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 34 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 34 of 59)
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c-eptible, on the bcgining, the middle, and the end of the concrete
movement, and when heard in imediatc sucesion at its two ex-
tremes ; that the same force may be so continued thruout the
concrete, as to alter the characteristic feeblenes of the vanish ; and
that while the relative structure of the sini{)le radical and vanish
remains the same, force may magnify proportionaly the whole of
the concrete.


These streses we severally name, the Radical, the Loud concrete,
the Median, the Compound, the Vanishing, and the Thoro stres ;
as in the folowing diagram^

where I have visibly ilustrated the audible character of the forms
of stres on the concrete, to be described in the six folowing sec-
tions. The Reader is however to observe, that for the proper
Radical stress, which is not shown in the diagram, the initial open-
ing should be represented proportionaly to the vanish, fuler and
more abrupt than it is in the symbol of the sunple concrete.


Oj the Radical Stres.

The Radical stres consists in an Abrupt and forcible uterance
at the begining of the concrete movement : and we may pcrceve,
in the peculiar character, and exprcsion of this important stres,
a suficient ground for considering abruptnes a generic mode of the

The simple concrete, described in the second section, and here
caled simple, to distinguish it from its stresful forms and from
the wave, is represented in the above diagram, as having an initial
fulnes ; but the function now under consideration is cluiracterized
by a more suden explosion, at the firet opening of the voice ; the
subsequent vanish being caricd on in the diminishing structure of
the simple concrete. So few speakers are able to give a radical


strcs, witli this nionientarv burst, and therefore able to compre-
Iiend exactly, the description of it, that I must draw an example
from tlie efort of coughing. A single impulse of coughing is not
in all points exactly like the abrupt voice on sylables; for that
single impulse 'is a forcing out of almost all the breath ; which is
not the case in sylabic uterance : yet if the tonic clement a-we
be employed as the vocality of a sudcn cough, its abru])t opening
will truly represent the function of radical stress, when ased in

The clear and energetic radical stres must be preceded by a
cessation of the voice. There seems to be a momentary oclusion
in the larynx, or somewhere, to speak with caution, by which the
breath is bared and acumulated for the purpose of a full and suden
discharge. This oclusion is more under comand, and the explosion
is more suden, on sylables begining with a tonic element ; or with
an abrupt one, preceding a tonic ; for in the last instance, the
arlicidativc, if there is any diference between them, is combined
with the voGol oclusion. When a sylable begins with a subtonic,
or with an atonic which is not abrupt, the full degree of explosion
Ls not })racticable, as in tnanful, foster. If such words are pro-
nounced with vehement stres, there is always an interuption of
the voice after the initial element, in or/, in the examplcsj to alow
the succeding tonic the full force of a radical explosion. This
acount may explain more particularly the part performed in into-
nation, by suUtonic elements at the begining of sylables. It was
said in treating of sylabication, that the subtonic does not always
make a part of the concrete movement ; for should it have more
than a momentary quantity, it is continued upon the same line of
pitch, till the suceding tonic opens with a proper radical, and then
finishes the concrete. This ocurs on most ocasions ; for were it
posible to ojjen a tonic with so feeble a radical, that it may seem
absolutely to join itself with a subtonic, which has previously
risen partly thru the concrete, still there is so much of the abrupt
fulnes in the usual uterance of a tonic element, that it generaly
asumes to itsc^lf the first point in the interval.

When an imutable sylable, begining with a subtonic, is pro-
longed by oratorical license, it can be efected only in two ways.
By continuing the subtonic on a level line of pitch, till tin; short


tonic opening with its radical, completes the sylable with its rapid
vanish ; or by protracting- the short tonic, as the note of song.
Of these, the first changes least, the character of the sylable ; but
in each, there is a disagreeable drawling pronunciation. This
may be exemplified on the element I in the words let and jilack,
when so prolonged. We had some years ago, a Player, from
abroad, with so many shocking faults, that the Town, with unin-
tended irony, was all in an uproar about his extraordinary powers ;
and who, when quantity was desirable on these imutable sylables,
would, instead of yielding to that imutable fatej give an afected
drawl to the subtonic element. I remember, the whole philosophy
of this Actor's Histi'ionism was included in what he and his School
called ' Identity : ' the meaning, or rather the empty mysticism of
which, will be noticed hereafter.

The power of giving a strong, full, and clear radical stres to a
tonic element, is not a comon acomplishment among speakers ; yet
the free and proper management of this abrupt function is highly
important in elocution. Its two principal purposes arej to con-
tribute to the clearnes of articulation, and to form the distinguish-
iug acent and emphasis on imutable sylables. These sylables not
alowing the slow concrete, and being incapable, as will be shown
hereafter, of bearing the other forms of stres, the abrupt or ex-
plosive enforcement of the radicixl, apart from intonation and
vocality, is their only means for emphatic distinction.

Having pointed out the purpose and efect of the .radical stress,
in articulation, this is perhaps the place to consider the means for
insuring the distinct audibility, and elegance of sylabic pronuncia-

This subject has three divisions : the First embraces a consid-
eration of the specific sounds, which the changeable decrees of
human convention give to the alphabetic elements. The Second
regards the subject of radicid stress ; and the Third, an apropria-
tion of the several constituent elements of a sylable, to the con-
crete movement.

The First of these maters is like a republiciui government,
under the rule of any body : and; until some extraordinary revo-
lution shall bring every body to yield their discordant Wills to a
convenient agreenientj is therefore very properly to be excluded



from the discusioiis of a pliilosophy that desires to be exact and
efectual in its instruction. How can we hope to establish a system
of elemental pronunciation in a lanfina^c, when Great Mastci^ in
Criticism, and the whole literary School, condemn at once, every
atempt in so simple and useful a labor, and so easy, when once
taken gradualy in hand, as the corection of its 6rthogra])hy.

Suposing then the sounil of the elements to be precisely what
temporary authority has determinedj the clearnes of j)ronunciation
will depend, in the

Second case, on the efective execution of the radical stres.
Although every element should be heard in the sylabic impulse,
yet the tonic is generaly the most remarkable in the compound.
The characteristic of the sylable, therefore, lies, in a great meas-
ure, within this element ; and a full explosive radical stress upon
it, contributes much to distinct pronunciation. It is this which
draws the cuting edge of words across the ear, and startles even
stupor into atention ; this, which lesens the fatigue of listening,
and out-voices the murmur, and unruly stir of an asembly ; and
a sensibility to this, by a general instinct of the animal ear, which
gives authority to the groom, and makes the horse submisive to
his angry acent. Besides the fulnes, loudnes, and abruptnes of
the radical stres, when employed for distinct and forcible articu-
lation, the tonic sound itself should be a pure vocality. When
mixed with aspiration, it loses the briliancy, that serves to increase
the impresive efect of the explosive force.

Third. The principles of the sylabic com})ound, set-forth in this
esay, aford aditional means for acquiring what is called distinct
articulation. In order to insure a clear and striking uterance, the
whole sylable should be not only suficiently loud, but each ele-
mentary constituent, rejecting redundant elements, should be so
distinct, as to prevent the posibility of confounding sylables, having
the simie tonic, yet difering ])artialy or universaly in their sub-
tonics. This is efected, by distributing the time and movement of
the concrete, properly among the elements of the given sylable ;
and will be exj)lained by a particular instance. I once heard the
Actor, above abided to, pronounce the word plain, by prolonging
the voice on I, and then terminating the sylable, by a momentary
transit on ain. And altho in this case, I was clearly audible, yet


the rapid fliglit and blending of a and n rendered the character
of the whole sylable both faint and confused. One of the conse-
quences of this imperfect pronunciation, and it was a comon fault
with the popular Actor, was, that on turning his face from the
audience while speaking, many of his words, audible as inarticu-
late sounds, were uninteligible to an atentive ear, at medium dis-
tances in the theater. A practice like this, obstructs the equable
flow of the concrete, and overrules the proper aportionment of
time to the constituents of a sylable. For when each element of
plain, has its due proportion of time and of the concrete, the
uterance of the whole word will be just and satisfactory.

The principles of articulate uterance under this third head, may
be exemplified in the folowing sentence :

Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.

Should we give emphatic importance to the word more, soley by
the extent of quantity, and not by peculiarity of intonation ; and
should this quantity be spread upon an unequal wave of the rising
second and faling fifth, with a view to give a feeble cadence to the
dignified extension of the word : then, in asigning the elements, if
m rises by the second, and is continued downward nearly the whole
extent of a fifth, the o and r being rapidly made at its closej the
articulation will be imperfect. AVhen the time of the wave is
divided into three parts severaly about equal, and the m, o, and r,
are respectively asigned to these parts, the word will be properly

Many imutable sylables begining with a subtonic, are, in the
curent of dignified uterance, particularly in the reverentive style,
sometimes prolonged beyond the limit of their solitary or gram-
atical time. When this practice is asumed by oratorical licensej
without a knowledge of this equalizing precept that should direct
itj the adcd quantity is gcneraly expended wlioly on the initial
subtonic. If the sylables not, met, roek, lit, that, and vie, are \\i\-
usualy prolonged, there is less departure from corect pronuncia-
tion, by giving the aditional quantity to the subtonics, than to
the tonics. Still there is a want of that distinctnes by which a
sylable is imediately recognized ; for sylables arc known in part.


by the htibit of their quantity, both in the absolute time of the
whole, and the comparative time of their constituent elements.
In eaeii of the above instances, the time of the several elements
should strictly, be about equal, but by suposition, they are not ;
for when the subtonic is unduly extended, the tonic and the fol-
owini>; abrupt element have only their proper momentary duration.

And this disproportionate time of the elements, here asigncd as
the cause of indistinctne&s in speech, is still more frequently a
cause of inarticulate pronunciation, in the Singing voice.

In the instances of the words plain, and more, the time of the
concrete should be aportioned equaly among the elements ; and
this is necesary in the reverentive style, for the elegant and im-
presive uterance of other sylables, having a similar construction.
Yet we cannot give a universal rule on this point ; such indefinite
sylables, as men, run, I'm, and gel, having their prolongation on the
several subtonic, will not bear adition to the short tonic elements.

Radical stres is aplied to imutable, mutable, and to indefinite
sylables. In the first case, the shortnes of the quantity produces
as it were, only an explosive point of sound. It may be used on
the initial of all concrete intervals both rising and faling, and on
the be

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 34 of 59)