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 5 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 5 of 59)
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Had he not begun and continued his investigation thru the dis-
tractino^ means of controversy ; had not his atention been drawn
into the desultory course of resjwnsive argument ; nor his courtesy
towards the opinions of others partially betrayed him to their au-
thority ; had he not asumed as identical, those facts of music and
of speech, which his own closer observation Mould have proved to
be diferent ; and above all, had he not looked back to a suposed
science, in the wTitings of the Greeks, and to the dark confusion
of comentators upon them, but in self-superiority to this ol>struc-
tive influence, kept his ful-suficient and undeviating ear on Nature,
she would at last have led him up to light.

Mr. Sheridan is well known by his discriminating investigation
of the Art of reading ; and tho he improved both the detail and
method of his subject, in the departments of pronunciation, em-
phasis, and pause, he made no analysis of intonation. A regreted
omision ! The more so from the ceitainty, that if this topic had
receved his atention, his inteligenoe and industry would have shed
much light of explanation upon it.

Mr. \\'alker, who has writcn usefully on Rhetoric and Philology,
devotes a portion of his work to the subject of the rise and fall of
the voice, in its aplication to the emphatic sylables of a sentence :
and reiterates his claims to originality on this subject. Mr.
Walker may have been the first to aply the confused and conjec-
tural system of ancient Accnt to a modern language ; but he has


scarcely gone beyond the limited analysis, furnished by its history.
The Greek writers on music had a discriminative knowledge of the
rise, fall, and circumflex turn of speech. Aristoxenus the philoso-
pher, a pupil of Aristotle, discovered, or first described, that pecu-
liar rise and fall of sound by a continuous progresion, which
distinguishes the vocal slid, from the skiping transition on musical

Mr. Walker does triumphantly claim the discovery of the in-
verted circumflex acent, or the downward-and-upward continued
movement. Yet, if it is corectly infered from the dates of pub-
lication, and from Mr. Walker's rather derisive alusion to Mr.
Steele's essay, that the latter author preceded him j he mit have
found, in Mr. Steele's gravo-acute acent, proof of a previous
knowledge of his newly-found function of the voice.

Mr. Walker was a celebrated elocutionist, and may have known
how to manage his intonation ; but in his atempt to delineate its
forms, he is even less definite than Mr. Steele. His insinuation
that speech and music, each being varied uses of the same tunable
constituents, should not be ilustrated by some analogous notation^
and his own eroneous diagrams of the progress of pitch, are in-
stances of a want of reflection and of obtusenes of ear, quite rep-
rehensible in one, who, without compulsion, should undertake to
investigate the relationships of sound.

I have stated the amount, and the sources, of what has been
heretofore known of the functions of speech. In a general view, it
apears : That the number, the kinds, and the organic causes of the
Aljihabetic Elements have long been recorded, with acurate dctiiil ;
That Quantity or the Time of sylabic uterance, together with the
subject of Pause, had been distinguished only by a few indefinite
terms, until Mr. Steele, with discriminative perception, aplied to
speech some of the principles and symbols of musiciil notation;
That Acent or the means of distinguishing a sylable by sires or
intensity of voice, has been definitely described in English pronun-
ciation, both as to its place and degrees ; That this sylabic stress,
tho attentively regarded in the grammatical institute of the Greeks,
is yet in their records, so confounded with some notion of the rising
and the falling slid, and the circumflex turn of the voice, tliat we
are left altogether in doubt, as to their systematic and separate use


of these (liferent functions ; That Emphasis, wlien restricted to the
purpose of making one or more words conspicuous, by force or in-
tensity, has long been a subject of rlietorical atention; Mr. Walker
being the first among modern Elocutionists, who atempted, under
the terms upward and downward slide, to conect any view of In-
tonation with it : And finaly, that the analysis of Intonation has
hardly been extended beyond the recorded knowledge of the
ancients. Greek and Roman writers tell us of the acute, grave,
and circumflex movements ; and these, with the newly described
inverted-circumflex, have, at a recent date, by Mr. Steele and Mr.
Walker, first been vaguely regarded, in English speecli.

These four general heads of intonation are truly drawn from
nature ; yet, with the present indefinite meaning of their terms,
they are useles for practical instruction, and no less imperfectly
designate the measurable modifications of speech, than the four
cardinal terms of the compas describe all the points, distances,
and contents of space.

The discovery of the above mentioned distinctions in intonation,
which must justly form the outline of all nicer discrimination, was
the result of philosophical inquiry. A much more abundant, but
not more precise nomenclature has been derived from criticism.
The folowing phrases are extracted from a description of Mr. Gar-
rick's maner of reading the Church-service, and have an especial
reference to the Intonation of his voice : ' Even tenor of smooth
regular delivery,' 'Fervent tone,' 'Sincerity of devotional ex-
presion,' 'Ilei)entant tone,' 'Reverential tone,' 'Evennes of voice,'
' Tone of solemn dignity,' ' Of suplication,' ' Of sorow, and con-

Those who know what constitutes acuracy of language, must
admit that such atempts to name the means of vocal expresion,
have no more claim to the title of Intel igible description, than be-
longs to the rambling signification of vulgar nomenclature. We
seem not to l>e aware, that no describablc perceptions of sound are
conectcd with such comon phrases of criticism, until required to
ilustrate them by some definite forms of intonation. 'Grandeur
of feeling,' says a writer, in laying down the rules of elmnition,
'should be cxpresed with pomp and magnificence of tone;' as if
the words, pomp and magnificence were specifications of percepti-


ble ' tones j' or explanatory and definite terms for some well-known
forms and uses of the voice. But as these words describe no audi-
ble function, they can in this case denote indefinitely, only a state
of mind; and are therefore convertible with the term, 'grandeur
of feeling,' which denotes indefinitely only a state of mind. AVe
may therefore presume, from their having no reference to assign-
able conditions of the voicej if the writer had been, conversely
asked, how 'pomp and magnificence of feeling' should be expresed,
he would, with no more precision, have answered j 'by grandeur
of tone.' Such rules for the expresion of speech, tho abounding
in our systems of elocution, are resolvable, into words, with no ex-
planatory meaning. Nor can any weight of authority give them
the power of description ; since the terms ' sorowful expression,'
and 'tone of solemn dignity,' in the precepts of an acomplished
Elocutionist, have no more signification as to the modes, forms,
degrees, and varieties of pitch, time, and force of voice, than those
of 'fine-turned cadence,' and 'chaste modulation,' in the idle criti-
cism of a daily gazette.

All arts and sciences apear under two diferent conditions. They
may be described by terms of vague signification, suited to the
limited knowledge and feeble senses of the ignorant, in every caste
of society. Those who view them under this condition, in vainly
pretending to discriminate, express only their thotless approbation.
Again, they may be shown in definite delineation, by a language
of unchangeable meaningj and independently of the perversions,
which slender ability, natural temper, or momentary humor may
create. He who thus surveys an art, will in expressing his apro-
bation, always reflect and discriminate.

Some branches of the art of speaking are even at this late
period scarcely removed from the first of these conditions. This
however, will not seem strange, when we for a moment refer to
its cause. There is no growth of intelect from a metaphysical
nothing; no 'equivocal generation' in knowledge. It always
springs from the obvious seeds of itself; and these are first
planted in the mind, by definite perceptions and explanatory
terms. But the elementary forms of Intonation are an esential
constituent of expresive speech ; and tho constiuitly heiird, have
never been named : the studious inquirer has therefore wanted a


definite language for those purposes of the voice, which lie must
have always obscurely perceved. The fulness of nomenclature in
art is directly proportional to the degree of its improvement ; and
the acuracy of its terms insures the precision of its systematic
rules. The few and indeterminate designations of the modes of
the voice in Heading, compared with the number and acuracy of
the terms in Masic, imply the diferent maner in which each has
been cultivated. The inquirers into the subject of speech have
un})roductively given up their opinions to authority, and their
pens to quotation. The musician has devoted his ear to observa-
tion and experiment, and in their path has persisted onward to
succes. The words, quick, slow, long, short, loud, soft, rise, fall,
and turn, indefinite as they are, include nearly all the discrimina-
tive terms of Elocution. How far they fall short of an enumera-
tion of every precise and elegant use of the voice, and how fairly
the caiLse of the vague and limited condition of our knowletlge ls
here represented, shall be determined on a retrospective view by
an age to come, when the ear will have made deliberate examina-

A conviction of the imperfect state of our knowledge in certaiii
branches of the Art of Speaking, first led the Author to the en-
suing investigation ; and a hope that others mit asist in the com-
pletion of a desirable measurement and method of the voice,
induced him to set the present publication before them. If it
shud not furnish a plan for the future establishment of the prin-
ciples of Intonation, Time, and Forcej he must still continue to
beleve, without controversy, in the atainable and practical benefits
of such a work.

I canot, at this timej when an unsteady Popularity, in disturb-
ing everything else, has presumed to be the directive Master of
Tastej withhold a few remarks on the importance of general 2>rin-
ciples, in the Fine Arts ; as these ])rinciples are not only the sure
Foundation and the Pi-eservative defense of a steadfa'^t Intelectual
Taste, distinguished from a Taste of changeable preferences, and
capricej but are at the same time, the most efcctive means for
exalting it. And altho the entire want of such principles or rules
in the use of Intonation, has unecesarily letl to the l>eliefj they
canot be instituted, it will be shown in the folowing csay ; they


are not only as esential but likewise as atainable in Elocution, as
in any other art which elegantly employs the observation and
reflection of the intelect.

Those persons who receve the highest intelectual enjoyment
from the works of art, know well, that its fulness and durability
are chiefly derived from that power of broad and exact discern-
ment, which is acquired by experience, and time, and by a dis-
ciplined inquiry into the rules of taste that direct the production.
A knowledge of these rules constitutes the executive facility of
the artist, and gives delight to him who contemplates the work.
Whatever the physical susceptibility may be, it is not the im-
presion of form, or color, or sound, pasively receved by the eye
or ear, that creates an enlightened perception of the objects of the
fine arts. Delicate organization, call it ' Genius ' here if you
please, is essential to this perception ; still it is the united activity
of the senses and the brain, in the work of observation and com-
parison, together with the development of new, and the aplication
of pre-established rulesj which by unfolding the latent tendencies
of this physical susceptibility, constitutes the extended, the dis-
criminative, and the enduring pleasure of taste. And if there is
yet to be discovered some surpasing eficacy of art, for a surpasing
intelectual delight, it can never be acomplished, except by the
influence of comprehensive and still acumulating precepts ; derived
from the study of nature it is true, but aplied to represent her
chosen, corected, and combined individualities ; and thereby, under
the human eye at least, to generalize and exalt even that Nature,
in form if not in purpose, above herself.

Besides the sources of contemplative pleasure, and the means of
preservation and improvement in an art, aforded by principles,
their influence is operative after a temporary decline, or total loss
of its practice. They efect a speedy restoration when evil example
has passed away, or a tradition of former excelence has produced
a desire for its revival. Tlie definite description of elementary
constituents, and the statement of the rule of their use, are par-
ticularly necesary in the art of speaking- well ; since its pasing
exercise leaves no record of itself. The works of art, without an
explanation of their meaning and use, are often as deep an enigma,
as the works of nature ; and a long course of observation is in


cac'li case equaly required, to note and class their phenomena, and
to discover their formal, their efficient, and their final causes.

Altlio the ancients have left us abundant eulop^istic anecdotes on
the art of Painting, they have done little more than alude to tliosc
principles of composition, design, shaded light, and coloring, by
which their great masters im])roved upon nature, while they ])ro-
fesed to imitate her ; and the want of a knowledge of these, even
with the benefits of patronage, was one cause of the delay of at
least two centuries, in the gradual progres of the art to its full
restoration, in modern Europe. Stories of the graces of ancient
Design were revolved in the minds of the image-makers of Italy,
and of the decorators of cloisters, like the problems of the me-
chanical wondei's of Archimedes, that were not to be solved by
record or tradition.*

Ancient architecture has, by means of the fragments of its ruins,
been revived in modern days, to a degree atainable thru precision
of measurement ; and under this view, some of its remains have
furnished the highest examples for imitation. Delicate observa-
tion, aided by a refined taste in other arts, is yet required, to
retreve the knowledge of those principles which must have directed
the taste of the Greeks ; but of which Vitruvius gave only an
imperfect sketch, while compiling a popular book lor Builders ;
and which Pausanias, in his hurried tour, forgot to set down, as
the proper preface to his Inventory of temples.

If the Greek writers on music had not furnished us with a
knowledge of the ancient Scales, and of the principles tliat
directed their construction and uses, the records of Choragic
monuments and the acounts of the Odeum, wud have only ex-
cited our wonder at the extraordinary power of instrumental
sound. The inv^entivc mind of Guido, instead of completing the
modern scale, might have only laid its foundation, by fixing a
single chord acros a shell, and the finished system of modern har-
mony mit now have been but just begun.

Such is the view we take of arts directed by princij)lcs, or pre-

* See an acount of the above new term, shaded light, in tlie twonty-flfth
Article of the thirty-sixth Section, under the head of Painting, in th(! ' Nat-
ural History of the Intelect;' since from the conection of the mind and the
voice, I supose the incjuiring Header to poses tiie two Works that describe it.


cepts colected from experience, for designing, executing, presers^ing,
and reviving the great and desirable works of usefulness and
taste : precej)ts acumulated by th¬І eforts of close and industrious
observation, looking to the eventual aid of Time ; who, himself
never working impatiently, becomes the great wonder-Avorker of
all intelectual, as well as of all physical creation.

The folowing essay exhibits an atempt to describe the constituents
of speech, and the principles of their aplication, with a precision
that may enable criticism to be systematic and instructivej thereby
afording readers at other times and places, the means of compre-
hending its discriminations.

Discusions on the subject of standard principles, in some of the
arts, have always involved the question of their origin ; and nature
has generaly been asumed as the source.

Nature afords two conditions of her governing rules, for rules
are only directive principles. In one, she is taken as the model
for exact imitation, in those branches of art which profes to copy
her full and actual details^ exemplified by the faultles and ex-
quisite artistic delineations, in the various departments of Natural
History, and as in every science. Here individual nature is the
standard ; and here the excelence of art consists, in the whole-
truth of the resemblance, without the least superfluous ideal-touch.
In the other, or in the departments of Taste, where it is the jjur-
pose to exalt its creations, by a mental corecting of what to our eye,
apears to be the exceptionable details of nature, or by a selection
from her scatered constituents of beautvj the rule is the result of
a congenial knowledge in the art, exhibited in strong similarity
among persons of equal instinct and cultivation : v/hich, if it does
not prove conformity in taste to be the development of an invari-
able law of nature, in the human mind, at least afords education
the means of tracing the causes of beauty and deformity ; and of
framing a satisfactory and enduring system of laws for itself.

The uses of the voice have not yet been brot under either of
these conditions. For the first ; Nature or that uncnligjitened, or
rather deformed instinct comonly called natural speech, does not
aford examples of individual excelence; and has perhaps never
furnished a single instance, worthy in all respects to be copied.
For the second condition ; from the want of a full knowledge and


definite nomenclature of the constituents of speedi, and of careful
experiments on the vocal signs of thot and pasionj there has never
iK'on tliat dear perception of the characteristic causes of beautv
and deformity, which would warant the institution of a standard,
either by the method of selection, or by that of the exalting power
of creative thot. The highest achievements in statuary, painting,
and the landscape, consist of those forms and compositions, never
perhaps found singly-existent, or variously combined in nature ;
but which in the estimation of Cultivated Taste, and its perfecting
agency, may far surpas her individual productions.

The folowing analytic history of the human voice will enable
an Elocutionist of any nation, to frame a didactic system for his
own native and familiar speech. Since it shows that the vocal
signs of expresion have a universality, coexistent with the prev-
alence of thot and passion ; and that a gramar of elocution, like
that of music, must be one and the same for the whole family of
man. He will also find the outline of a system of principles and
practice, I have ventured to propose, on a survey of those proper-
ties of uterance, which seem to me, acomodated to the taste of the
cultivated ear ; but which being rarely, if ever acomplished by the
human voicej tho still within the reach of natural sciencej must,
until so physicaly acomplished, be caled, in analogy with the
highest character of the above named arts, the Ideal Beauty of
speech. Beleving, that no one age or nation has yet been able to
prove its claim to suj^eriority in the Art of speaking, I have pre-
sumed to make a universal aplication of the system of the folow-
ing Work, on the ground, of the unity of the laws oi' nature, and
of the universality of the fixed and describable relations between
the states of thot and of pasion, and the vocal sign's^ which re-
spectively denote them.

This undertaking is directly oposcd to a vidgar error.. The
inscrutable character, as it is afirmed, and the suposcd infinity, of
the vocal movements, together with the rapid coarse and perpetual
variation of uterance, are considered as insuj)erable obstacles to a
precise description of tho detail and system of the S|>eaking voice;
This objection will be hereafter answered, otherwise than by con-
tentious argument. But we may here, otdy ask^ if there is no
other oportunity to count the radii of a wheel than in the race; or


to number and describe the Individuals of a herd, except in the
promiscuous mingling of their flight. Music, with its infinitude
of details, must still have been a mystery, could the knowledge of
its intervals and its time have been caught-up, only from the mul-
tiplied combinations and rapid execution of the orchestra. The
acuracy of mathematical calculation, joined with the sober patience
of the ear over a deliberate practice on its constituentsj has not
had more succes in disclosing the system of this beautiful and
luminous science, than a similar watchfiilnes over the deliberate
movements of speech will aiford, for designating the hitherto un-
recorded phenomena of the voice. If there is any purpose in the
works of nature, or any ordained eficiency of means to complete
the circle of her designs, we shall find, on the development of her
vocal system, some uniform and apropriate rulesj within the pale
of which the voice should be variously exercised, to give light to
the intelect and pleasure to the ear.

The acurate sciences, and the fine arts, without our having re-
gard to the simplicity of those Primary Causes, in the mind, which
the more deeply they are viewed, the more we may perceve only
a varied unity in their efectsj have been contrasted by the kinds,
rather than as it should be, by the degrees of their claims to truth.
The careles argument asumes, that taste is merely a wavering thot,
or ' feeling ' among mankind ; and has no rule for the co-perception
of grandeur, grace, and beauty-, in the selected, or exalted uses of
form, color, and sound. This asumption is one of the delusions of
ignorance. But if there is a similar method of perception among
persons of equal taste and education, it must be founded on some
general principle of the cultivated intelect. The agreement there-
fore, arising from the equalizing law of knowledge, gives a char-
acter to the principles of taste, analogous at least to that, which by
a like constitutional law of the mind, in a general consent on the
subject of physical relationshipsj forms the full and unquestiona-
ble truth of the acurate sciences. Under this view of the founda-
tion of the principles of the fine arts, we must perceve at last the
measure of their truth, as that of the truth of the exact sciences, in
the agreement of those who cultivate them. He who knows, that
all men of education find the same properties in a circle, may
learn by a similar perception, that if the mind should ever be


clearetl of its human rubbish; particular exeelcncics of the painter,
poet, architect, orator, statuary, compaser, hmdscape improver, and
actor, will reach the sprin

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 5 of 59)