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 50 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 50 of 59)
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eye ; and tlic plain interval of the second in curent and elegant
speech, like the verdure of the earth, is wisely designed, to releve
its respective sense from the fatiguing stimulus of undue, and more
vivid impresions. The diatonic melody, in a well composed elo-
cution, is simple and unobtrusive, and thereby afords a ground-hue
for bringing-out the contrasted color of expresive intervals ; yet it
does, when continued into the place of this wider intonation, asume
a positive character, under the form of a fault.

A striking instance of misaplication of the second, is its em-
ployment for that state of mind which properly requires the semi-
tone. I formerly spoke of its false expresion, ocasionaly heard in
the public cry of Fire. Some persons are of such a frigid tem-
perament, or have such inflexible organs, even when a degree of
warmth does not seem to be wanting, as to apear incapable under
ordinary motives, of executing the chromatic melody. Pain, or
a selfish instinct may force it on the voice; yet, in them, it is so
slightly conected with tendernes, or so little under comand, that
the most pathetic pasages are given in the comparatively phleg-
matic intonation of the diatonic melody. We sometimes see an
Actor of this unchanging drift of temper, cast, on the emergencies
of a night, to the part of a lover : and may ocasionaly hear from
the pulpit, fervent apeals of the Litany, and humble petitions of
extemporary prayer, under an intonation, more apropriate to the
task of repeating the multiplication table.

Some speakers make an over-use of the second ; for even this
plain and inexpresive interval when misj^laced, so defeats the pur-
])Oses of speech that we are sometimes more indebted to gramatical
construction, than to the voice, for a perception of their interoga-
tives. It is the same too with their emphasis, in those conditional
and positive sentences which, for impresive and varied efect, re-
spectively require the rising, and the faling interval of the third,
or fifth, or octave.

The most important function of the second, consists in the
succsions of the diatonic melody. The character of these suces-
ions, as we learned in the eighth section, is produced by a varied
composition of the seven phrases. "We have now to learn how
far the comon practice of readers, deviates from the described.


but perhaps as yet only described, perfection of a pure diatonic

Oj Faults in the Melody of Speech. If the rule laid down in this
esay for constructing an agreeable sucesion of diatonic phrases, is
founded in propriety and taste, I must declare, I have never yet
heard its conditions strictly fulfiled, in a well aranged, and satis-
factory melody. Players spend their time before mirors, till grace
of person is studied into manerism, and expresion of feature dis-
torted into grimace. Emphasis of stres too, is teazed with experi-
ment, on every word of a sentence, and tested in authority, by all
the traditions of the Green-Room : but who has ever thot of any
asignable rules for the sucesions of sylabic pitch in a curent
melody, or suposed therein, the existence of describable faults !

The First fault to be noticed, is the continued use of the mono-
tone, on the same line of radical pitch ; the vanish of the second
or of wider intervals, being properly performed. I do not here
mean the drawl of the parish-clerk, nor the monotony of the
reading-clerk of most public assemblies; for these are sometimes
the note of song, and wdll be spoken-of presently. The unvaried
line of radical pitch, now under consideration, is not so glaring as
this old conventicle-tune, nor has it at all the character of song.
If the Reader were near me, I would ilustrate the peculiarity of
this fault ; and I can only describe it, as preventing the agreeable
efect, arising from the contrast of pitch ; the transition in the
case of a continued monotone, with a rising concrete, being from
a feeble vanish to a fuller radical, only one tone below the sum-
mit of that vanish ; in the faling-ditone sucesion of a varied
melody, the distance is two tones below the sumit of the preceding

One of the causes of this fixult in public speakers, deserves to
be noticed here. I spoke of vociferation as a means for imparting
vigor and fulnes to the voice ; but this exercise being usualy on a
higlier curent, tends to prevent a pro})cr variation of the melody
of speech. Speakers who adress large asemblies, and who Iiave
not that clear vocality and distinct articulation which would insure
the recpiired reach of voice, generally atcmpt to remedy the dofoct,
by rising to iha utmost limit of the natural compas, and continu-
ing their current just below the falsete. For fear of breaking


into this, tlicy avoid the rising- phi'coses of melody ; while the pur-
pose to be distantly heard in an elevated pitch, prevents tlieir
descending by radical change. They consequently continue on
one monotonous line near the falsete, and vitiate their taste by the
partial pleas of their own example ; restrain tlieir melodial flexi-
bility ; and blunt their perception of the variety of movement in
a more reduced curent of pitch.*

Second. ]Melody is deformed by a predominance of the phrase
of the monotone, together with a full cadence at every pause.
This i)erhaps is only found in the first atempts at reading by
children and rustics.

Third. By a proper use of the phrases of melody within a
limited extent, but with a formal return of the same sucesions.
In this case, the whole discourse is subdivided into sections, re-
sembling each other in the order of pitch; the sections consisting
of entire sentences, or of their members. This habit of the voice
and ear, in dividing the melody into sections, as well as in forming
acentual and pausal divisions, seems to be conected with one of
the characters of style : for there is a tendency in some persons
to give a like construction, and often an equal length to their

All Actors, except those of the first class, and they are not as
finished on this point as they may be hereafterj are prone to this
bird-like kind of intonation. They have a short run of melody,
which if not forcibly interupted by some peculiar expression, is
constantly recurring. The return forms a kind of melodial meas-
ure : and I now call to mind an Actres of great repute, whose
intonation was filled with emphasis of thirds, fifths, octaves, and
waves ; and whose sections of melody could be anticipated, with
something like the forerunning of the mind over the rythmus
of a coraon stanza of alternate versification. Those who com it
this fault, will have no dificulty in recognizing and corecting it,

* This cause operates on the enthusiasts of the Pulpit; on many of the
speakers, and always on the clerk of the Lowe?- House of the American Con-
gress ; where the scrambling cries to be first heard, with the uproar of titular
Honorables, overrule the gentlemanly rights, and duties of the voice ; but it is
most remarkable in the mouth of the stump and scaffold Demagogue, whose
own political designs lead him to address great crowds in the open air.


if desirable, when the mirror of full and exact description is held
before them.

The monotonous efect of a repetition of these similar melodial
sections, constitutes one of the signs by which the smart apren-
tices of the Pit, and some of their beter-dresed peers in the
Boxes, distmguish the voices of famous Actors, and think they
represent their real points of excelence, when they mimic only
the manerism of their faults. This recuring section of a similar
melody may in itself, consist of a proper sucesion of phrases :
but being unvaried, you hear it too often and remember it too
well. The whole curent in this case, figuratively resembles the
old Roman Festoon, which however well adapted to an insulated
tablet, was in abasement of Greek architectural taste, joined in
monotonous repetition around the frieze ; instead of representing,
as a just melody might, that succession of sculpture, which in
severe simplicity and expresive design adorned the varied metopes
of the Parthenon.

Fourth. I have known more than one speaker with this fiiult.
Sentences are begun aloud on a high, and ended alrhost inaudibly
on a low degree of pitch ; and so continued during a whole dis-
course ; producing a monotony, similar in efect, to that last de-
scribed. It would be dificult to find out the meaning of this fault,
or to discover such a shadow of apology for it, as many worse
ofenses in life might claim for themselves. One speaker whom I
knew, with this striking afectatiouj for no instinctive, nor conven-
tional motive could ever have directed itj was, first by himself it is
presumed, and then by the asociates of his long since departed day
of popularity, called ' a fine reader.' Such instances of fame may
serve to convince us, that with all our blind conceitsj and who
among us is without them j there is no art, except that of Thinhing,
in which self-imposition is more conspicuous tlian in Elocution.
Without an acknowledged rule of excelence, every individual,
cultivated or not, makes his own individual taste the standard.
Having learned that it is the part of a good reader to represent
the thot and pasion of discourse, and as each in his atempt, fulfils
his oion conception of an author, he is self-persuaded, that he ])os-
eses the full power of the art. This is one cause why Ave find so
much delusion on this subject. For, reputed ' good readers ' are


often not merely negatively deficient; they are often positively
bad : and perverse as it may seem, to the overbearing aplauses of
a majority, I have frequently gone to observe the faults of speak-
ers, when caled to hear some ' star ' of elocution, even when that
star was himself a Teacher of the Art. Loud whoops and yells
have always been 'the vocal delight of savages ; and noise of every
kind is the pastime substitute for reflection in ignorant civiliza-
tion : so an exagerated and consequently striking character of the
constituents of speech, is always most agreeable to the uninstructed

Fifth. The manner of changing the pitch from one degree to
another, above or below it, in the diatonic melody, was shown in
the eighth section. An inability to comand the radical change,
not only prevents variety of intonation, but embarases a reader in
pasing from a very high or very low pitch, when he has improp-
erly set out in either. Speakers sometimes descend so for, as to
leave no voice below the line of curent melody, to alow an audible
execution of the last constituent of the cadence. In this case, they
perceve the feeble and unsatisfactory efect of their intonation,
without knowing the cause of it, and being able to aply the
remedy. By the rules of a proper melodial progresion, and of the
maner in which the cadence descends, the fault here pointed out
may be avoided.

AVe noticed formerly, that a reader, with a good ear, has a sort
of ^recursive perception of the falsete, which enables him to turn
from it, when his melody is moving near the sumit of his natural
voice. A similar anticipation of the lowest note, warns him to
keep his cadence within the limit of distinct articulation.

Sixth. The use of the protracted radical, or protracted vanish,
instead of the equable concrete, is one of the widest deviations
from the characteristic of speech. For,' a proper diatonic melody
consists of an equable movement on the interval of a second, with
an agreeably varied radical change thru the same space ; the curent
being ocasionaly broken by wider equable intervals, and by difer-
ent forms of stres, as the subject may require these aditions upon
individual words.

Inasmuch as this fault includes that of long quantity, it is not
often heard in the hasty uterances of comon life. I have however.


met with a slight degree of it in a phlegmatic clrawler. Public
speakers overwrot by excitement, and straining their throats to
be heardj I say, straining their throats, instead of energizing their
voices, are most liable to this eror of intonation. Some cases of
this fault are conected with a monotonous curent melody, and a
very defective management of the cadence. I heard it under the
form of the protracted radical, along with other heinous ofenses
against good elocution, in one of the public's 'great Actors.' It
w^as most remarkable in his endeavor to give long quantity to short
sylables ; as in the folowing words of Macbeth :

Canst thou not m — inister to a m — ind diseasedj
PI — uck from the m — emory.

I have here set a dash after the leters on which he continued the
protracted radical, until it sudenly vanished in the termination of
the sylable. The Actor's fault was the ering exercise of a vocal
instinct. He perceved obscurely, the need of long quantity for
the purpose of exj^resion ; but being one of those, who having some
animal excitability, no education, little intelect, and an inverse pro-
portion of vanity j are always looking upon themselves as the center
of aplausej it did not ocur to him, that the prolongation of a
mutable sylable, might be deformed by an undue quantity ; and
that a subtonic at the begining of a sylable, makes no part of the
equable concrete ; two points of knowledge that would long ago
have been prepared for his ear and tonguej if there had been in
the Histrionic art, more observation, and reflectionj with less re-
liance on the dream of ' Identity,' and the fatal delusion of 'Inborn

Seventh. The fault of melody wc are now about to consider, is
somewhat related to the last described misuse of the protracted
notes. It includes some other forms of intonation, proper to
song : the whole being confused in such a manner with the equable
concrete, as to destroy every design of speech, and to furnish, even
beyond Ilccitiitive, the ultra example of vociil deformity.

In the history of man, nothing is more indefinite than descrip-
tions of the voice : still there is ground to belevej this extravagant
melody is the same as the Puritanical whine, afected so generaly
in religious worship by the English Church, above two hundred


years ago, and which has been changed to other faults scarcely less
censurable, in the pulpit of the present day. The Society of
Friends alone have retained it as a general practice : and it will
not be regarded as either idle or invidious, to look into the
structure of this most remarkable intonation, by the light of our
preceding analysis.

I first give the notation of this melody, and will afterwards
particularly explain it.

I heard a voice from heav'n saying, write,






bless — ed are the dead who die in the Lord.


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 50 of 59)