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 40 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 40 of 59)
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beyond the reach of analytic perception, that the suposed imposi-
bility alone, will jjerhaps raise a stronger oposition to the claims of
this Demonstrative Esay, than all the Author might despondingly
have anticij>ated against his prospects, in undertaking this ' forlorn
hope' of scientific inquiry. Many who in fine organization of ear,
a capability of delicate analysis, and a power of comprehensive
survey, poses the means for succesful investigation, will too prob-
ably, shrink from the labor of experiment, and seek to justify
infirmity of resolution, by defensively asuming the hopelesnes of


Of the Drift of the Voice.

He who has the rare gratification to hear a good reader, may
perceve, that while his voice is adapted to the thot or exprcsion of
individual w^ordsj there is a character in its continuous movement,
thru parts or the whole of his discourse; identical during the
prevalence of that movement, and changing with its variations.
Every one recognizes this diference in maner, between a facetious
description j and a solemn invocation from the pulpit; between
the vehement stres of angerj and the well known whining of com-
plaint. It is to this continuation of any one kind of vocal curent
or style, whatever may be its thot, or pasion, that I aply the term
Drift of the voice : and which I briefly noticed in the sixth and
eighth sections.

This subject is not unecesarily specified by a name, nor uselesly
ofered to the studious atention of the Reader ; for if a particular
drift is required on a portion or on the whole of discourse^ any
marked change of its asumed and apropriate character, will do
equal violence to expresion, and taste. The introduction of a tone
or second, into the plaintive drift of the chromatic melody, would
no less ofend against propriety of speech, than the erors of time in
music, would shock the sensibility of an acurate ear.

The importance of the subject of drift being admited ; let us


consider j Upon what it is founded ; and how many diferent styles
it employs.

Drift is founded on tlie various forms of the four modes of
vocality, time, force, and intonation. These forms have been
described individualy, as representing thot and pasion, for the
ocasional purpose of emphasis. We here consider the maner of
aplying them, and their peculiar efect, when employed on a part
or the whole of the curent melody.

The questiouj How many diferent characters drift may asume,
is to be answered by ascertaining, which of the uses of vocalitA',
force, time, and pitch, will bear a continuation ; some not alowing
extended repetition without producing a disagreeable monotony.
In general, most of the forms of time, stres, and intonation, may
as ocasion requires, be severaly a curent melody, Avithout violating
propriet}^ or taste ; others can be employed only on a phrase or
a solitary sylable, and therefore should not be made a drift in

Altho the character of a drift may pervade the whole sentence,
yet the peculiar form of voice which produces it, is in some cases
aplied only to certain sylables. Unacented sylables cannot bear
the prolonged time, required for the drift of dignity; still the
dignity is spread over the whole sentence, by its long quantities
alone. We here enumerate the various styles of drift.

The Drift of the Second, or the Diatonic Drift. Tlie diatonic, or
as we otherwise call it the Thotive melody, is used for simple
narative and description ; and having no remarkable cxpresion,
should be, under Nature's ordination, one of the most comon
forms of drift. The employment of expresive intervals, when
not required, in the plain diatonic curent, violates a leading law of
fitnes or decorum in speech. Let a gazcte advertisement be read
with the solemn drift of a long quantity, or in the plaintive style
of the seraitonej and all, at least of our New school of Criticism,
will acknowledge the improper a})liciition of time and intonation.
In the usual course of the diatonic melody, perhaps tlie upward
concretes predominate; the downward vanish of the second, being
ocasionaly introduced for variety; yet when recpilred by the gravity
of the subject, the use of this downward second may without
monotony, constitute a drift.


The Drift of the Semitone. Enough has been said on the sub-
ject of the chromatic melody; it exemplifies the present head.
This form is used in discourse of a plaintive, tender, and supli-
cating character. It was shown in its proper place, that every
interval is practicable on every kind of quantity ; the semitone
therefore, in its drift, is heard on every sylable, however short;
and even when unacented.

JTie Dnft of the Dowmcard Vanish. It was saidj the faling
second is sometimes used as a drift. The downward third and even
the fifth is ocasionaly heard in continuation. Their curents expres
positivenes; and an earnestnes of conviction j with resentment, when
enforced by stress. The folowing indignant argument from the
pleading of Volumnia, in Coriolanus, bears the slow- concrete of
the downward fifth on all its emphatic, with a rapid concrete of
the same interval, on its other sylables.

Come let us go :
This felow had a Volcian to his mother ;
His wife is in Corioli, and this child
Like him by chance.

A continued use of the downward intervals, is as we have
learned, a form of drift in exclamatory sentences.

The Drift of the Wave of the Seeond. This is used in contin-
uation on long quantities, for ocasions of solemn, deliberate, and
dignified speech. I do not sayj this wave may not be aplied to
sylables of moderately extended timej and even rapidly executed
on those we caled mutabfe ; but it is on long-drawn or indefinite
quantities that its efect as a drift, becomes remarkable. With
an ocasional use of a wider wave, longer quantity, and the median
stres, it constitutes the Reverentive or Admirative Drift.

The Drift of the Wave of the Semitone. This is the most comon
form of a pathetic drift : for the states of mind directing the
chromatic melody, generaly call for slow time and continued
quantity. Under this, and the preceding head, both the direct
and inverted form of these Avaves are used interchangeably, in
their respective melodies. The rise and fall of the simple second,
having no peculiar character, the variation if any, in the efect of
the terminating-interval of its direct and of its inverted wave.


may be disregarded. A\Tiereas, the strong expresion of the wider
simple intervals produces a striking diference in the respective
closing concrete of their direct, and of their inverted waves.

The Drift of Quantity. Atractive characters of speech are
formed on Time. In discourse expresive of gayety, mirth, anger,
and other similar states, the uterance is quick ; and this is gen-
eraly combined with the simple concrete of the second, together
with a radical or vanishing stres. The drift of long quantity on
the wave, is employed in all solemn, plaintive, and dignified

We might make a threefold division of the temporal Drift, into
that of quick, slow, and median time.

The Drift of Force. Loudnes and Softnes, or with preferable
co-relative terms, the Forte and the Piano, respectively heard in
continuation, do impres the ear with their peculiarities ; and the
failure to fulfil the purpose of expresion on either of these points,
must be included among the faults of speech. Who will denyj
that on some ocasions the drift of comparative piano would be
ridiculous; and others again, when that of forte would be disgust-
ing bombast.

The Drift of the Loud Concrete. This is only reading or speak-
ing with more than usual force ; it may therefore constitute a drift,
and may be refered to the preceding head.

The Drift of the Median Stress. This is necesarily conected
with long quantity ; and generaly with that of the wave of the
second and the semitone ; for their prolonged time is always the
sign of that dignity, which for the most graceful display, requires
the median swell.

These nine forms of drift do, by their continuation, impres a
peculiar character on extended portions of discourse.

Of the other expresive modes of the voice, none are alowable in
that continuation which, acording to our previous acount of drift,
would properly constitute it. Yet as the aplication of some of
them extends beyond the limit of emphasis, they deserve a place
next in order to the full or Thoro drifts. If the Reader is disposed
to give them a name, they might be calcd Partial : and we havej

T/ie Partial Drift of the Tremor. The trenudous movement
is proper only on short and ocasional pasagcs, of what might be


called sylabic crying. But the tremulous expresion, both in the
plaintivenes of the semitone, and in the gayety and exultation of
the second and of wider intervals, is too remarkable to be long
continued in the curent of discourse. For tho drift is a kind of
monotony, it is only disagreeable when unduly continued or
improperly aplied.

The Partial Drift of Aspiration. States of mind requiring
aspiration are like those of the preceding head, generaly limited
to temporary portions of melody. When so aplied, the character
of uterance justly entitles it to the name of partial drift.

The Partial Drift of the Gutural Vibration. The use of this
scornful form of expresion is sometimes continued for more than
the time, and the solitary ocasions of emphasis : and thus produces
a limited drift.

The Partial Drift of Interogation. The rising third, fifth, and
octave are the interogative intervals. Their use in jjartial intero-
gation, excedes so slightly the extent of their employment for em-
phasis, as scarcely to deserve the name of drift. In declarative,
and other questions requiring the thoro intonation, the predomi-
nance of these impresive intervals, gives that peculiar character
which the comon ear at once perceves and comprehends. Still, as
questions are but portions of discourse, and as these wider inter-
vals are never used in continuation for any other purpose, this
form of drift must be considered as partial.

The Partial Drift of the Phrases of Melody. The IVIonotone
and the Alternate j)hrase are sometimes, severaly used in continu-
ation, to an extent that might constitute a partial drift. In the
twenty-ninth section, a peculiar character is respectively ascribed
to these two phrases, when continuously employed.

It may be a question^ How far vocality on a part or the whole
of discourse, might constitute a drift. The fulnes of the orotund
may give a character of dignity, at once distinguishable from the
meager huskines and forceles efforts of uncultivated speech.

These are the several drifts, respectively continued thruout dis-
course ; or restricted to the partial limits of a sentence or a clause.

Some of the constituents of vocal expresion will not bear repe-
tition ; and are therefore not admisible among the drifts.

It was saidj interogative sentences of the Thoro kind might be


regarded as carrying a partial drift of the third, fifth, or octave.
AVith the exception of this case, these wider rising intervals are
never corectly used in continuation. The minor third, used plain-
tively in crying and song, is in no way alowable as a drift j Nature,
for some wise purpose, having excluded this sign from what she
intended to be agreeable and efective speech. Its peculiarity will
be shown when we treat of the faults of speakers.

A current of these wider simple intervals being forbiden in
melody, their combination into the wider waves cannot be ex-
tended beyond the limited place of emphasis. There is however,
a drift of this kind observable as a fault in readers ; nay, some, in
their ambitious eforts can comand no other form of intonation.
But the least cultivation of ear rejects the undue repetition of these
florid constituents of speech.

Of the streses, none except the Median and the Loud concrete
are employed as a drift. The Radical would perhaps, be made a
curent style in a language of only emphatic and imutable sy lables ; •
and some bad speakers, particularly Pleaders at the Bar, who think
thereby to hammer-in their argument j do use this stres, as if their
own had been so constructed ; it is however too forcible to bear
continued repetition, without ofending the ear and distracting the
mind. The Vanishing and the Compound, are too remarkable as
well as too violent, to form a drift : and it need scarcely be saidj
the Emphatic vocule cannot be so used. As to the Thoro Stress ;
whenever it shall be generaly employed as a boorish drift, on long
quantitiesj the peculiar music of speech, every oratorical grace, and
the comon social and wayside decencies of the tongue, will long
before have left it.

There is a point worthy of some attention, in the art of read-
ing, and nearly related to the subject of this section. I mean that
notable change of voice, required in the transition from one para-
graph or division of discourse to another. It may be suposed,
this is already included in the foregoing history of drift. Siiould
there be a strong or peculiar expresion in the new paragraph, it
will be plainly distinguished by its proper character. Yet with-
out seeing the page, we sometimes know tliat a reiuler is pjising to
a new subject, even when there is no striking alteration of style :
and when the plain diatonic melody continues, after the transition.


The recognition in this case, is produced by several means. First.
By the period preceding the change, being made with that most
complete close, the prepared cadence ; this indicates the termina-
tion of a preceding, and the transition to another subject. Second.
By a pause, longer than that between sentences nearly related to
each other. Third. By the suceding sentence or paragraph, be-
gining at a pitch above or below the line of the previous curent.
Fourth. By a striking contrast between the triad of the cadence
preceding a pause, and the outset of a folowing phrase.

These vocal indications make the change of subject obvious,
when a peculiar construction of the sentence imed lately folowing
the period, defers the development of its thot or expresionj and
renders it imposible to ascertain, by the few first words, whether
the proximate sentences are imediately or remotely related to each

From a review of this subject j it apears that many of the vocal
signs may be continuously used as a drift, without producing
monotony ; some admiting of repetition, only to a certain extent ;
others cannot be aplied beyond the solitary place of emphasis. By
a beautiful fitnes, and consistency, these signs when inadmisible as
a drift, have a very striking character, and are reserved for only
the ocasional purposes of emphatic distinction. From this cause,
the downward eighth, with its impresive intonation, is never used
in drift. The case is similar with the wider forms of the wave ;
and with the rising third, fifth, and octave, when not employed
for interogation.

After what has been said, a little atention will show that several
drifts may exist at once, in the same melody. A curent of the
second, of short time, and of loudnes, may be united. In like
maner we may have a combination of the drifts of the piano or
the forte, with a wave of the second, a long quantity, and a me-
dian stress. The Reader can ascertain which of them may be
combined, by knowing the compatible characteristics of the several
means of expresion ; for they are united in every practicable way.
It is not necesary to give extracts from authors, to ilustrate the
various kinds of drift. With a knowledge of the modes of the
voice, and their forms, together with the foregoing history of their
general and particular uses, further explanation is unecesary. For


I am not less solicitous to limit the pages of this esay, than desirous
to extend the measure of its instruction.

We have si3oken of the material of drift, variously consisting
of the several modes of the voice. It may be otherwise regarded
as directed by thot and pasion, which respectively employ the
forms, degrees and varieties of those modes. From this view,
and from what w^e have learned in previous parts of this esay, it
apearsj the modes of the voice may be generalized with every
other voluntary and designed animal action ; and shown to be like
them, directed by a preceding mental condition. This being the
entire proces of the mind with vocal signs, it folows that the indi-
vidual state of thot or pasion, and its directive mental curent or
Drift, each produces respectively, its individual vocal sign, and its
intended vocal curent. Nor can there be good reading without
it ; for an apropriate mental drift is required to direct and sustain
the varied character of uterance. A dignified curent of unexcited
thot, with its proper constituents under full comaud, and with
suficient practice, will always insure a just execution of the plain
diatonic or thotive drift. A reverentive and admirative curent
will direct a still dispasionate, but more solemn and dignified uter-
ance of its curent sign. And in like maner, the mental curent of
the various pasions will direct the proper vocal curent for each.
If then the mental curent of the three several styles should be
interupted, tliere must be a change in the uterance : and we may
percevej that a well-ordered state of mindj a full knowledge and
comand of the constituents of the voiccj an acurate ear, and an
inteligent exercise of it, are four })rincipal causes of corect and
elegant speech. We learned formerly^ there is no long continued
curent of these several states of mind, nor of their vocal signs;
and that the dii'erent states, with their signs often interchangeably
displace each other. This does not liowever afect tlie acordance
between the mind and the voice; the groat esential of a true and
elegant elocution ; for the vocal curent changes with the state of
mind, and speech is still consistent with its rule. •


From a proper physical investigation, this apears to be the uni-
versal means for executing the united purposes of the mind and
the voicej destined under the influence of education and taste, to
suplant the delusions of that metaphysical ignorance, or a knowl-
edge of nothingj in which every asuming Individual gropes among
his own conceits, for the elocutionary Intuition that may enable
him to read with proper 'understanding and feeling;' but with
its Legion of different Individualities, can never frame for itself
a general rule of vocal expresion ; and that with the contentious
temper of contradictory notions, can only set the Intuitive 'feeling
and understanding' of one individual, against those of another.

I will ilustrate this subject of mental and vocal drift, by a
familiar example. Let the Reader give an important direction to
a servant. He will perceve in himself, an earnest and moderately
imperative state of mind, the drift or curent of which is not to
be broken, except by explanation, or by a pasing reflection. The
vocal drift of this Direction is diatonic, with the downward third
or fifth, on the acented sylables, acording to the earnestnes of the
case. Under this vocal sign the direction will accord with the
state of mind. And whenever we shall ocupy ourselves on the
state and action of our minds, with as much interest as we take in
our selfish wants, and acts of folly or erorj that state and action
will be as self-jDcrceptible as the vocal sign which denotes it. We
will aply this principle of the acording mental and vocal drift, to
the scene of Hamlet with the Player.

Hamlet's part has three purposes : Direction j and as Shakspeare
could not or never would write, without themj Coment, and Re-
flection. The first is here distinguished by italics ; the coment by
curved, and the reflection by angular brackets. The purpose of
the inclusive interlinear braces will be stated presently.

Ham. Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, tripinghj upon
the tongue : (but if you mouth it, as many of our players do, 1 had as lief the
town-crier spoke my lines.) Nor do not saw the air too much loith your hand,
thus ; but use all gently : for in the very tempest, torent, and as I may say,
whirlwind of your pasion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may
give it sm.oothness. [0, it ofends me to the soul, to hear a robustious periwig-
pated felow tear a pasion to taters, to very 'rags, to split^ the ears of the
groundlings ; who for the most part, are capable of nothing but inexplicable
dumb-show and noise: I would have such a felow 'vvhiped, for o'erdoing' Ter-


magant ; it out-lierods Herod :] Pray you avoid it. Be not too tame neither,
but let your own discretion he your tutor : suit the action to the word, the word to
the action; with this special observance, that you overstep not the modesty of
Nature ; (for any thing so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose
end, both at the first, and now, was and 'isj to hold as it were, the miror up to
Nature; to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own 'jniage, and^ the very
age and body of the 'time, his' form and presure.) Noio this overdone, or come
tardy off, tho it make the unskilful laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve ;
the censure of which one, must in your aloicance, o^erweigh a whole theater of
others. [O, there be players, that I have seen play, and heard others praise
and that highly, not to speak it profanely, that neither having the acent of
Christians, nor the gait of Christian, pagan, nor man, have so struted and
belowed, that I have thot some of Nature's journeymen had made them, and
not made them wellj they imitated humanity so abominably.]

Player. I hope we have reformed that indiferently with us.

Ham. 0, reform it altogether, and let those that play your clowns, speak
no more than is set down for them: (for there be of them, that will themselves
'laughj to set on^ some quantity of baren spectators to laugh too ; tho in the
meantime, some necesary question of the play be then to be considered ; that's
vilainous; and shows a most pitiful ambition in the fool that uses it.) Go
make you ready.

The mental and the vocal Drift for the Directive part of this
Advice, was described under the preceding example of a strict
order to a servant. The Coment being something explanatory,
or ilustrative, or questionablej and employing a diferent state of
mind, is to be utered with a less positive intonation. The Re-
flective portion embracing the mental condition of disaprobation,
or derision, or contempt, should receve the more forcible expresion
of earncstnes, and sneer. And both the Coment and Reflection
are to be given with a variety of upward and downward intervals,
and wavesj as the knowledge and the taste of the speaker, grounded
on the philosophy of the voice, may direct.

To ilustrate some of our principles of stres and intonation^ I
have merely marked with the comon accntual symbol, what apear
to be emphatic words ; but have not time to asign causes for the
choice. At six places I have included under interlinear braces,
certain words to be caried beyond their apointed and still preserved
pauses, on the plirase of tlie monotone. The })in'pose of this
monotone is to unite upon the car, the act with its cause or pur-
pose : as in the first casej the tearing to rags, is to split the ears
of the groundlings ; in the second, the cause of the whipiug, is tlie


o'erdoing of Termagant ; in the third, fourth, and fifth, the pur-
pose of playing, is severaly to hold the miror up to nature^ to show
virtue lier own feature, scorn her own image, and the body of the
time, his form and presure. In the sixth, the idle laughj is to set-
on idle spectator to laugh too. In this reading, it is the monotone
bridging as it were the pauses, with its level reach of voice, that
agists raaterialy in conecting the cause and purpose with their
object. There is an example of the emphatic tie on the words
players, play, praise, that, and havej with a moderate flight, and
abatement on intermediate clauses. The design of this grouping
is to conect by vocal means, five words separated in the construc-
tion ; thereby to bring to the foreground of perception, the player,
his habit of bombastic action, and his unmerited praise. If in
this instance, who were substituted for thaij the chain of the em-

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 40 of 59)