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 45 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 45 of 59)
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should r be taken quietly, the confluence of these elements may be
easily made, by retracting the tongue to the contiguous place for
forming the r. When however we roughen the word by the per-
cussive r, the tongue is brought down from the teeth, towards its
bed, in a kind of drawing-otf, for making thereby, a suden im-
pulse against the roof of the mouth ; and it calls for both efort
and skill, to acomplish these sucesive movements with that quick-
nes, which sylabic coalescence requires.

There is also considerable dificulty in uniting the percusive r
with some of the tonics ; and the cause is analogous to that above

When the percusive r is set be/ore the tonics, the coalescence is
easy, as in I'ude, reed: but it is not so when it folows certain of
these elements. If the tonics are of long quantity, there is in
some cases, only the slightest dificulty ; as in glare, war, far, peer,
mire, our, your. Should the short-tonics e-rr, e-nd and i'-n, and
most of the other tonics when pronoiniced short, precede the per-
cusive r, there will be the unpleasant efort of a hiatus, together
with that peculiar efect of a union of tonic and aspiration, which


forms one of the characteristics of speech in the natives of Ireland.
This will be perceved, upon pronouncing the words, interpreter,
world, iritate, intercourse. The cause of the hiatus and of this
inevitable Irishism apears in the folowing explanation.

The tonic sounds, tho in greater part laryngeal, are in some cases
modified by the agency of the tongue and li])s. The tongue in
sj)eech is employed in varying positions, from the deepest depres-
sion in its bed, till nearly in contact with the roof of the mouth.
Its place in the uterance of a- we is the lowest; and the highest in
ee-\, c-nd and i-n. If these short tonics precede the percusive r,
there is a hiatus, from a dificulty in making the percusion ; and
this changes the tonic into a semi-aspiration. When a-we precedes
r, the tongue being in its bed is in the proper position for making
the impulse, and the combination of this a-we with the r, is easy,
and is free from aspiration, as in aurelia and reward.

In the case then, of the short tonics preceding the percusive r,
it is necesary to bring down the tongue from its short- tonic posi-
tion at the roof of the mouth, to its bedj to give it starting-way,
so to speak, for gaining its percusive velocity. The aim to efect
this in the quickest time, produces the hiatus of pronunciation.
Yet with every endeavor, there is still a perceptible interval be-
tween the change in the position of the tongue, from its short-
tonic place down to its bed, and subsequently up to the roof of the
mouth, the place of the percusive r. And as there is no cesation
of vocality during the time of the change, the depresion of the
tongue, or some other cause, gives that vocality its asjurated char-
acter. This mingling of aspiration with the short tonic, and the
percusive r, produces the disagreeable efect in the uterance of these
conjoined elements ; nor can it be altogether avoided, except by
using the quiet r.

Tlie dificulty of executing the r, under the circumstances above-
mentioned, will I fear, be insurmountable to those who are not
persuadcdj the perfection of their acomplislimcnts nnist at last be
due to their own habits, their knowledge, and their industry.
Those who know how necesarily a fruitful desire of improvement
is the result of wise docility of mind and heartfelt resolution, have
only to learu that it is within the capabilities of time and exertion.
How long it may take to overcome the dificultics here abided to.

THE :meaxs of ixstructiox in elocution. 487

must depend on instinctive facility of uterance : nor need it be
told to those who deserve instruction, and will have succes. To
such persons, it is enuf that it may be done.

An exact pronunciation of the elements according to the rule of
the day, is a mater- of importance, not with reference alone to the
law of fashion. It has a claim of greater dignity.

When states of mind are to be comunicated with precision and
force, it should be by well-known words, not peculiar in sound,
nor striking by length, nor by dificult uterance. There should be
no remarkable contrast between them ; no atractive and disturbing
similarity ; nor anything in the language, to alure atention from
the thot conveyed by it. A writer, who frequently employs un-
coraon words, except in technical instruction, never has vividnes
or strength, or may I say transparency of style. For the acom-
plishment of these objects, sounds should slip efectively into the
mind, almost without the notice of the ear ; and the meaning of
an Author not conveyed slowly under obscurity but at once, thro
the clearest light of simplicity and truth. What is said, on the
distractions produced by novelty and peculiarity of words, aplies
equaly to the pronunciation of alphabetic elements ; as the least
deviation from the asuraed standard, converts the listener into a
critic : and it is perhaps sjieaking within bounds to say, that for
every miscaled element in discourse, ten suceding words, if not
more, are lost to the observant and reflective part of an audience.
I have therefore recomended a long-continued practice on the
separate elementsj for acquiring that comand over them, which
not only contributes to the elegance of speech, but at the same
time, may helj) to remove all obscurity from the vocal picture of
thot and pasion.

Of Practice on the Time of Elements. Enough has been said
in former pages, on the necesity of a full comand over the time of
uterancej for efecting the important purposes of elocution.

A^^hen the pupil has acquired a true pronunciation of the ele-
ments, he should not, acordi ng to the usage of the primer, pass at
once to combine them into words. They are emj^loyed in speech
under various degrees of duration ; and diligent practice on these
degrees will create a habit of skilful management, not so well nor
so easily acquired by exercise on the comon curent of discourse.


Let the pupil then consider the alphabetic elements as a kind of
Time-table, on which he is to learn all their varieties of quantity.
The power of giving -well measured length to sylables is so rare
among speakers, that I have been induced to draw especial aten-
tion to this elementary method of instruction.

Altho a prolongation of the atonies is of little consequencej let
the pupil reiterate his practice on the tonics and subtonics, until
he finds himself posesed of such a comand over them, that he may
at will, give the quantity to their sylabic combinations.

The elements 6, d, and g, admiting of only a slight variation of
quantity, on the prolongation of their feeble vocalityj a strenuous
practice on their individual sounds is necesary to render them
aplicable to the purposes of oratorical time.

When r is to be prolonged, and the rapid iteration would be
inapropriate, the quiet form of the element should be employed ;
the percusive r, made by a single stroke and rebound of the
tongue, being necesarily short.

Tlie element s, when alone and prolonged, is a sign of con-
tempt. In sylabic combination it is ofensive if much extended
in quantity; under its shortest time, it still performs its part
in speech, and loses mucli of the character of the hiss. Let the
pupil therefore practice the shortest quantity on this element,
by abruptly terminating the breath, or by separating the teeth
at the moment its sound is heard ; for this at once cuts it short.
Here is not the place to remark how carefuly a repetition of
this element in suceding words, particularly if emphatic, is to be

Of Practice on the Vanishing Movement. This subject should
perha})S, have been considered under the last head ; for an atcmpt
to prolong the elements without reference to the equable concrete
of speech, is very apt to produce the note of song. The difercnce
between these two forms of intonation even on a single tonic, will
be perceptible to an experimental ear, by keeping in mind at the
moment of trial, the well known and })eculiar efect both of speedi
and of song. The pupil then, witliout confusing his ear by other
particulars, should exercise his voice on tlie simple form of the
radical and vanish, on all extendible elements. An unering power
in executing this function, however long the quantity maybe, will


ahvays insure to speech, an entire exemption from tlie protracted

In this elementary intonation of the equable concrete, atention
should be paid to the structure of the vanish. The pupil must
therefore endeavor to give it that delicate expiration which may
render the point of its limit almost imperceptible : for this is its
proper form, except some purpose of expresion should require a
more obvious demarkation. We often lean the ear in delight,
over this smooth breathing of sound into silence, by singers; and
the master m elocution shall hereafter know, that one of those
'graces' which he could never name, and even thot 'beyond the
reach of artj' but which Art conjoined with Science, is now ready
to teach himj consists in this atenuation and close of the sylabic
impulse, here recomended as a lesson for the school-boy.

Of Practice on Force. It is scarcely necessary to say how
loudnes of voice, or the forte, is to be acquired. It Ls not esential
to our discipline, that the elements should be utered separately
vrith regard to force. When the other constituents of expresive
speech are brought under comand, exercise on this mode may be
efected during the curent of discourse. Still the ends of instruc-
tion would be somewhat easier atained by the elementar\' proces
in this particular. Few persons perceve the influence that loud
speaking or vociferation has on vocality. We have already
learnedj it is one of the means for acquiring the orotund. It
takes the voice aparently, from its meager mincing about the lips,
and transfers it, at least in semblance, to the back of the mouth,
or to the throat. It imparts a grave fulnes to its character ; and
by creating a strength of organ, gives confidence to the speaker in
his more forcible eforts ; and an unhesitating facility in all the
moderate exertions of speech.

Of Practice on Stres. Altho the elementary exercise on force as
a general rule, may not be necesary, I must urge its importance,
in particular sylabic stres. There is a nicety in this mater, that
will be definitely recognized, and consequently can become familiar,
only after the deliberate practice and unembarassed observation,
aforded by trials on the separate elements.

It was said formerly, that radical stres is made with emphatic
strength only on the tonics ; still, an atempt to aply it to the sub-


tonics is not to be entirely neglected. The full power of radical
abruptnes in the tonics is efected, by opening the elements into
uterance, with a sort of coughing explosion. The pupil cannot be
too strongly urged to a careful practice, on tliis subjectj that he
may thereby acquire the habit of giving abruptnes, instantly and
with moderated force. Here its peculiar character as a Mode of
the voice is aparent, and its clasification' defensiblej in making a
satisfactory impulse on the ear, without the hamering strokes of
an uncultivated pronunciation. For this fault of reading lies not
only in the repetition or curent of a sharp and loud radical stres
on every word, but that stres is sometimes caried into the concrete,
if not thro it, on acented sylables of moderate quantity.

The use of the median stres or swell, requires no particular
direction. It is generaly employed on the wave, and its practice
may therefore be conected with exercise on pitch.

The vanishing stres may be practiced, by asuming in speech
something like the efort of hicup for the wider intervals ; and of
sobbing, for the minor third and semitone. We do not recomend
practice on the minor third, with reference to its alowable use in
speech ; but to render it so familiar to the ear, that it may be
avoided as a fault. Elementa,ry exercise on Compound stres, and
the Loud Concrete, will give facility in the comand of these forms
of Force. Practice on Thoro stres, with a strict comparison of its
efect, on long quantity, with the efect of the equable concrete, is
here recomended, that the jjupil may by his own knowledge, per-
ception of propriety, and taste, rather than by any authority of
mine, be guarded against this vocal sign of phlegmatic rudeness.

Of Practice on Pitch. The several scales used in speech were
described in the first section. The order of proximate intervals in
the diatonic, and the skip of its wider transitions, must be learned
from an instrument, or the voice. AVith a few days' atcntion to the
various rising and faling movements, on the keys of a piano-forte,
or in the voice of a master, a pupil who has the least nuisical
ear, will be able to execute the same succsions in his voice, and to
recognize the concrete pitch, and change of radical, on elemental
and sylabic utcrance.

After this first lesson, let every interval of })itch, both by con-
crete movement and by radical change, be practiced on every tonic


and subtonic element. The semitone is easily recognized in a
plaintive intonation : and when exercised on all the elements will
readily become obedient to the states of mind requiring its ex-

The efect of the simple and uncolored interval of the second
must be negatively described by sayings it is not the semitone,
with its plaintive character; nor the rising third, or fifth, or
octave, also well known as the sign of interogation ; nor the down-
ward movements of positive declaration and coraand ; nor the
wave, with its admiration, surprise, mockery and sneer. If then,
in sylabic uterance, none of these efects are produced, it may be
concludedj the voice is in the simple second of the diatonic melody.
By practice on this interval, on all the tonics and subtonics, the
pupil will atain a comand over the constituent of this plain into-
nation; nor will he be in danger of destroying its apropriate char-
acter by the whine of the semitone, the sharp inquisitivenes of the
fifth or octave, or with the more ofensive afectation of the wider
forms of the wave.

The pupil will be able to recognize a downward interval, by
familiarizing his ear to the efect of the last constituent of the
triad of the cadence. This will teach him the character of the
faling second ; and by studiously repeating the tonic and subtonic
elements in this movement, he will have nearly as clear a percep-
tion of the peculiarity of the interval, as of the sounds of the ele-
ments themselves. When prepared with this downward vanish,
he may contrast it with the rising second, and thereby become
familiar with the audible character of each. Upon knowing the
second, the wider faling intervals M'ill be jjerceved by continuing
the downward progress, till the intonation asumes the expresion of
comand ; the extent of the downward movement by a third, or
fifth, or octave, being proportional to the less or greater degree of
that expresion. Let these wider intervals be compared with those
of a rising direction, and the diference between the intonation of
a question, and a comand, will be strikingly manifest.

When the pupil has gone over the elements, on the simple
rising and faling intervals, let him turn to their combination, in
the wave. Here his practice must be governed by his perception
of the simple intervals which variously compose its diferent kinds.


The wave of the second is of great importance, in the grave and
dignified character of the diatonic melody. I cannot by direct
description, bring it before the ear; but in giving prolonged quan-
tity to indefinite sylables, if the efect of the upward or downward
wider intervals is not recognized^ nor the peculiar note of songj
nor the marked impresion of the wider wavesj nor that of the
plaintive semitonej it may be concluded, the voice is moving in
the wave of the second.

Of Practice on Melody. An important purpose on this point
is the perception of the radical changes of the second, in the cur-
rent of discourse. If the pupil has a musical ear, he may easily
acquire the habit of varying the several phrases in the maner for-
merly proposed. Should he not have a nice perception of sound,
nor ingenuity in experiment, he must learn the diatonic progresion
from the voice of a previously-instructed master.

Melody is a continuous function ; practice under this head must
therefore be made on sucesive sylables. The best method is to
select a portion of discourse, to keep in mind the diatonic maner
in which it should be read, and at the same time, to uter only the
tonic element of each sylable ; and by a sort of vocal short-hand,
or instayit hackings of a momentary cough, to go thro this doted
outline as it were, of the melody. In this case, the ear not being
embarassed by the subtonics, the diference between rise and fall in
radical pitch, will be more aparent, and consequently the power of
avoiding monotony, and of mingling all the phrases in an agreeable
variety, more easily atained.

Of Practice on the Cadence. Tlie cadence is an important part
of the melody of speech ; and readers being therein liable to fre-
quent and striking faults, the subject requires discriminative aten-
tion. Here particularly the elementary practice is to be employed ;
the pupil bearing in mind the difcrent forms of intonation for ter-
minating a sentence^ and exercising his voice separately on one,
two, or three elements or sylables, considered as a close.

By elemcntiiry practice on the various species of the cadenccj
comand over their intonation will be exercised, with a perceptible
acuracy, never yet within the incoherent purpose of any ancient or
modern system of Imitative disci j)line ; for many of these pur-
poses were only dreams. After the proper time devoted to th6


plan here recomended, the pupil will be provided with an ample
fund for every variety in his periods ; nor will he then find liim-
self at the end of his sentence, with a sylable that seems to have
got out-of-joint with its intonation.

Of Practice on the Tremor. The tremulous movement should
be practiced on individual elements. With a knowledge of its
various forms, the pupil may corect himself in his task, and finaly
acquire the acuracy, so esential to this remarkable expresion. If
the habit of lausrhino- and cryino^ does here furnish a wide field of
practice, it is to be recolectedj we laugh and cry instinctively, upon
our own delight and sufering. When the tremulous expresion is
employed to afect an audience, governed in its tastej as it may
come to pass hereafter, by the knowledge and principles we are
here unfoldingj it should be done, not only acording to the dictates
of Nature, and within the iluminated circle of her truth, but with
that refinement, and finish of execution, which her incipient in-
stinct may not have had the purpose to acomplish ; while yet ready
to acknowledge their entire consistency with her prospective and
progresive laws.

Of Practice on Vocality. Vocality is capable of improvement ;
and the practice in this case may be either on the elements, or on
the curent of discourse. Yet as this mode of the voice is most
perceptible on the tonic sound, perhaps the elementary leson is the
best for instruction. In whatever maner the improving exercise
is conducted^ by it, harshnes may be somewhat softenedj a husky
voice be brought nearer to pure vocalityj the piercing treble re-
duced in pitchj and the thin and meager voice indued with greater
fulnes and strength.

There is, however, a misconception on this subject, which may
be noticed here.

The characteristic Vocalities, or, as confounded with Pitch, and
vaguely caled, the distinguishing ' tones,' of the voice, are said to
be unlimited, and like the face, peculiar to each individual. We
do not often forget or confound the known voices of individuals,
however numerous they may be ; a popular proof, that M'e all
have an instinctive and discriminative ear, for the things of Speech,,
without having names for them. But the distinct recognition is
here made upon combinations of the specific degrees, and forms of


force, pitch, and time, rather than on the single mode of vocalitv.
One speaker is characterized by a constant use of the vanishing
stres ; another by that of the radical ; one employs the interval of
a third in the curent melody instead of a second ; some a long,
and others a short quantity on every emphatic word. By a varied
permutation of these features, a counties number of diferent, yet
distinguishable faces, is given to the body of speech. And here,
as a coment on the prevalent notion, that speech with its 'occult
qualities,' is too subtle, imaterial, or, to use the Platonic ' slang '
of the nineteenth century, too 'spiritual,' to be made a subject of
physical investigationj let us remark, that all these faces, features,
aye, and delicate expresions of speech are practically conizable by
comon perception.

There is as great a variety in vocality, as in any one mode of
the voicej and more than of some ; the amount however, falls far
short of the almost endles combinations of the various forms of
the Modes with each other.

We may learn that vocality is not always its distinguishing
markj by atending to the prolonged note of song ; for this makes
it more obvious. In perceving a prolonged note, exclusive of any
peculiarity of stres, time, or intonation, it is not easy to distinguish
voices, that widely difer when heard under the mingling modes
of speech, in only a single sentence. Of the speaking voices of a
thousand persons, each would be distinguishable, by its peculiar
manner of using the various permuted forms of pitch, time, and
stress. If the same voices were severaly to be indicated by a single
prolonged note of song, the diferences in vocalit}^ might be reduced
to a few classes. There would be forte and piano voices heard
among them, shrill and hoarse, clear, aspirated, harsh, full, meager,
dull, and sub-sonorous : and to these a few others might be added.
Yet even these would, in some cases, be perceptible only to a cul-
tivated ear ; and of the whole tliousand, above suposed, perhaps
not more than twenty clases of vocality, as subjects of recognition
could be found, to constitute twenty diferent kinds.

Of the Orotund as a kind of voice, we spoke in a former sec-
tion ; and there described the means by which the fulnes, power,
and graver character of this voice may be atuincd. It miglit per-
haps asist the lieader in using the proper moans for acquiring the


orotund, to know, that the vocality in this case, is apt to change
into wliat we formerly caled the basso-falsetej producing that
' double-lung' kind of speech, of mingled bass and treble.

Of Practice in Rapidity of Speech. Extreme rapidity of speech
may be employed for ataining comand over the voice. The difi-
culty, of making transitions from one position of the organs of
articulation to another, requires an exertion which tends to increase
their strength and activity ; and this enables them to execute the
usual time of speech, without hesitation. I would recomend the
utmost possible precipitancy of uterance ; taking care not to outrun
the complete articulation of every element ; and this makes it ad-
visable to set the leson on some discourse, long fixed in the mem-
ory, that no embarasment may arise from the distracting efort of

There is not much advantage to be derived from elementary
practice on Aspiration, the Emphatic vocule, and Gutural vibra-
tion. The exact and forcible execution of these functions, does
not require the exclusive atention, directed by the rudimental sys-
tem of practice ; nor is anything to be efected thereby, that may
not perhaps, for all practical and tasteful purposes, be acomplished
in the current of discourse.

This is a brief enumeration of the articulative, the thotive,
and the expresive constituents of the whole asemblage of speech.
An interesting inquiry isj whether we should aim to acquire a full
power over these constituents, by exercising the voice on their

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 45 of 59)