James Rush.

The philosophy of the human voice : embracing its physiological history; together with a system of principles, by which criticism in the art of elocution may be rendered inteligible [i.e. intelligible], and instruction, definite and comprehensive to which is added a brief analysis of song and recita online

. (page 27 of 59)
Online LibraryJames RushThe philosophy of the human voice : embracing its physiological history; together with a system of principles, by which criticism in the art of elocution may be rendered inteligible [i.e. intelligible], and instruction, definite and comprehensive to which is added a brief analysis of song and recita → online text (page 27 of 59)
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thru the first semitone, on fi, the next sylable yer seems to begin
at the top of that preceding concrete ; making the radical change
of the ascent in this case a semitone ; and as every concrete of a
chromatic melody is a semitone, it Avould folow, by the rule of the
scale, that each sucesive sylable of a chromatic progrcsion, Avhen
the radical pitch rises only one degree, must be at the distance of
a semitone above the preceding. But it has been shown that the
concrete pitch of this melody is, in slow uterance, gcneraly con-
tinued into the returning downward vanish of the semitone, in the
form of a wave ; here tlien, the above cause for the radical change
taking the interval of a semitone in its upward progress does not
perhaps, a[)ly. Whetiier in this case the subsequent upwaixl


radiciil change is by the semitone or the tone, I am not prepared
to decide, with the confidence I have felt in the result of other
observations re(H)rded in this Work.

In general, there is not much change of radical pitch in this
melody ; the monotone being its prevalent phrase. The question
is however, left to the plain, and unargued observation of others ;
not to be a subject for useles refinement and dispute ; as such, it
can be of no importance in the Practical Philosophy of Speech.

It was said in a previous section, that the diatonic melody admits
ocasionaly into its curent tJie third, the fifth, and the octave. It
may be askedj in what maner these intervals, when required by a
chromatic melody, are engrafted upon it. They have a place in it,
for the purpose both of plaintive interogation and of emphasis ;
and are aplied in the folowing maner.

Plaintivenes being the characteristic of this melodyj when an
interogative Avord requires the rise of the octave, fifth, or third, it
Ls conclusivej the expresion both of the semitone, and of that wider
interval should be conjoined. By a direct rise of the interval,
beyond the limit of the semitone, the plaintive expresion would
be lost. These two aparently incompatible efects therefore can be
united on one sylable, for the purpose of chromatic interogation or
for emphasisj only by leading the voice in the form of a wave,
thru the upward into the downward semitone on the apointed
sylable; and from the extremity of this downward vanish, con-
tinuing the upward concrete of the octave, fifth, or third, as the
intended interogation, or the emphasis may require; thus forming
what we caled in the second section, a double-unequal wave.
When the peculiar keennes ascribed to the octave is recolected, it
must at once be suposedj it is rarely found among the signs of
semitonic interogation ; the less im})resive third or fifth being
comonly used for this purpose. Perhaps the Reader may not here
require an ilustration of the chromatic melody, by the staff. The
precision I have endeavored to give to the terms of this subject
will it is hoped, enable him to comprehend it without delineation,
or to mark the tablature for himself.*

* I here give pluce to the licador ; for surely, hy a knowledije of our miiner
of ilustration, ho ('an easily draw tlie apropriatc symbols.

It is the great rccomendation of a System of Pjlucution, derived from the


The cadence of a chromatic melody is made by a peculiar con-
struction of the triad.

The Reader on experiment will find, there is no other means
for reaching the full and satisfactory paase of discourse, on three
distinct sylables, than that of the diatonic cadence, formed by the
radical descent of three whole tones, as noted in the first and
second diagrams of the cadence, in the eighth section. Conse-
quently the chromatic triad must be made by a similar radical
descent ; for a downward triad of three semitones would make no
more than a tone and a half. But in the chromatic mejody, the
concrete pitch or vanish of these radicals'^, which descend by three
whole tonesj is made thru the space of a semitone ; and the plain-
tive character of the melody is thereby comunicated to its close.

It is to be remarked here, that a sentence requiring the chro-
matic intonation, may sometimes be terminated by the plain dia-
tonic triad, whether the close is made on separate, or on conjoined
constituents; and further, that unimportant words and short
quantities in a chromatic sentence, may receve a radical and
vanishing whole tone, without destroying the plaintive expresion ;
provided the semitone is heard on all acented, and long quantities :
tho more comonly the short and unaeented sylables bear tlie rapid
semitonic concrete.

The forms of the Diatonic cadence, which may be ocasionaly
aplied to a chromatic melody, are described in the eighth section.
I here consider the cadence that bears a plaintive expresion.

pure and living Fountain of investigated Nature, whence everj' clear and
useful stream of knowledge flows^ that its efective ways and moans may be
recorded, and its available benefit difused and perpetuated. But it is worthy
of notice on this subject, as on most others, that exactnes of science, either
from the confident quietude of its progres, or its freedom from ill-tempered
controversy, has always been the least sought, if not the last desired, where
they cannot see their personal interest in it, by the mass of oven the so-culed
wiser part of mankind. And certainly, it is not a little remarkable, in re-
garding all the Five Modes of tho voit-ej that Pitch, with its exact intervals
of vocal Intonation, ever unalterable in nature, and tho onl}' one pnuMsely
describable under definite forms and degrcosj should bo that particular Mode,
of the Five, which has been, and still is declared not only to bo unknown,
but to be beyond the reach of future discovery. And all this, because some-
body first said so ; and then every folowing individual of tho carles and
unthinking Flock said so, a/te?' Aiw.


Tlie chromatic cadence may Ik- made on a single long sylable;
or it may be alottcd to two sylables ; or the space of its descent
may be divided between three.

When the three vocal constitncnts are joined scveraly to three
separate sylables, the close is made by taking the radicals, at the
interval of a M'hole tone sneesivcly in descent ; and by giving to
each of tlie lirst two constitncnts, the rising vanish of a semitone;
and to the last the feeble downward vanish of the diatonic close.
This is exemplified by the following diagram; where the vanish,
and the upward change of radical [)itch in the cnrent melody, are
both to be taken as a semitone ; and the dovmward radical, either as
a whole tone or a semitone ; for I leave this as a questionable point.

Pit — tv the sor


of a poor



4 4 4^


4 4 «r


• " %

It is true, the last constituent may terminate with a downward
semitone ; or may rise thru a semitone, and then in continuation
descend concretely below the pitch of its radical ; canying the
plaintive expresion on the unequal direct wave, to the very close.
In this case however, the perception of the cadence will not be
so complete as when made acording to the above notation.

The chromatic triad is also made, by continuing the rising
semitone into a wave, and carrying its downward concrete into the
full body of the succding radical : or otherwise by the downward
concrete, meeting the radical, but not coalescing with it. In
the latter case only, can the radical receve an abrupt fulncs. A
cadence is therefore more complete, with the radicals thus strongly
marked; as in the following diagram:

When the phiintive cadence is restricted to two sylables, they
may be conected in like raaner, by the wave of the semitone on
the first constituent of the triad, continued downward to the last;


either by carying the downward concrete into the full body of its
radical, or by its only meeting, but not coalescing with it; which
case is here ilustrated :

A poor old man.

The Reader can draw for himself, two diagrams, in other re-
spects similar to the above, but with the downward liiie enlarging
into the radicals, as it joins them, for the coalescing form : in
which case there will be a sweling fulnes of voice, at the place of
the radicals, without a break in the line.

There may be a chromatic descent on a single long sylable.
This should never be used in corect speech, except for some
special design of expresion, unconected with the cadence. To dis-
tinguish it, as a chromatic close, from the feeble diatonic cadence,
it is necesary, by the previous rise of a semitone, to give it a plain-
tive character. The continuation of this rising semitone into a
downward terminative concrete forming an unequal direct wave,
may have the efect of a close ; but it has at the same time, a
whining intonation, altogether foreign to the desirable and apro-
priate character of the chromatic cadence.

There is still another form of the Chromatic close, resembling
the skipping, or false cadence of the diatonic melody. It consists
of a concrete semitone on the antepenult sylable, and an imediate
discrete descent by the radical pitch to the final constituent of the
triad ; omiting the second altogether. We do not need a diagram
of this form ; it is shown by the above example of notation, sup-
osing it to be without the descending concrete, which there meets
the final constituent. It is rarely used as a close; and only when
a peculiar emphasis^ may be recpiired on the hist word of the

As the diatonic cadence, so the chromatic, has dificrcnt degrees
of repose ; and these depend on its construction. That entire
consumation, required at the period of discoui*sc, is efectcd by
the triad form in the first of the above notations. Tiie second
which is still a triad, with its three constituents meeting, but not


coalescing by the downward vanisli, has as strongly marked a char-
acter as the first. The coalescing form denotes less repose ; there
heing no abrupt fulnes of the radical, the cadence will be less im-
j)resivc, for it is this conspicuous display of a descent by radical
pitch wliich produces the remarkable efect of a vocal period. The
third construction represented above, is the feeble form of the
chromatic cadence ; for being upon only two sylables, it has not
the full efect of the downward change of radical pitch when made
on three ; and therefore falls short of the expresion required for
a satisfactory close.

In concluding this history of the five rising concrete and discrete
intervals, and of their uses in elocution, I have only to add that
the Fourth, Sixth, and Seventh may be employed for interogative,
and emphatic expresion, respectively similar to that of the third,
fifth, and octave. But the third, fifth, and octave, severaly adja-
cent to those other intervals, are by some constitution of the ear,
more easily recognized as definite points, on the instrumental scale,
and in the discrete movements of the human voice. On this
acount the enumeration in the ])receding sections has been limited
to the semitone, second, third, fifth, and octave of the diatonic
scale. I have not particularly inquired into the chai'acter of the
remaining fourth, sixth, and seventh; nor of any fractional ex-*
tensions of the concrete of the other five ; belevingj they only
cxpres unimportant variations in degree, of the states of mind
conveyed by those we have particularly described.

In all the foregoing descriptions of the forms and efects of
the various concretes, they have been represented as bounded by
fixed degrees of the scale. Yet it ha.s just been said, that besides
the second, third, fifth, and octave, other intermediate variations
of these intervals may be used, as vocal synonyms in speech.
This leads to an inquiry^ how far any definitely marked extent
should be asigned to the several intervals. It is therefore necosary
to be more particular on this point; and to answer my own ques-
tionj whether the atenuated close of the vanish does im])res the
car with the exact place of a musical interval on the scale. I


might scarcely have noticed this subject, had not the possibility of
measuring, at all, the intonations of speech, been almost univer-
sally denied ; and had I not thot this old prejudice, even after
what has been shown, might when driven to its corner, make a
desperate defense, by some unecesary refinement on this very ques-
tion. I do not say, the stops, as they may be caled, of the vanish,
if even suficiently exact for all practical purposes, as I beleve
them to bej are so strongly impresed on the ear, as those marked
with a precise note, either by song or on instrument*. And altho
a want of measured acuracy in the equable concrete, may not be
as readily perceved, as in these two cases, still, great exactnes on
this point, is not required in speech. In music, with its precise
notes of the discrete scale, false intonation is imediately obvious,
even in the sucesions of melody ; and in the coexistent notes of
harmony, the efect is still more remarkable. But speech is a solo,
as well as a concrete performance, and therefore, any slight want
of acuracy at the point of the vanish, even if perceptible, is never-
theles, under my observation, of very little consequence. If our
States of mind were marked in degree, by nice and palpable dis-
tinctions, it would be proper to expres them, by like gradations in
the voice. Still, as in the gramatical variation of adjectives, the
three degrees suficiently distinguish, for comon ocasions, the count-
ies shades of comparison^ so with the interogative intervals, a dif-
erence of third, fifth and octave, is suficient for present practical
-use of their vocal expresion.

The Second it has been shown, has what we call a plain diatonic
character, apropriate to narative, or unimpasioned discourse. It
may then be asked, whether a want of precision, in marking the
interval would destroy that character. By my observation, it
would not ; provided the variation is slight, and not diminished
one half, down to a semitone, nor extended half a tone, up to a
minor third ; the former producing a plaintive expression, and the
latter, as a fault, being inadmisible into speech. Should the voice,
in executing this and various other intervals, even exeede, or fall
short of the exact points of the scale, by any minut« degree, let
others more fastidious, decide the question of its impropriety. To
my ear however, for all the precision re(piired by this case, there
is in the educated voice, no deviating intonation at the close of the


vanish, tliat would ever mar, when till else is right, the purpose of
a corec't and elegant ehKUition.

And here we luay observe, that the Enharmonic quarter-tone
of six parts, the semitone being twelve; as proportionaly aranged
in the Greek scale, described in our first sectionj can liave no j)lace,
or if place, no efect, in corect or natural speech. I do not how-
ever, say, that in the random eforts of the voice, sonie concrete or
discrete interval, upward or downward and difering by a quarter-
tone or any other fraction, greater or less, from those we have asigned
to speech, may not; in the iregularities, and sometimes even in the
intended proprieties of utcrance, be employed : but we must now
perceve enough of the great circle of speech, to satisfy us, that for
a practical, and «7imetaphysical system of the voice, these trans-
cendental degrees of intonation, for any of our intents, do not
deserve a further notice.

Admiting absolute precision of interval to be a matter of im-
portance, the comand over it might be easily acquired ; for the
vanish cannot be atenuated beyond the ability of the ear to measure
it. The place in pitch, of a prolonged note of song, with what is
caled a diminuendo, is still conizable, as long as it is heard ; and
to a studious observer it is equaly so in the vanish, or diminuendo
of a concrete interval of speech ; tho the state of mind is con-
veyed more forcibly by the louder voice. How far tliis acuracy
of intonation may be required in speech, when we shall have
aranged the present chaos of the Human Intclect, into some efica-
cious system of exact perception, with no dishonest purpose, must
be determined by time. From the past, present, and prospective
disorderly state of our thots and pasions, I have, in this esay,
probably asigned more definite degrees, and forms of intonation,
either true or false, than will ever be required by the greater part
of orat'^trical mankind.

If this trifling mater is rcaly indeterminable, let it be excluded,
with all like refinements, from what should be a Practical, not a
Contentious system of elocution. Tliose wlio have so dogmat-
icaly aserted the imposibility of measuring, what they call the
* tones of the voice,' could not have refered merely to the point of
exactness here under consideration. For had the renowned Adam
Smith j who, as one of the number, may fairly represent themj


only caried his sagacious powers of inquiry into the subject of the
human voice, he would have clearly observed, that with so many
satisfying proprieties and beauties, in the natural system of speech,
the determination of this question is of little, if any importance
in the extended views of an efective elocution.*

* I regret to have been obliged to notice in this place, what our system re-
gards as a fatal eror in the writings of this able and elegant Observer: and
altho difering widely from him on the subject before us, I am hapy to pay the
due respect to his character as a Philosopher, in pausing for a moment, to find
a suficient cause, if not an apology, for his eror, by in^uiringj why, with his
eminent powers of analysis and of arangement, he did not closely aply them,
to the investigation of Speech, when he had once thot it worthy of his gen-
eral reflections. Adam Smith, with his means for wide survey, and for ilu-
ininating definition and division, and when triumphantly aplying them, to
gather into a regular system of Political Economy, those scatered facts and
principles, on the wealth of nations^ which many a statesman must have thOt,
as ireducible to order, as the suposcd imeasurable and indefinable constit-
uents of the speaking voices has, after a purposed inquiry, left us, what I
unwilingly record of himj his undisguised belief in the deep or endles con-
cealment of the forms of Intonation.

In the short and last paragraph of his ' Reflections on the Imitative Arts,'
he saysj 'As the sounds or tones of the singing voice can be ascertained or
apropriated;? [that is, put to proper use^) while those of the /tpeaking voice can-
not ; the former are capable of being noted or recorded^ {that is, of being rep-
resented hy symbols, or described by wordsi) while the latter can-not.' I do not
here, by verbal controversy, meet the eror of his belief; having thruout this
volume, furnished the argument, in its substantial facts. But as he might
himself probably have anticipated our record of those facts, had he trusted
to his own resources^ I shall endeavor to show, that by folowing-uphis method
of inquiry and explanation, why he did not.

To prepare for the above final declaration that the ' tones ' of the speaking
voice cannot be ascertained, ho begins with remarkingj 'A person may sing
afectedly, by endeavoring to please by sounds and tones which are unsuitable
to the nature of the song :' and again, ' The disagreeable afectation [iti song)
apears to consist always, in atempting to please, not by a proper, but by an
improper modulation of the voice.' Here is a plain statement of the cause of
the impropriety of afectation ; it is unsuitable to the 'nature' or purpose 'of
the song:' and it aplies equaly to all intonation; but Mr. Smith, unfortu-
nately sloping short in the just course of his investigation, refers it exclusively
to that of song. lie then procedcs to state, hoio wo know the disagreeable and
afected ' sounds or tones ' of song to be improper.

It having been, as ho remarks, early ascertainedj I report his rncnning) that
strings or chords of diferent lengths, or tensions, do in their respective vibra-
tions, bear a mensurable proportion to each otlier: the several sounds or notes
of these vibrating chords, and the intervals between them, become measur-



Oj the Dowmvard Radical and Vanishing Movement.

The functions of pitch hitherto described, are performed princi-
pally by a rising progres of the concrete, and of the radical change.

In an early page of this esay we learned, that the voice takes a
reverse direction ; that the radical movement, opening with fulnes

able, and by terms, asigniiblc for all their proper purposes. With this precise
discrimination, and a coresponding nomenclature, it was easy to com])are the
relations of chordal, or instrumental sounds, with those of the singing voice,
to name them, and to describe those suitable or not, to their purposcj and
therefore proper or improper in song.

So far, the course of the explanation is in Mr. Smith's usualy strict and
elementary maner, clear and instructive; and had he continued in this path
of observation and experiment, it would have led, by a similar proces, to a
recognition of the intervals of Speech^ and then, easily to their full develop-
ment. From that path however, as all others had done, he turned aside ;
droped the directive wand of analogy ; and instead of likening the intervals
of speech to those of song, and then ascertaining the truth by experiment;
just as the intervals of song had at first been thought, and then proved to be
like those of measurable chordsj he on the contrary, endeavored to showj
there is no perceptible similarity between the intervals of speech and of song ;
having aparently been misled, in this way. At the moment he turned from
the path of analogy and proof, the self-dependent habit of his mind deserted
him, to conform with a traditional authority ; and he was told by all around
him j First : That the ' sounds or tones ' of the singing voice are more numer-
ous, more distinct, and of greater extent than those of speech ; which as
a groping notion, crosing the onward track of truth, confused, at the start
the scent of inquiry. And Second : That while the former can be measured
by the constant proportions of musical chordsj the latter can-not; which
authority, put the chase so entirely at fault, as to end all hopes of the pur-
suit. These opinions having been adopted by Mr. Smith, it necesarily never
occured to him to endeavor to form a sort of experimental and comjjaralive
equation between the measurable intervals of sung, and the unknown and
rcquired.intervals of speechj asserted universaly, and belcved by iiimself, to
be imperceptible. This by his own, and by general belief jusliliably closed
the investigation; and here Mr. Smith left it: having sougiit, as it would
seem, only some asignable interval, however n\inute, between the indelinitely
small increments of the fluxionary concrete of speechj an inquiry of no prac-
tical importance^ instead of comparing, the obvious interval between the
begining and the end of that concrete, and i\ic discrete intervals between these


at a given place on the scale, descends thru its destined interval,
with the same equable concrete structure and diminishing force
which characterize the upward vanish. We must now consider
the varieties of form in the downward concrete, the ocasions of its
use, and the character of its expresion.

The downward progres of the voice is made in all the intervals
of the scale. In like maner with the rise, the descent is both by
a concrete movement, and by a discrete change or skip of radical
pitch. The characteristic efect of the descent, either concretely,
or by discrete skipj the several intervals, may be learned by the
folowing experiments.

Let the Reader express himself with astonishment, on the ex-
clamatory phrase, loell done; asuming the first word at a high
pitchj bringing down the last concretely from that hight, on its
prolonged quantityj and utering the phrase as if it were the close
of a sentence. Should the intonation on the word done, be meas-
ured by the scale, it will in his yet unskilful atempt, exemplify
the downward concrete Octave, or near it. Again, let the inter-
jection, heigh-ho, be made with a degree of emphasis that may
throw these two sylables on the extremes of the compas of the
natural voice. The transition from the elevated pitch of h^igh,

Online LibraryJames RushThe philosophy of the human voice : embracing its physiological history; together with a system of principles, by which criticism in the art of elocution may be rendered inteligible [i.e. intelligible], and instruction, definite and comprehensive to which is added a brief analysis of song and recita → online text (page 27 of 59)