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 41 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 41 of 59)
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phatic tie would be stronger and brighter, from the greater stres
practicable on its tonic element, and indefinite quantity. The tie
is also to be aplied to judicious, and which one; to overstep, and so;
to end and hold and miror. I would set a feeble cadence on ground-
lings ; and a rising third on the laugh, that folows unskilful; a
faling third on grieve; and a faling fifth on well, after made them.

On the subject of mental drift, I would ask the Readerj if he
does not know when he is angry, or pleased, or sorowful, aston-
ished, or inquisitive ? For these are curent states of mental drift,
which j if bad example has not confused or destroyed the original
conection between the mind and the voicej will enable hira to
speak properly, under a general rule of Educated Nature, that
Shakspeare here aludes to, but did not turn aside to explain.

In practicaly regarding the comprehensive bearing of these
masterly hints of advice, I might show it to be an exemplification
of a pasing thotj that if generaly, a player is, in his human char-
acter, as obviously educated to bad reading, as the ' sparks fly up-
wardj' Nature, by the instinct of her Dramatic Favorite, has
shown, in his unusual endowment, how 'prone' she is to perfec-
tion, by the indication of her laws of a true and expresive elocu-
tion, enfolded within these general but sagacious precepts. And
must I draw atention to it ? There is not, alas ! thruout the
whole leson, except in the vague direction about actionj an alu-
sion to the important mode of Speaking-Intonation ; which how-


ever, from the Author's many metaphoric references to it, and
from his fine musical earj must have strongly afected him. Nor
can yve avoid infering, that in Shakspeare's day, the subject of 'the
tones of the voice' with their only nomenclature of high and loio,
was suposed then, as this 'age of progres' regards it nowj to be
beyond the reach of analysis, and consequently without a claim to
be tat. And here the Great Philosopher-Poet, strangely unlike
himself, in ceasing to observe and reflectj went-alongj as Bacon
the Great Poet-Philosopher did with his belief in a metaphysical
Spiritj harnesed-in with the unthinking mind of the crowd.

Enuf has been urged in this volume, against the self-suficient
'genius' of the Actor, and the 'natural maner,' of the old school
of elocutionj to prevent what is here said, from encouraging
a conceit, that with only an instinctive thot and pasion, and a
voice to uter them, we can spontaneously speak with propriety and
taste : a notion altogether as vain, as that with the best instincts
of virtue and sagacity, the great mass of us can, under the present
narow and conflicting systems of scholastic, moral, political, and
religious education, ever hope to be wise, or hapy or great.

—•»e ©»«••—


Of the Vocal Signs of That and Pasion.

In describing the various modes and forms of the voice, I
severaly named and exemplified, the most striking distinction
between the Diatonic vocal-signs, denoting the simple state of
mind, we caled thots; and the Expresive signs of that active state,
variously and vaguely termed in comon language, 'emotion, senti-
ment, feeling, and pasion.' This should, to the extent it propose**,
satisfy the Reader; for it describes, in its own general way, all
that to me at least, is audible and capable of measurement. But
former systems of Elocution, having embraced a detailed enumera-
tion of the pasions, without however, posesing the means, and


without perceving the necesity, of designating the special and
apropriate voice for these various states of the mindj a like enu-
meration, closing the vocal sign respectively with the thot, and the
pasion, may perhaps be demanded here.

Thei'e is a kind of hypocritical compliment always paid to
originality, with this inconsistent purposej that mankind are eager
to receve what is new, provided it is told in the old way. I can
supose a Reader who, after all that has been said on the states of
mind, and their vocal signsj may from the habit of a scholastic
method and a term, still look for a separate section on the ' Pas-
ions,' embracing the many unmeaning atempts to describe their
expresion. To change this habit, if a habit can be changed by
any thing entirely diferent from itselfj and to satisfy an expecta-
tion by an unexpected substitute for its erorsj I ofer in the present
section, a more systematic view and conected detail of the subject,
and at the same time enlarge and further ilustrate our former
acount of the vocal signs of thot and pasion.

I had ocasion in the introduction, to notice the limited degree
of our knowledge, in some of the scholastic departments of Elocu-
tion ; and having, from the first, resigned myself to the authority
of observation, have endeavored far as posible, to avoid that refer-
ence to old systems and opinions, which might produce both con-
troversy, and quotation: knowiugj there is within the limited
pretensions of these departments, much that is uninteligible, and
more that is eroneous. We are now about to leave, for a moment,
the definite and luminous prototype of Nature, to contrast her
lights, with the mysterious shades of the opinions of men.

No author, as it apears, has paid more atention to the subject
of Inflection or the rise and fall of the voice, particularly in its
practical aplication, than Mr. Walker. Indefinite as he is on this
point, he excedes in specified rule, all that is said by Aristotle,
Cicero, Dionysius, Quinctilian, and the Older Musicians. It is
true, Mr. Walker owes his superficial analysis to them; but in his
knowledge of the purpose and use of Inflectionj infering from
their records j he fairly ' treads upon that Greek and Roman glory, '
which national vanity first proclaimed, and the subsequent cre-
dulity of European scholarship was simple enuf to magnify and


Let US hear then what ISIr. Walker says of the vocal represen-
tation of the pasions.

' It now remains,' observes this author,* ^to say something of
the pasions and emotions of the speaker. These are entirely inde-
pendent on the modulation of the voice, tho often confounded with
it; for modulation relates only to speaking loudly or softly, in a
high or in a low key, while the tones of the pasions or emotions
mean only that quality of sound that indicates the feelings of the
speaker without reference to the pitch, or loudness of the voice. '

Again in the hundred and sixty-sixth page.

' The truth is, the expresion of pasion or emotion consists in
giving a distinct and specific quality to the sounds we use, rather
than in increasing or diminishing their quantity, or in giving this
quantity any local direction, upwards or downwards. '

And again in another work.f

' As to the tones of the pasions which are so many and so various,
these in the opinion of one of the best judges in the kingdom, are
qualities of sound ocasioned by certain vibrations of the organs of
speech, independent on high, low, loud, soft, quick, slow, forcible or

It often happens with modern aspirants after some of the
sciences in the schoolsj as it did with those who anciently under-
went the mumery of admision to the mysteries of Eleusis^ to hear
themselves adressed in an incomprehensible 'language. What in-
struction, for instance, can be gathered from this definition, if it
strictly deserves the name ? ' The tones of the passions mean only
that quality of sound that indicates the feelings.' Here instead of
an explanatory description of a thing, we are presentetl with a
truism in a periphrase. For, as the terms '-pasions' and 'feelings'
must here be synonymous, as well as those of 'tone' and 'quality
of sound,' the varied proposition may stand thus : ' the tones of the
{or the tones which indicate the) pasions, mean only the tones which

* Elements of Elocution, pac^^ 308, Am. ed.

■}• Observations on Greek and Latin quantity, apended to Walker's Key to
the pronunciation of ancient proper names.

I Let us here consider, that Mr. "Walker's oj)inions have been, for the greater
part of a century, and still are, the source from which nearly all the school-
books on elocution have been drawn, in this Country, and thruout tho British


indicate tlie pasions :' or with less waste, ' the tones of the pasions
are the tones of the pasions.'

The second extract however, seems to contain a real distinction
between the subject and the predicate : as by 'quality' the author
may mean that mode of the voice, specified in this esay, by the
termsj full, harsh, slender, natural, falsete, whisper and orotund ;
for these are the only existing forms of vocal sound, besides those
which Mr. Walker has excluded from his definition. But if pitch,
wdiich is here meant by 'local direction,' be denied a place among
the signs of pasionj where shall we class the plaintive wave of the
semitone, the rising intervals of interogation, and the downward
vanish that conspicuously mark the various degrees of surprise?
AVhere arrange the efect of the diferent measures of time, and
the various degrees of stres, if speaking 'loudly or softly,' and
'increasing or diminishing the quantity' of sound have no agency
in the vocal representation of pasion ?

The real motive of Mr. Walker, in excluding intonation, stres,
and time, from among the signs of the pasions, and in his assign-
ing the expresion of speech to a certain unexplained cause called
'quality,' is clearly manifested in the last quotation; for here, this
opinion, on the expresive power of his term quality j as it is no more
than a wordj is ascribed to 'one of the best judges in the kingdom.'
After all then, this confused notion concerning the pasions was
adopted upon authority, by Mr. Walker ; and this confesion of his
faith in others, certainly did not acord with his repeated claims to
originality of observation. An original observer holding himself
responsible for his report, cros-questions the testimony of his
senses ; the borower of opinions is always less scrupulous^ as he
himself never designs to stand security against the folly or mis-
chief of his promulgations.

What has been recorded in our previous history, may induce
the Eeader to smile at the above quotations ; and enable him to
perceve, that the vocal signs of the pasions are no more than the
every-day audible sounds of the manifest Modes, Forms, and de-
grees of Vocality, Time, Force, Abruptnes, and Pitch ; and that
the greater part of these signs are derived from those very causes,
which are declared by Mr. Walker, to have no agency in impas-
ioned uterance. With regard to the 'specific quality' here asumed


as the vocal material of expresion, it is not alowable to supose,
the mode of voice calecl in this essay, Vocality or Kind, is meant
by Mr. Walker's term; his acount of 'quality' being complicated
with an atempt to derive its proximate cause, from some uninteli-
gible system of 'vibrations.'

Let the whole pass as an instance of that unatural paternity in
instruction, which when asked for bread, dispenses nothing but a
stone. And at the same time let it apologize for any aparently
unbecoming expresions that may have droped from my pen, wlien
unavoidably brought into contact with those grosser erors of indo-
lence or authority, whichj viewed along with the means, and pre-
tensions of Magisterial as distinct from Natural Science^ seem to
be almost unpardonable.

In reconsidering the subject of Expresion, under another view,
it is not my intention to go into a disertation on the pasions, or to
contend with authors about the scheme of their arang-ement. I
shall describe them with reference only to the purpose of the
present section, without designing to regard their other relation-

In the sixth section, we described three diferent conditions of
the States of Mindj and three forms of the vocal signs, that sev-
eraly represent them : but here for a moment, clasing the inter-
thoughtive with the pasionative, we regard the states of mind,
under two divisions. To the division of Simple Thot, the inter-
val of tlie second is alotted. To that of Pasion, the numerous
forms and varieties of the other intervals, and the impresive forms
of vocality, time, abruptnes, and force. These two divisions of
the voicej the thdtive, and the pasionative, include the Natural
signs, which instinctively denote their respective states of mintl.

But other means for denoting tliot and pasion being still re-
quiredj Artificial signs were devised. These artificial signs are
words, convcntionaly formed to describe tliese same states of mind.

To ilustrate the purpose and use of botli tliesc chisscs of signs,
and to show their relation to each other, I will here briefly again
present, under its two divisions, our former view of the states
of mind, on which we founded the distinction of their several

The human mind is the place of representation of all the ex-


istences, actions, and relationships of nature, within the limit of
the senses. These representatives we call perceptions. Percep-
tions are either the pasive pictures of things ; or they exist with
an activity, capable of so afecting the physical organs, as to impel
us to seek the object that produces them, or to avoid it. This active
or vivid class of perceptions comprehends the pasions. The states
of mind here described, exist then in diferent forms and degrees,
from the simple unexcited thot, to the highest energy of pasion ;
and the comon but indefinite termsj 'idea, sentiment, emotion,
feeling, and pasion' are the vague verbal-signs of these degrees
and forms. Nor ,does there apear to be, where they interjoin, any
line of clasifi cation, for distinctly separating the mental conditions
of thot and of pasion; as simple thots without changing their
meaning, do from interest or other excitement often asume the
degree and brightnes of a pasion.

This being one of the many views to be taken of the states of
mind, we pass to the consideration of the efects produced on the
visible and vocal parts of the human frame, by those thdts and
pasions. These efects have been caled their signs, or physical ex-
presion. They are of many forms and places ; and are severaly
marked by sound, feature, change of color, and variation of mus-
cular action : but we are at present concerned only with vocal

The voice, as just stated, has then two distinct clases of signs :
the Natural or vocal, so to distinguish it ; and the Artificial or

The Natural or Vocal consist severaly of time, force, abruptnes,
vocality and pitch. They have a two-fold agency ; for in their
various ways, and by their unasisted means, they are sometimes
significant of the states of mind ; but they may be, and generaly
are joined with the artificial or articulated signs. In the former
state they are the voice of infancy, before the period of complete
articulation ; are comon to man and the sub-animals ; and are used
thro life, both alone, and combined with the Artificial or Verbal,
to denote the animal pasions of surprise, love, anger, fear, desire,
search or inquiry, sorow, afection, joy, pain, comand, and other
states of mind that may be resolved into these.

The Artificial signs or words are acquired after infancy. These


may denote any and every state of mind, •when joined with the
Xatural, or may describe those states, %cithout them. Tliey are
produced by the use of the articulative mechanism both on vocality
and aspiration ; and as descriptive signs, are more numerous than
the natural.

These are the two classes of oral signs, severaly and jointly
representing the diferent states of mind, in thot and pasion. Some
of these states are vocal or instinctive, and have the natural signs.
Others are the result of human inteligence, and the social relations,
and have no such signs, as those ordained by Nature in her own
original mental and vocal creations. The mind has natural or
vocal signs for pain, surprise, and anger ; but none of any definite
character for hope, contentment, and gratitude.

Here then are two essentialy diferent means for representing the
various states of mind ; some of these ' thots, emotions, passions,'
call them by what indefinite term we will, being denoted by cer-
tain forms of stres, time, vocality, and pitchj Nature's instinctive
signs, in the voice ; joined to a verbal or conventional language ;
others can be described only by a verbal or conventional lan-
guage, which may not cary the natural or vocal-signs. We signify
comand by the downward fifth, or octave ; complaint by the semi-
tone; and the meaning of these intervals. is the same in all nations,
under any conventional sign. But it is not in our power, to expres
the states of gratitude, and iresolution, except we describe these
states of mind, by apointed and arbitrary words, that may vary in
every diferent language.

Let us then, by terms, clearly distinguish these two classes of
signs. When we denote thot and pasion by means of Vocality,
Time, Force, or Intonation, either with or -without conventional
words, we Avill call it, the Instinctive or Natural or Vocal sign.
When we describe or indicate thot and pasion by a sentence, a
phrase, or a word, without the use of vocal signs, co-expresive
with the wordsj we will call it, the Conventional or ArtifiiMul or
Verbal sign.

Altlio it apears we have not an instinctive or vocal sign for
every state of mind ; yet every state of mind may be exprostnl by
a conventional sign ; for one can verbaly, and in the plain diatonic
melody, inform anotherj he is astonished, and convey a knowletlge


of his being under that state ; as certainly as he can by the most
striking use of the downward octave, which is its natural sign.
When astonishment is to be represented on a word or phrase,
wliich does not describe it, it is uecesary to employ its instinctive
or natural sign. AVe have seen in the seventeenth section, that
a question may be asked by a gramatical construction alone, with-
out the aid of intonation. And further, an iuterogatory can be
distinctly conveyed, merely by the verbal statement, that a ques-
tion is asked : and this is often done in writen discourse, without
afixing the 'note' of interogation.

In consequence of there being Instinctive signs in the larangeal
voice alone, to denote pasion, and Artificial signs in language, to
describe itj one instinctive sign can with the asistance of the arti-
ficial, represent two or more pasions or their degrees ; for, of tw^o
phrases with the same vocal, but with a diferent verbal signj the
vocal sign bemg the same, camiot in itself severaly signify difer-
ent states of mind ; a specification, by the verbal terms, describes
the diference, under the identical vocal form. Supose, for in-
stance, one should use the imperative phrase, be gone, with a forci-
ble downward vanish of the octave ; and again, with the same
intonation, should say, icell done; the diference between the two
states of mind, in comand, and in exclamatory aprobation, would
be distinctly represented respectively by the imperative verb, and
by the interjective phrase, notwithstanding their identical intona-
tion. Thus too, the same semitone is used for the expresion of
pain, discontent, pity, grief, and contritionj and yet in all these dif-
erent cases, the states of mind are marked by the conventional lan-
guage on which the semitone is employed. We are now prepared
to take a general view of the subject before us; which, to borow
a technicality from another art, may be called the Semiotica of
Elocution ; a term which as yet incomprehensible, in its Into-
native meaning at least j is, by embracing the full and just adap-
tation of the voice to the mind, destined hereafter to be receved
as comprising the whole esthetic and practical philosophy of

To repeat the important distinction j the Semiotic ways and
means of Elocution, or the several signs of Thot and Pasion, arej
First. Instinctive or Natural ; consisting of the forms, degrees,


and varieties of the five modes of the voice. And Second. Arti-
ficial or Verbal ; having the descriptive power of conventional

In the uses of discoursej and we here return to our three-fold
divisionj natural signs, under one condition of the modes of the
voice form the thotive narative or diatonic Drift.' Under another
of moderate expresionj the reverentive or admirative. And under
the use of all the expresive powers of vocality, time, force, abrupt-
nes and intonation, the vivid character of the pasionative.

The Artificial have, in themselves, neither the character nor the
voice of the natural ; but can by words, universaly describe their
efects, and may represent thot and pasion, equaly with the natural
signs. A union of the natural and the artificial gives the most
exact and irapresive vocal representation of the thotive, the inter-
thotive, and the pasionative jiurjjoses of the mind.*

* The Verbal and the Vocal means for denoting the states of mind, are each
so esential to the purposes of speech, that it is dificult to determine which is
most significant of thot and pasion. The power of giving a diferent pasion-
ative meaning to the same word, by a varied vocality, stres, time, or intona-
tion, would imply the vocal or instinctive signs, to be more efective than the
verbal or conventional. But other facts lead us to conclude^ we are some-
times as much indebted to the descriptive agency of words, as to any expresive
eficacy of the voice.

It will hereafter be shown in the analj'sis of Song, that every function which
we have ascribed to speech, is employed in its Elaborate style of execution;
and tho it is truej the semitone has a plaintive character, even if sung with-
out words ; still the rising and faling concretes of the third, fifth, and octave,
when 7iot set to words which describe the expVesion of these intervals in speech,
are constantly heard in what are caled songs of Agility, without denoting in-
terogation, positivenes, or surprise. In like maner, the various forms of strea
which are properly expresive in sylabic uterancc, seem to be almost without
meaning in the inarticulate movements of song.

A still more striking view of the power of conventional language, as tho
means of exjjresion, when contrasted with the power of instinctive intonation,
is displayetl in the voice of sub-animals, particularly that of birds.

Wlicii a familiarity with our history will have given the means of discrim-
ination, it will be jterceved that birds emjiloy all the vocal signs of speech,
without expresing surprise, interogation, positivenes, and scorn, together
with the rcj)ose of the cadence; which would be plainly conveyed by those
signs, joined with words that describe these several mental states. The ex-
presion of j)laintivenes by the semitone, in the voice of the dove, and of
pleasure by the tremor on other intervals, in the horse when snufing his food,
are indeed made without a verbal sign, and yet are identical with tho display


We have learned that the means of expresion are always aplied
in combination. There must be at least two conjoined, and tliere

of similar states by the human voice. Still it must be recolectcd that laugh-
ter and crying, the analogies to these sub-animal expresions, are in speech,
generaly inarticulate, and are to be considered as merely instinctive animal
signs, in man.

It is then the union of an arbitrary Verbal designation of a state of mind
with its natural or Vocal sign, that constitutes the true and esential means of
expresion in speech.

I must here beg the Keader to excuse a digresion from our subject. In the
course of this esay many analogies might have been shown between the human
voice, and that of the sub-animal : but'I designed to avoid mingling these two
comparative subjects of natural historj-.

Speech is a select agregate of the vocal and articulative functions, dis-
persedly exercised, b}- all animals: for there is scarcely a form of vocality,
time, intonation, force, abruptnes, and even of articulation, which is not
comon in severaltj-, to many of the sub-species, and to man. Man employs
more of these signs than any one species, but perhaps fewer than all; the

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 41 of 59)