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 43 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 43 of 59)
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concrete, cannot be made on short sylables. On prolonged quan-
tity, it is the sign of energy or violence, in the pasion represented
by it.

The Thorough Stres. We refer to the thirty-ninth section, for an
acount of this sign of rudenes, and vulgarity, when aplied to long
sylabic quantity, in curent discourse. By the 'hardnes of its
touch, ' it destroys the graceful outline of the equable concrete ;
and heavily overlays that delicacy of gradation in the tinted
vanish, so esential to the refined picture of thot and pasion, in the
wonderful design and coloring of true and natural speech.

On the subject of the Loud Concrete, as a sign of expresion, I
have nothing to add worthy of record, beyond what has been
previously said.

The Tremor of the Second and of Wider Intervals. The tremu-
lous movement of these intervals designates a number of states of
mind widely diferent from each other. And here again we have
an instance of a principle widely influential in the expresion of
the passions ; for these diiferent states, though set within the same
general-frame of intonation, have their specific divisions marked
by the conventional terms which describe them. The tremor of
the second and of wider intervals, is employed for exultation,
mirth, pride, haughtines, sneer, derision, and contem])t; and in
these expresions, the tittles may move on the simple rise or fall, or
on the wave.

The Tremor of the Semitone. The tremulous movement of the
semitone, on a tonic element, is a form of the crying-voice. Used
in sylabic intonation, it implies a deeper distres than that of the
simple semitone ; and exprescs in a greater or less degree, the con-
dition of sufering, grief, tendernes, and suplication; yet widely as
they may difer from each othei:, they alike fall, when caried to
exces, into the tremulous intonation; their difference being marked
by the tionventional })hrasc.

The Aspiration. The pure vocality of the tonics and subtonics,


when partly obscured by its union M-itli aspiration, denotes many
and widely diferent states of mind ; yet M'ith the aid of the con-
ventional signs, it can clearly expres them all. It acompanics
the force of vociferation ; is the faint sign of secrecy ; and is joined
with energetic uterance, when this is not strained into the falsete.
It also indicates earnestnes, curiosity, surprise, and horor. On a
former ocasion, contempt, sneer, and scorn, were asigned to the
wave, i>articularly in its unequal form. Yet even this does not
carrv the full measure of their expresion, if not conjoined with
aspiration : and further, the union of aspiration even with simple
upward and downward \\^der intervals, may represent these several
states of mind.

The Gutural Vibration. This is a harsh and grating vocal sign;
and denotes all those states of mind classed under ill-humor ; in-
cluding dissatisfaction, peevishness, and discontent. It likewise
ajDpears in the strained ferocity of rage, and revenge, and is the
common sign to children and others of an emphatic rebuke ; and
has an import of sneer, contempt, and scorn ; all of which, under
the same natural or vocal sign, are distinguished by the conven-
tional word or phrase.

Of the Emphatic Vocule. This is exclusively an indication of
force, and in the final abrupt elements of particular words is the
sign of anger and rage, and of vehemence in any pasion. It is
however of rare ocurence ; and being almost needles in cultivated
elocution, ought perhaps to be even more rare than it is.

The Broken- Melody, The Curent melody of Narrative style has
been represented as a succession of diatonic intonations ; yet em-
jjloying occasionally, for dignified expression, a longer time, a fuler
quantity, and a wider appropriate interval, both of concrete and
of discrete pitch ; and intersected by pauses, aplied as often as the
thot, or expresion may require. Sometimes, particular states of
mind overrule the ocasions, and gramatical proprieties of pausing,
thereby producing notable rests after very short phrases, and even
after every word, without reference to the conections of syntax. I
use the term Broken-Melody, to signify the interuptions, sometimes
produced by the exces of certain pasions.

The character of this function will be perceved in the physio-
logical explanation of it.


In the section on the mechanism of the voice, two kinds of ex-
piration were described; one resembling the act of sighing, whereby
all the breath Ls sent forth, in a single impulse of greater or less
duration ; within which, scarcely more than one or two words can
be articulated with ease. The other is used in comon speech.
Within it, we are able to uter whole sentences, by a frugal use of
the breath, in giving out small portions at a time, to sucesive
sylables. From the former maner of expiration, seeming to draw-
oif all the contents of the lungs, it may be called the Exhausting-
breath : and the latter, from its being held-back, to be dealt out in
such portions as sylables require, may be caled, for want of a beter
name, the Holding-breath.

It was said formerlyj an infant begins to speak in the exhaust-
ing-expiration. It occurs likewise when we are ' out of breath, '
from exercise ; and in the extreme debility of disease. Hence in
these cases, there is often only one sylable heard in a single act of
expiration. The breath of the tremulous movement of laughter
and crying, is of this kind. The tremor docs here create a slight
diferenice; but if the Reader will for a moment make the experi-
ment, he will percevej he quickly laughs and cries himself, so to
speak, to the bottom of his breathj which is one cause of the
distres, and even pain felt in excesive laughter; nor can he, without
an inhaling pause, continue the tremulous function, for that ex-
tended time, of expiration, which is so easily efectcd on the breath
of comon speech. Young children, in violent crying, sometimes
so exhaust the lungs, that a considerable pause ocurs between the
ebb and flow of respiration, much to the alarm of inexperienced

This exhausting-breath may be produced by a high degree of
pasionative excitement. Deep distress involuntarily creates it, in
the form of a sigh. Hence, in the exces of mental sufering, or
bodily pain, the holding-power is lost, and we speak in the ox-
hausting-breathj with but one, or at most, two or three words
within a single act of expiration : and by these repeated intersec-
tions of the inhaling pauses, the Broken-melody is produced. The
case will be the same, should an exces of excitement blend the
tremor of laughter or of crying, with the curent of discourse; for
by the exhausting-power of these functions, the melody nuist be



interupted, by the frequent necesity for inspiration. It may be
asked, wliy the breatli cannot be rapidly recovered, as in the mo-
mentary rests of speech that are sometimes scarcely perceptible.
The cause is thisj In the holding-expiration of comon discourse,
all the breath is not discharged from the lungs ; such a quantity
only is gradualy spent upon the words, as may be imperceptibly
and instantly restored. But in speaking with the exhausting-ex-
piration, there is a discharge of nearly all the breath by an extreme
contraction of the chest ; and the subsequent act of re-filing the
lungs requires a degree of expansion and a depth of draft, that
cannot be imperceptibly performed, and that ocupy the time of the
remarkable pauses in the Broken-melody.

It is not necesar}' to sj^eak of the phrases of intonation, employed
in this peculiar melody. They may be of every species ; tho, from
the many interuptions of the curent, the relationships of the
phrases are not so perceptible nor so important in practical efect,
as in the more conected sequences of a comon melody.

I have here endeavored to open the way for a full and more
precise description of the vocal signs of th5t and pasion, and for a
systematic arangement of them, with the states of mind they
severaly expres. They have been regarded as individuals, altho
not one is ever heard alone ; in some instances many are united in
a single act of expression, and they may be employed in every
maner of compatible combination. A feeble and a forcible sound
cannot exist in the same impulse of uterance ; yet either of these
conditions may be conjoined severaly with all the forms of pitch,
or vocality, or time. No one interval of pitch can, during the
same sylabic impulse, be another interval; but any interval may
as ocasions require, be simultaneous in execution with any form of
vocality, time, or force. So in the wave, the intervals may be
consecutive in all posible ways ; and these ways, either in interval,
or arangement, may be conjoined with every exercise of the voice,
not at variance with their definition.

By the use then of the comparatively limited number of Vocal
signs here enumerated, together with the asistant means of Con-


ventional language, the aparently infinite forms of expresion in
speech are produced. Tlie preceding detail of these signs, and the
numerical limitation of the terms of their nomenclature, at once
aford an observer the means to survey, in the composure of a
clasifying reflection, the whole extent of this suposed infinity ; and
thereby, to change a vulgar and distracting wonder at imensity,
into an inteligent admiration of the obvious union and intermuta-
ble variety of a few distinguishable constituents.

The Reader may now perceve why I have considered the forms
of expression, in their separate state ; or have regarded only a few
of their combinations. To give an extended detail of their posible
groups, would be beyond my design in seting-forth the broad
Philosophy of speech. Nor is it necesary under a practical view ;
for having analytically resolved the aparent complexity of speech
into its asiguable constituents, we cannot be at a loss to synthetic-
ally combine them, when necesary, for every purpose of expresion.

From a review of our history of the Instinctive signs of thot
and pasion, and a reference to the limited amount of their modes
and forms, compared with the unlimited variety of mental condi-
tions to be expresed, we are struck with the disproportion between
their respective numbers : and learn, how the deficiencies in the
instinctive signs are suplied. For in the

First place. The same vocal sign is used for more than one state
of mind : as in the numerous class, respectively denoted by the
semitone, and by the downward intervals.

Second. Some of those states, genericaly represented by the
same natural sign, have yet their specific diference marked by the
artificial sit^n, or conventional language that describes them. The
downward octave expreses equaly, comand, and astonishment ;
their diference, under the same intonation, being signified by the
imperative word, and by the phrase that declares the astonishment.

Third. A great number of the mental states have no instinctive
or vocal sign, but de})end, for their expresion, altogether on de-
scriptive language. There is no vocal sign by which a speaker
can inform us, even if he would, of his avarice, his vanity, or his
remorse. They must be shown in personal action, or be confosed
by his verbal declaration. The posible combinations of all the
modes, forms, degrees, and varieties of the voice, may furnish a


sign for every thot and pasion. This estimate and clasifieation
having never yet been made, the subject must lay-over, for an age
of the Physical Philosophy of the mind, as well as of the voice.

Having in the preceding sections particularly described the
constituents of speech, Avhich in their various and respective uses,
denote the mental states of thot and pasionj I must ofer a few
remarks on the subject of that dificulty which a long habit of
ignorance and eror, in the old school of Elocution, may create in
acquiring a practical comand over the true and Natural System of
the voice. When the meaning of our terms for tlie states of mind,
and for their coresponding vocal signs is known, there will be no
great hesitation in recognizing their exemplified distinctions, nor
in acquiring a facility in executing them ; and it Avill then be
foundj the use of all the aparently novel modes and forms of the
voice, in the maner proposed by our Scientific System, which has
raised the alarm of dificulty, is only a returnj after ages on ages
of conventional theory and delusionj to the instinctive and truth-
ful purpose and practice of what must have been the natural
Archetype of Speech. For the developments of this volume have
brought me to the conviction, that the system of plain diatonic
melody, as a ground for the exjiresive intervals, is the true ordina-
tion of the speaking voice : and a reference to the universal wisdom
of Nature, even under the vicious habits of man, shows, that as in
the benevolence of her final causes, she is prone to good and not
to evilj so, to give a particular instance, the voice is prone, 'as the
sparks fly upwards,' to this ordination for denoting the two leading
conditions of the mind. Under this view, it would apear, that
when the design of Nature has not been perverted or overruled,
we should ocasionaly find examples of greater or less acordance
with her adjusted system : and I must say, in suport of this infer-
ence, that altho I have never found a Speaker, conforming in all
points to our proposed rulesj yet I have met with some instances,
in which a natural tendency has so far prevailed, that its purposes
have in a great measure been acomplished ; and others, in which
it has not been so much confounded or thwarted by coruj^t exam-
ple, as to prevent our scientific method, from developing the latent
resources for proper and elegant speech. I here refer to science,
as universaly, a true picture of the things and laws of Nature ;


and, in our present case, as the means of preventing the influence
of bad education and example, on the instinctive tendencies of the

He Avho has a kno^yledge of the constituents of speech, and of
their powers and uses, is the potential master of the science of
Elocution ; and he must then derive from his ear, his perception
of propriety, and his taste, the means of actually applying it with
success. When this is accomplished, it Avill be foundj the per-
formance of Scientific speech, is no more difficult to the Actor,
than the performance of music is to thousands of little girls when-
ever they are taught it: and that with a proper notation of the
vocal signs of the former, one will be as easily read and executed
at sight as the other.

I have read somewhere, that the Ancients practiced what they
called Silent Reading. It is possible, they meant, going over in
mental perception, the forms of intonation, and of the other modes
of the voice ; for we knowj this unuttered reading is practicable,
and may be employed, both on our own peculiar manner, when we
think of it, and on that of others, when we have the memorial
power of silently imitating them. This is the process of the'
Mimic ; for his memory of any peculiarity in the vocal sign of
those he imitates, must silently jsrecede his audible iitterance of it.
The faculty of Silent Reading can however be efectively exercised,
for pleasure and ijnprovement, only under a clear mental picturing
of a scientific system of the voice, and of its precise nomenclature.
By our present analytic knowledge of the states of mind, and of
the vocal signs of thot and pasion ; and a conventional notation of
those signs, we may with a perception of our own maner of speak-
ing, and a memory of the speech of others, be able to silently
practice the proprieties of elocution, and to corect its eroi-s, by the
silent use of an instructed intelcct. We know that the perceptions
of the several senses are represented in the memory ; that the
images on the eye and vibrations on the ear, are clearer and more
readily revived, than on the others ; and that we may memorialy
think of any j)eculiarity in the voice. In intonation, the difercnt
intervals; in force, the diferent streses; in time, tiie difercnt
quantities; and the various vocalities and pausesj when once per-
ceved and named, have their respective characters so impresed on



the inemoiy, tliat we can think-them, in its silent reading. This
proces of memorial perception \vitli audible, is like its proces with
visible signs. The Painter has on his memory the ocular image of
a real, or of an invented subject ; and lays on his tablet the visible
copy of his memorial lines and colors. The musical Composer
has in his memory, impresions of all the constituents of song ; and
silently aranging them by his mind's ear, notes doAvn his melody
and harmony, for others either silently or audibly to read. There
is no diference then, between the method in a silent reading of
music, and that of a silent reading of speech. Indeed, from the
less complex structure of its melody, the reading of speech should
be the easier of the two.

I have near me at this moment, notations from scenes in Hamlet,
and in Lear ; sent to me by one, who acquired a full knowledge of
the Scientific system, and its jiractical aplication, from an unasisted
study of this Volume; as the volume itself was writen from the
study of Nature alone. Whether these notations, and my opinion
of them, are corect or otherwise, I can both silently and audibly
read them ; and thereby have the means of ilustrating to others,
the truth and the practical aplication of the subject before us.


Of the Means of Instruction in Elocution.

I HAVE offered to the Reader, a copy of the all-perfect Design
of Nature, in the construction of Speech. It is nccesary, if we
may still carry on the figure, to furnish at the same time, a ' Work-
ing plan,' to him who may wish to build up for himself, a delight-
ful Home of Philosophy and taste, or a popular Temple of Fame,
in Elocution.

If the Reader is one of those, who from disapointment in higher
hopes, have at last resolved to receve their Station in life, under


the aprobation of ignorance ; and who in their acomplishments are
careles of rising above the discernment of their unthinking Ad-
mirers, let him pass by this section. A little will serve his pur-
poses ; and the instinct of his ambition, without the wise designs
of human asiduity, will enable him to be easily the file-leader of
his herd. But if he beleves in that fine induction of the Greeks,
that ' good things are dificultj ' if he sees the sucessful pretender,
still restles and dissatisfied, in having made captives only of the
Ignorantj if he desires to work for high and hard masters, and to
take his ultimate repose by the side of their ever-during aproba-
tion, he may receve from the folowing pages, some asistance towards
the acomplishment of his resolution to acquire the art of Reading-

Can Elocution be taught? This question has heretofore been
asked by ignorance. It shall in another age, or I mistake the
prevailing power of science, be asked only by folly.

The skeptics on the subject of the practicabilit}' of teaching
elocution, appear under three classes. To the First belong those,
who knowing the ways of the voice have never been broadly and
distinctly traced, beleve they never can be reduced to asignable
rules. This opinion is grounded on the belief that the expresive
efects of speech procede from some ^ ocult quality,' or metaphysi-
cal working of the ' spirit ; ' which however, is neither high nor
low, loud nor soft ; nor any of the physical and apreciable modes
of vocal sound. They who carelesly overlook the due revelation,
which Nature never withholds from the close and fervent observer,
seem to have that notion of vocal expresion, which poetical school-
girls liave of the smiles, and ' side-long glances' of their interesting
young admirersj that they are not a palpable efect of the pliysical
form of the face, in its state of rest, and in its various motions ;
but a kind of imatenalism, which darts from the eye and breathes
from the lips ; a ' soul,' as it were in the countenance, whicji is
yet, in the words of the song, * neither shape nor feature.'

The skepticism of the Second class asumes that acomplishments
in elocution are the result of cei'tain indescribable powci*s of
'genius,' and that the hapy poscsor of tlicm is the prodnction of one
of ' Nature's moments of enthusiasm,' Such sleight of tongue, to
hide the plain agency of natural causes, is not disdained by many


who poses powers, suficient to set them far above the stale-grown
tricks for reputation. He wlio has the truth and modesty of a
master in his art, knows that he Ls distinguished from the thou-
sands who suround him, not more by a superiority over their
vulgar notions on the subject of ambition, and the chances of
success, than by a singlenes in purpose and zeal, and the acumu-
lative power of a self-gathering docility : nor does he withhold
instruction, in the fear of rivalshij) ; for with justified confidence
in a wel-tried knowledge, he persuades himself, that if any useful
purpose should make it necesary, he can afterwards, always keep
pace with a competitor, and then surpas himself.

Thoge who constitute the Third class are too inteligent to beleve
in this mystical doctrine of the 'Inspiration of genius;' yet they
hold, that the art of reading-well can be taught only by imitation.
Elocution may unfortunately too often have satisfied its faith with
the creed of Imitation ; and thereupon, set-up its diferent Idols,
for public worship. But when has the world, on a single subject
of inquiry, ever found, in that faith or fiction which sees evidence'
in what is not to be seen alike by all, any other result than that
of sophistical labor, without product, and illiberal quarels, with-
out end. Hence the vain conceit of forming a school of Imitative
Elocution : for the several partizans of diferent favorites will
never agree to raise any one individual, to exemplary superiority.
An example to be useful and permanent in art, must be set-up
with the consent of all : and that consent can be drawn only from
a comon and acessible source of instruction and knowledge, not
from individual or party admiration. It was therefore, under
ignorance of there being a comon source of knowledge in the few
and clasified constituents of speech, that such a Avavering notion
as Imitation became the deceptive guide of Elocution, in absence
of that yet wnleading Cynosure to every eye alikej the stedfast
unity of Principles in the Art. It is the design of this csay, to
furnish from Nature, and not from variable examples of human
authority, those describable truths, on which all may begin their
agreement ; and by extending this consent, may at last raise an
observative and universal school of Elocution.

I must here notice the objection, often made to teaching Elocu-
tion by systematic rules j that it will necesarily produce a formal.


and afected, or as it is caled without foundation, a theatric style of
speech. This charge is made either by those M^ho do not, in all
cases, know the meaning and power of instructive principles, which
are only the exponents of a clasified knowledge in the arts; or by
those who have had tlie experience of some very loose and narow
rules for their own narow and unsucesful schemes.*

вЦ†^ An especial form, and the fulest force of this objection has lately been
embodied into a so-caled system of Elocution, carelesly woven out of comon
learning, and fair-faced 'reasonings,' first published under the Article,
Rhetoric, in the Encyclopedia Metropolitana ; and subsequentlj'' under the
name of a profound, as all obscure writers are thot to be, and acomplished
Archbishop ; thus ading an authority of high oficial and personal character,
to the outspread influence, and confirmatory suport of a sworn brotherhood
of British Contributors, of the foremost rej)Uted inteligence, learning, taste,
and Scientific Hank, in the United Kingdom.

In one of our prefaces, we recorded the magisterial decision of the Presi-
dent of the American Philosophical Society, that any analysis of the ex-
presion of the human voice is imposible. And I have now to quote from a

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 43 of 59)