injure the lungs,-such as attitudes of study, that cramp the vital functions; stimulating food or drinks, in connexion with speaking; and sudden exposure to cold air, when the lungs are heated.
Time.-The reader is desired here to turn back to the
remarks which I made, p. 53, on the words hat and hate, exemplifying the protraction of sound in a long vowel. That he may the better understand my meaning, let him suppose himself listening to a military officer, at the head of a brigade, giving the word of command, march. The only way in which he can possibly utter this word, so as to be heard by several thousand men, is so to manage the only vowel in it, as to expend upon it the full power of his voice. To do this, he must not clip off the a, as he might in conversation, but must strike it on that key note where his voice has most strength, and then protract this broad, open sound, perhaps for two seconds, before he touches the consonants which follow; thus,-MA ......
The case is just the same with the still broader vowel sound, in the word halt, as uttered in military command.
That there is no impossibility in acquiring this power of protracting and swelling any open sound, is evident from the fact, that it is constantly done in music, when a pointed semibreve holds the voice to one continuous note, perhaps for three seconds.
But as discipline of the voice on unmeaning, elementary sounds, seems an arbitrary, and somewhat forbidding exercise, I shall set down a few brief examples, in which sentiment and emotion demand the above distinctions to be made, as to fulness, loudness, and time. These are intended as mere specimens, from which the reader will easily understand how to select others of similar character, from the EXERCISES, under different heads, especially Transition. These it will also be observed are taken from cases of exclamation, or other strong emotion, and addressed for the most part to persons supposed to be at a distance, requiring a full, loud note, on the emphatic words.
He woke to hear his sentry's shriek,