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 42 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 42 of 59)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

principal diference consisting in his power over the structure and chain of
the literal and sylablic function.

Upon the ground of this identity, and with the asistance of an eiact meas-
urement, and definite nomenclature of the human voice, aforded by this esayj
What is there to prevent the voices of aniynals being taken as one of the designa-
tions of species, m the sgstonatic arayigeynent of Zoology ?

Naturalists have sometimes atempted this in a rude waj-, by a reference to
alphabetic sounds, and to the modes of time and stres in words and phrases.
When boys without the least atention to the diference of vocality in the cases,
find a resemblance in the shrill suraer-whistle of the American partridge, to
the words ' bo-bob-white ; ' and think they pronounce the short repeated
phrase of the ' whip-poor-will ; ' in its name, which some of the native In-
dians with closer imitation, call muc-ha-iois ; the similarity lies between the
impresion of the acentual stres and the time of uterance in the two cases ; for
the whistle and the phrase, as well as many mechanical noises, resemble, at
the whim of the listener, an}' words with an equal number of sylable-like
impulses, and the same condition of quantity and acent.

Birds in the endowment of voice, have First; A single Chirp, including
severaly, every variation of vocality, time, and force, with every form of in-
tonation, from the feeblest efort in the simple interval, to movements of wider
concretes and waves, in the cry, the shriek and scream ; and in some cases,
even the note of song. Second ; A phrase, of two, three, or four constituents,
severaly of every vocality, time, force, and every form of intonation. Third ;
A Medley, composed of a heterogeneous sucesion of chirps, and phrases.
Fourth; A Melody, such as it is, of rapid concretes, of the singer's ' j)ure
tonej ' in ' liquid,' smooth, and briliant vocalityj of varied force, and intona-
tion ; but without bar, cadence, or key. This melody is distinguished by its
continuous course of greater or less duration, without the disjointed interup-


may be more. Gutiiral grating, aspiration, and the (liferent fornLS
of stress are necesarily aplied to some interval of pitch. The

tions that ocur in the medley. Some birdsj I omit their s^-stematic namesj
have only the chirp ; as our sparow, king-bird, swalow, the woodpecker tribe,
the blue-jay, and various hawks. Others, as our yelow-bird, robin, red-bird,
partridge, blue-bird and whiperwil, have the chirp and phrase. Others
again, the chirp and melody, as our thrush, cat-bird, wren, and perhaps the
oriole, meadow-lark, and black-bird. The mocking-bird, and the canary,
have the chirp, and the medley, as a remarkable case : and a few others
properly caled singing birdsj but of which I cannot speak from observation^
may have the chirp, the phrase and the melody, under the most agreeable

The exact and broad observerj for the peering Naturalists do not yet seem
to know, what comparative phonology means, nor that the subject of the
voice is part of natural history^ will kindly excuse the erors of this descrip-
tion. It is ofered only as a faint and broken light, obscurely showing one of
the outer doors of this interesting department of knowledge : and now held-
up, with the asistance of our present analysis, from memory of rural and
pastime observation made at school on the borders of the Susquehana before
my thirteenth year. And would I could forget how often, in thotles pleasure,
I may have given disquietude or pang to those inocent lives, that aforded the
means of my present contented ocupation ; and that still bring up so many
juvenile memorials of time and place, in recording the forms of their intona-

After what is here said, on the general character of the voices of Birds, and
with tlie light of clasification and description contained in this esay, a culti-
vated ear would not have much diticulty in ascertaining, whether the chirp of
a bird is in the concrete or the radical pitch of a semitone, second, or other
interval ; of how many constituents the jihrase consists; what, in the medley,
are the places of pitch ; with the kind and order of its phrases; and what,
the concrete and discrete in the melody. As far as observation extends, we
know:j the voice of birds is unchangeable in the species ; it is therefore as well
entitled to nomenclature, provided it can be asigncd definitel}', as the fethers,
beak, and claws. If language had never furnished discriminative names for
color and form, even these characteristics, like those of the voice, would never
have been known in the descriptions of ornitliology : or rather, ornithology
as a chisitication, would be unknown.

Witliout extending our obworvation to the whole range of animals, within
which we might severaly find all the varieties of the human voice, even to
the protracted note of song, in the frogj I hero give an outline of the vocal
functions of the Mocking-birdj ilustrative of the powers which generaly
belong to its class.

The Mocking-bird has every variety and degree in Vocality, from the deli-
cate chirp of the sparow, and harsh scream of the jay, to the gutural baas of
the clucking of the hen. He uses every variation of Time, from a mere
point of sound, to the quantity of our most pasionute interjections, lie htts


interval of pitch must be united with time, -whether the quantity
is long or short. The natural sign may be heard joined to the

coniand over all the intervals of the scale, both ascending and descending, in
the discrete as well as the concrete pitch. His simple concrete exhibits the
proper structure of the radical and vanish. He executes the wave in its equal
and unequal, its direct and inverted forms; yet I cannot say, he uses its
double movement. He exhibits all the forms of Stres on the concrete : the
compound constitutes his shake. It is the diatonic shake, and consists, on its
diferent occasions, of from five or six lo ten or twelve iterations. It is not
so rapid as the human shake, and consequently wants its liquidity; nor does
it ever end in a ' turn,^ but passes carelesly to any efort that folows. This
shake is sometimes made on a wider interval than the second: but it is a
slugish movement, and consists of only two or three repetitions, as we some-
times hear it in singers, of great execution. And it is worthy of remark,
that in this slownes, the compound stres is plainly distinguishable. He uses
the tremor, both on a continuous line, and with its rising and falling tittelar
skips. All this comprehensive exercise of the throat, has individually the
form of either chirp or phrase. The continued rounds of voice, which at
night, sometimes last for hours, form therefore a medley of chirps and
phrases, without sucesive simihiritj- in the relation of time, vocality, force
or pitch ; and altogether without rj^thmus, cadencial close, or key. In this
medley the phrases cxcede the chirps in number ; but I cannot say, how many
of each are used. Perhaps twenty kinds would include them all : and supos-
ing these to be diferenced by time and vocality, there would be more. Each
set of the chirps and phrases, as it returns thru the medley, may vary in the
number of its repetitions. A chirp may be single, or may be repeated two or
three times, or oftener. A phrase of two constituents may in the returns of
the medley have three, four, or more repetitions of these two ; or as sometimes
bapens in the shake, ten or twelve: and it is the same with a phrase of the
tremor. The phrase of three or four constituents, which last is rarely heard,
has fewer repetitions than the more simple ones ; the chirp is most frequently
heard only once. The whole medley then, has no regularity in the return of
its several voices, nor in the number of their repetitions, to constitute it a

It was first said by Somebodyj perhaps himself a parot in human characterj
while this bird mocks all others, he has no ' notes ' of his own : and then
Everybody, mocking somebody's say, Nobodj- thot of doubting it. Yet upon
this very notion of exclusive property in the voice, he has more ' Notes ' of
his own than any other bird : and having within his compas, almost the whole
constituency of song, whether human, or Volucrali for Ornithology wants
this adjective^ it would not be surprising, if other birds should recognize some
of their suposed property, in his. When frequenting farms, with pigeons,
hens, turkeys, and guinea-fowls, all around him; and when in the fields of
Virginia, all day pierced by the whistle of the i)artridge;j with his own ' notes '
almost stifled at night, by the panting voices of a whole settlement of whip-
erwils, he has never, within my knowledge, been heard to mock their phrases ;


words of the artificial; and of the natural, there must be two
combined, and there may be more. Not one form of expresion
can exist separately ; and we may have under a single sylabic im-

tho master perhaps of all the simple sounds that severally compose them.
And certainly no Indian Farrinelli ever gave him an example of the shake.
Miniik then, as with his own natural voice, they would make him, it would
have been a kindly restraint on those who have slandered him, to have had a
natural ear of their own to prevent it.

We have learned^ the vocal constituents of the song of the Mocking-bird,
like the vocal signs in speech, are few in number ; but in each case, our igno-
rance of the individual signs, leaving us to regard only their numerous com-
binations, has created a belief that they are infinite. A certain vocality, or
an interval may be heard under a variation in time; and the same concrete,
or tremor, or shake may difer in vocalitj', and in its places of pitch.

The rule for the signs of pasion, in speech, is strictly aplicable to the voices
of sub-animals, as regards those sounds which are purely vocal and separate
from words. The repeated chirp, which seems to be the idle and unmeaning
diatonic voice of birds, is generaly a short quantity, on a single rising or
faling concrete second, or third, and rarely, as far as I have observed, on the
wider intervals. A prolongation of the chirp is usualy expresive of their
pasions and apetites. Pain, love, and fear, are always exhibited in the
movement of the semitone. But I am agreeably led on towards an arange-
ment, when I designed only to propose the scheme to others. The limited
and perhaps imperfect maner in which, from a neglect of full observation, I
have described this single instance of volucral intonation, may however show,
that as there is now a system and nomenclature for the voices both of the
garulous, and mischievous Demagogue of American Asemblies, and of this
harmlcs Polyglot of the American grove, there would be no great dificulty in
clasifying with precision, more manageable individualities of sound, in the
other departments of vocal Zoologj'.

This subject is at least curious, if not useful ; yet it lies out of my way.
The sciences have large volumes of compilation : let us have from some
Naturalist with a good ear, a little book of original truth, on the inquiry
here proposed. Let it be done by pure and personal observation. Let the
author not lose his strong breath of usefulness and fame, by a puerile precipi-
tancy after reputation ; nor hasten with his unripencs, in tlie market-like fear
of being forestalcd. Patient, enthusiastic, and unostentatious studj-j independ-
ent observation and thotj and a disinterested love of truthj with their sure
and great results in science, are always solitary in an age, and cannot there-
fore bo forestaled ; and on this point, as in promises under another name, it
will be with those who seek the unaltered, and unalterable truths of nature,
that the last in its proper season, shall be First.

I add at the time of this si.vth Edition, that forty years ago, the jirecoding
Note was ofered to the atcntion of the Naturalist ; who witii a prying and
industrious ambition to Inive a new Bug, or an Old Fossil-bone named after


pulse, a long quantity, a wide interval, aspiration, and strcs, all
sinuiltaneous in efecting a particular purpose in speech.

The folowing is a sumary of the instinctive or vocal signs, de-
noting' the states of mind, we have caled thotive, reverentive, and

In the thirty-fourth section, it was proposed to employ the
terms Piano, and Forte, for the degrees of force, respectively above
and below the distinct and becoming audibility of that well-bred
conversation, which equaly avoids an overbearing loudness on one
side, and a fashionable mincing, or a faint-mouthed and perplexing
afectation, on the other. And first ;

Tlie Piano of the Voice. Some states of mind, together with
certain conditions of the body that may be combined with them,
are properly expresed by a piano, or moderated voice, in curent
discourse. These states, and conditions are those of humility,
modesty, shame, doubt, iresolution, apathy, caution, repose, fa-
tigue, and prostration from disease. They generaly employ the
simple diatonic melody : some however, with a piano or a feeble
uterance, use the semitone, and the wave of the second. Of this
kind are pity, grief, and awe.

The Forte of the Voice. This sign, as the reverse of the last,
is apropriate to states of mind directing muscular energy, and
vivid degrees of pasion. Some of these states are signified by a
high degree of force ; for in adition to those which employ it as
a leading characteristic, such as rage, wrath, fear, and horor, some
that depend for their exjDresion, chiefly on intonation or acentual
stres, do at the same time asume the character of forte or loudnes.
Of this class are astonishment, exultation, and laughter.

Quicknes of Voice. Inasmuch as quickness of the curent melody
generaly goes with Short Quantity, in individual sylables, we do
not make separate heads for these two subjects. Some states of
mind, under this division, are likewise expresed by other signs,
particularly by Loudnes; as anger, rage, mirth, railery and im-
patience. Many states having their principal signs in forms of
intonation and stres, are joined also with quicknes of voice.

himself, so narows the scope of his duty, as to render him indiferent to the
fact, that the sub-animal voice is embraced by Natural History, and is an

interesting^, if not a distinguishing part of Zoological clasification.


Slownes of Voice, Speakers who have no comand over quan-
tity, afect to be deliberate, by momentary rest between their words.
But slow time in discourse, if not made by extended sylabic quan-
tity, would from its frequent pauses, be monotonous and formal.
Slow time and long quantity are an esential cause of dignified
uterance, and are efected on the wave ; this being the continuous
return of an interval into itselfj one of the means for producing
an extension of time, without destroying the equable concrete of
speech. Slownes of time, with its constituent long quantity, is
properly employed for many states of mind; as sorow, grief,
respect, veneration, dignity, apathy, contrition, and all others
embracing refinement, and moderation.

Vocallty. It is unnecesary to repeat here all the terms denoting
the forms of this jNlode. The folowing are some of them, with
their respective states of mind anexed. Harshnes is directed by
anger, and imperative authority : gentlenes by grief, modesty and
commiseration : the whisper, which is an aspirated voice, by se-
crecy. The falsete is heard in the whine of peevishnes, in the
high tremulous pitch of mirth, and in the piercing scream of
teror. The full body of the orotund, in a cultivated speaker,
gives satisfactory expresion to solemnity and grandeur.

The Rising and the Faling Semitone. The simple rise of the
semitone is not a frequent form of expresion, as most plaintive
intonations call for long quantity, and are therefore properly repre-
sented by the wave of this interval. Still complaint, grief, and
other states of like imj^ort, may sometimes be made with an
earnestnes, requiring a short sylabic time. In this case the voice
cannot bear the delay of the wave, and efects all the purposes of
semitonic intonation, by the simple rise or fall of the concrete,
with the adition when necesary, of the radical or vanishing stres.

The Rising and the Faling Second or lone. Those states of
mind, called thots, in contradistinction to pasionsj those naratives
or deserii)tions, which denote things as they are in themselves,
without reference to our relation to tliem, on the point of j)lea.sure
or pain, desire or aversion, interest or injury, are all represented
by the plain unobtrusive interval of the second, cither in its
ui)ward or downward course. Tlie vtu-ious uses of the voice,
properly called Expresion, have something so striking in their


character, that the atentive observer may easily recognize them.
Wlien there is an absence of this expresion, he may conclude^ the
curent of speech is in the diatonic melody.

The Rising Third, Fifth and Octave. These intervals scveraly
express diferent degrees of the same state of mind : the distinc-
tions between the states themselves are designated by the verbal
signs that describe them. In their varying extent, tliey represent
interogation, as moderate, dignified, or earnest. Combined with
other vocal means they add to the question, particularly on the
octave, the character of quaintnes, sneer, and derision. With as-
piration they have the efect of the downward intervals, and indi-
cate serious surprise and its congenial states. They expres a con-
ditional meaning, on emphatic words. Gutural vibration adds
scorn to a question on the wider of these intervals ; and joins to
their character in emphasise haughtines, disdain, reproach, indig-
nation, and contempt. As the deliberate execution of these inter-
vals requires long quantity, they have not the extended time, and
consequently, not the solemn and dignified character, they assume
when doubled into the wave.

The Downward Third, Fifth and Octave. These severally ex-
press, both diiferent degrees of the same state of mind, and states
different among themselves. They are emphatically the signs of
surprise, astonishment, wonder, and amazement ; and altho these
states are not identical, still, each in its peculiarity, is represented
upon these falling intervals : the specific diiference being marked,
either by their varied extent, or by the conventional phrase to
which they are applied. These intervals also denote a positive-
ness, and a settled conviction on the part of the speaker ; hence
they are given to phrases of authority, command, confidence, and
satisfaction. A downward movement, we have learned, also pro-
duces tlie terminative repose of a cadence ; and consequently when
not joined with force, Ls well suited to express the state of quie-
tudej in resignation, despair, and the condition of mind which
attends fatigue. And yet any diiference, under all these cases, of a
similar intonation, is distinguished by their respective conventional

The Wave of the Semitone. The expression of the simple rise
and the fall of the semitone was noticed above ; but its return or


contrary flexure into the wave, is the most common form of this
expressive interval. There is scarcely a vocal sign which repre-
sents so many and such various states of mind ; the specific dis-
tinction of the cases, being made by the descriptive phrase. The
wave of the semitone diifers from the simple interval, in its ex-
presive dignity derived from its extended quantity, from a repe-
tition of the simple interval in its returning descent. Sorrow,
grief, vexation, chagrin, repining, contrition, impatience, peevish-
ness, compassion, commiseration, condolence, pity, love, fondness,
supplication, fatigue, and pain, with whatever varieties may exist
among them, are still, by the difference of the conventional sign,
all expressed by the wave of the semitone.

The Wave of the Second. The interval of the second, either
in a rising or falling direction, being the voice of plain unim-
pasioned thot, is purely a diatonic sign, and not a means of ex-
■presion. Still as the downward return of this interval into the
form of the wave, produces a long quantity, it necesarily adds to
the second, the peculiar effect of that quantity^ and when duly
extended, gives to discourse its full character of dignity, and
grandeur; to the exclusion of the intrusive, and therefore in-
apropriate use of force, qualit}", abruptnes, and the wider intervals
of intonation.

The Waves of the Third, Fifth and Octave. The forms of tlie
wave are so various, that it would far excede the design of this
Work to enumerate thenij and to asort them with the pasions.
The principles that govern their expresion were unfolded, in the
twenty-fifth, and six folowing sections. The chai'acter of the
constituent intervals of these waves has great influence in deter-
mining their respective expresions. The upward vanish of the
last constituent of i\\Q inverted form has the efect of interrogation ;
and the downward course of the last constituent of the direct, that
of surprise. If then these two contrary forms of the wave have,
respectively, in their final constituent, the same character as the
separate and simple rise and fall of the interval, there might seem
to be no necesity for their use. Yet suposing the purposes to be
identical, which however, may not always be the casej the wave
afords besides, important means for extending the quantity of
sylablcs, and consequently for expresing certain states of mind,



■with deliberate dignity. In the double form, the wave denotes
sneer, mockery, petulance, contempt, and scorn ; still these last two
are more conspicuously exhibited by conjoining aspiration with the
single wave.

The Radical Stres. From the forcible character of this stres,
it is employed for increasing the impressivenes of the other vocal
signs of the pasions, ca])able of receving it. It is more particu-
larly aplicable to imutable sylables, yet when we read rapidly, it
is used even on those of indefinite quantity : but rapid reading
necesarily weakens its force. Mirth, impatience, anger, and rage,
are generaly utered with haste, and therefore take on this stres, in
emphatic places. It is employed on imperative words ; for it has
a degree of positivenes, similar to that expresed by the downward
intervals of intonation.

The Median Stres. The radical stres is used for abruj)tly en-
forcing expresion on short sylables. The median gradualy and
smoothly swells the voicej and this requires a long quantity, to-
gether with a deliberate and graceful uterance. I say, together
with deliberation ; as long quantities do sometimes asume the ab-
rupt opening of the radical, or the final jerk, of the vanishing
stres. The states of mind, caling for median forcej particularly
on the dignity of the second, and the plaintivenes of the semitonej
are those represented by waves of the various intervals. Of these
kinds are awe, respect, solemnity, reverence, and suplication, that
make our division of inter-thotive expresion. This median stres
may perhaps, be executed on an extended rise or fall of the simple
fifth and octave; or the wide downward vanish of surprise, and
wide upward vanish of interrogation, may sometimes be invested
with this graceful form of force.

The Vanishing Stres. This stres, and its expresion have been
so particularly noticed, in a former section, that it is unnecesary
here to repeat the detail. Far inferior as it is in dignity, to the
median, it is sometimes highly expresive of the state represented
by the semitone and wider intervals^ in grief, surprise, and intero-
gation. Impresing the extremes of these intervals on the ear, it
points out their several ranges more distinctly than they are
marked by the atenuated vanish. It may seem to be a nice dis-
tinction, but it is ncvertheles true and practical, that care must be


taken, not to let tliis stres run into the thoro form; for this, as
before remarked, rather obscures the interogative expresion.

Compound Stres. So much was said, on this subject, in the
thirty-eighth section, tliat the Reader is refered to it. Tlie com-
pound, like the median, vanishing, and thoro stres, and the loud

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 42 of 59)