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 51 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 51 of 59)
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the temporal rest, and the phrases of melody. In the twelfth sec-
tion, we learned what j)hrases are proper for conecting, and sepa-
rating the subdivided meaning of a sentence. Those who, with the
light of our principles, may hereafter look into this subject, will
perceve the fitnes of the apropriation there made ; and will more-
over be struck by the violations of gramar, and of the rule of
variety, so comonly heard among speakers ; some of whom set a
rising third or fifth at most of the sub-pauses, and even at the
period itself. These improprieties must neccsarily be frequent,
from the character of the phrases of melodyj and consequently
from the maner of aplying them, being unknown. Tlic Reader,
I would fain beleve, can now forebear the several faults that might
ocur under this head ; for certainly the purpose of speech will be
obscured, if a faling ditone or tritone should be aplied to that
pause, where a continuative syntax calls for the monotone or the
very reverse of these downward phrases.



Of Faults in the Third. The third is properly employed in the
moderate forms of interogation, and on conditional phrases. Some
readers however, execute the whole curent melody in the rise of
this interval. To those who recognize the uncolored dignity of
the diatonic melody, this curent of the third has the striking
efect of a continued interrogative interval, which renders it unfit
to be the ground for expresive speech. As a Drift it would be
monotonous, and its similarity to the wider emphatic intervals
weakens their expresion, when required in its course. It is
sharper in pitch than the diatonic melody, and consequently
wants its dignity of character. I have heard persons with this
fault try to read ]\Iilton, and Shakspeare, and the declaratory
parts of the Church-service, and always, as apeared to me, with-
out suces. The curent of dignified uterance must always consist
of the wave of the second, on long quantities. No simple up-
ward concrete can produce it; tho the rise of a wide interval
may be ocasionaly employed for emphasis, in the gravest drift of
the diatonic wave.

It is a fault in the third, even when the whole curent is not
made by that interval^ to form all the emphases with it. This
likewise gives a.sharpnes and monotony to speech; for one of its
proprieties as well as beauties, consists in a variation of emi)hasis :
and we pointed out, in its proper place, the abundant means for
this variety.

A curent melody of the third in place of the second, is princi-
paly ofensive by its monotony ; for the wider intervals, as M'e
learned in the section on Drift, will not bear continued repetition.

Of Faults in the Fifth. The interval of the fifth is sometimes im-
properly made the curent concrete of melody. It is a less frequent
fault than the last, and is more comonly heard in women. Its
monotony is still more impresive than that of the third ; the
whole melody having to a critical ear, the character of an intcr-
ogative sentence.

It is not so rcmarkabe, Avhen the emphases of a diatonic melody
arc made only by the fifth. This too has its shar]>nes and mo-
notony; and I am sure the Reader will be siificiently guarded
against this fault, by keeping in mind the ample resources of the
voice, for a varied emphasis.


Those who misplace the third, and fifth, are apt to cary them
into the cadence. Such readei-s end many of their plain declara-
tive sentences with the characteristic of a question.

I might point out, a similar eror of place in the octave ; yet
it is of rare ocurence, and only heard in the piercing treble of
women. Some persons cannot put a question in the subdued
and dignified form of the third or fifth, but always give it in
the sharpness of the octave.

Of Faults in the Dowmoard Movement. Faults of the down-
ward concrete, consist in not giving the emphasis of its intervals
in their just extent; in not aplying them properly or at all, to
exclamatory sentences, and to certain gramatical questions that
require a downward intonation. An improper use of these inter-
vals is sometimes characteristic of a morose and saturnine temper,
in persons who having no grace within themselves, have no voice
of complaisance for others.

Of Faults in the Discrete Movement. Of defects in the man-
agement of the radical change of the second, in the diatonic
melody, we have already spoken. Precipitate falls of the third,
fifth, and octave, sometimes ocur in the cadence of children and
others, while learning to read. Some again are unable to make
those upward and downward radical chang&s, by which acom-
plished readers may hereafter acurately efect all the discrete
transitions required for emphasis.

Of Faults in the Wave. The wave of the second, both in its
direct and inverted form, is plain and dignified in character, and
therefore admisible into the diatonic melody as a drift. It is not
so with the waves of wider intervals. They have their proper
ocasions as solitary emphasis ; whereas the continued repetition of
them becomes a disgusting fault. The wave, comonly afected by
a certain puling class of readers, is the inverted-unequalj the voice
descending on the second, and rising on the third, or fifth. This
fault is most remarkable in reading metrical composition ; arising
perhaps from our familiarity with the union of song and versej
and from a conection of the art of reading, with the imi)re.ssive
intervals of its tune. Persons who 'read in this way, give a set
melody to their lines ; certain parts of each line, as far as the em-
phatic words permit, having a prominent intonation of the wave.



Much of every form of tlie wave prevails in convei'sation ; and
the general character of daih' dialogue often makes it apropriate
there. I have heard the coloquial twirl, even exagerated by an
Actres of great temporary reputation. H^r style consisted of a
continual recurence of identical sections of melody, composed prin-
cipally of the wider forms of the equal and unequal wave ; show-
ing a vocal pertness, and a sort of vivid familiarity^ but wanting
the briliant projDriety of execution, due from a performer of Higher
Comedy to the Author.

Some actors, and readers are prone to the use of the double
wave. They make it the vocal twirl for every state of mind,
thereby denoting their want of a varied and just intonation. It
is an impresive agent, and is therefore, with an eroneous notion
both of its purpose and place, often introduced to give prominent
effect to melody. It has restrictively, its proper ocasions ; and let
it be rememberedj there is a sneering petulance in its character,
totaly inconsistent with dignity.

Nothing is beter calculated to show the propriety of the plain
ground of the diatonic melody, than the repeated use of the wider
waves. It includes the faults in the third, and fifth, and conse-
quently gives a florid and monotonous character to speech. When
such striking intonation is set on every important sylablej how
shall we mark emphatic words, except by an excess in vocality,
time, or force ?*

* The distinction, so often refered to in this esay, between the diatonic
ground-work of melody, and the ocasional cxpresion of wider intervals judi-
ciously employed upon it, is a great escntial of efective and elegant elocution.
According to our system, this diference was an ordination, to meet the re-
spective demands of th6t and pasion. Without regard to it, no one can ever
succede in tragedy, or in other dignified uses of speech ; the diatonic melody
alone, having the character apropriate to awe, solemnity, reverence, and grave
deliberation. And altho the Art of Speech, almost stone-deaf to the causa-
tive agency, not to the cfects of intonation, has never yet been aware of this
diference; still the purposes of truth and boauty in the voice, have herein
never been without a witnes. For he who advocates the principles of this
Work, may, by now finding ocasional instances of the use of the diatonic
melody, admit, that being founded on tlie thdtive state of the mind, it must
have been heard in every age of cultivated speech. Its rarity in the voices
of women, is one cause why so few among them, are able to rise to the tragic
dignity of the stage ; notwithstanding a pretty face, and other prety atractions,
may for a time servo them well enuf, yet not over-well, in Comedy without it.


Oj Faults in Drift. The purposes both of truth and variety,
in the art of Reading- Well, are efected by a delicate regard to
the corespondence between the states of mind, and their vocal

Tliey have so acustomed an undiscerning audience, and so habituated them-
selves, to a puling affectation, which consists in a curent melody of the wider
intervals and waves, the semitone, ;and minor third; and are so ignorant or
careles of their vocal duty, they do not perceve, and therefore will not be told,
this is one among other causes of their frequent failure. For as the obscurity
of histrionic description and criticism alows the inference, it is not improbable
that Mrs. Siddons, in the early part of her career, may, to an impresive de-
greej while ignorant of its construction, and its rulesj have instinctively em-
ployed the diatonic melody. An incident related by her biographer, Boaden,
will perhaps, if elucidated by our analysis, lead to this conclusion.

On her first interview with Garrick, Mrs. Siddons, then Miss Kemble, 're-
peated some of the speeches of Jane Shore before him. Garrick seemed highly
pleased with her uterance, and her deportment ; ' and ' wondered how she had
got rid of the Old So)ig, and the provincial Ti-tum-ti.'

All former criticism on intonation being, we may say uninteligible, we are
left to discover, by the light of our analj-sis, what these terms. Old Song, and
Ti-tum-ti, mean. As the construction and the plain yet peculiar efect of the
diatonic melody of speech, are widely diferent from the construction and the
more vivid character of song ; and as a too frequent and improper use of the
wave, the wider concrete and discrete intervals, the semitone and minor third,
вЦ†with their impresive intonations, when employed in speech, tho far from being
song, do yet more nearly resemble it than the diatonic melody does;, and
further, as the term and notion of the trisylabic foot Tir-ttim-ti, seems to be a
rythmical perception of the ear, produced by a sort of regular return of florid
and misapplied intervals, described in the text, under the present head of faults
of the wavej I cannot avoid thinking that Mrs. Siddons did, at this early
periodj as I personal}' remember she did in after-lifej either in part if not
altogether, instinctively execute the just diatonic melody: and that Garrickj
aware of its peculiar character, yet as ignorant of its analysis as his Call-boyj
had no other means for describing his perception of its dignity than that of
giving to a contrasted and strongly ofensive style of uterance, the names of
Ti-tum-ti, and Song. Nor can I avoid beleving, that Garrick, who could thus
perceve the peculiar character of the plain or diatonic melody in others, must
himself, without being aware of its structure and principles, have employed
a well-marked expresion of wider intervals, on the simple ground of a dia-
tonic intonation; tho never with its finished propriety and grace, under his
then limited and imperfect knowledge of the resources of the Art.

Looking then to the two eminent instances now before us, I would be loth
to regard them under that condition, which Guido so satiricaly asigned to
singers, unenlightened by Science; but which may with truth be asigned, not
unkindly, to many a Roscius, even with all his so-called 'profound' and un-
wearied study and practice in his artj ' Nam qui facit quod non sapit, delinitur


signs, in individual words; and to the Drift, or continuation of
a given state of mind, and form of voice, on one or more sen-
tences ; whereas a neglect of this adjustment will, acording to its
degree, weaken the impresion of speech, or shock the ear and
taste of an auditor. Some readers continue the same vocal drift
under every change of thot and pasion ; others vary the character
of the uterance, without adapting it strictly to these changes.

We have learnedj the most complete close of a paragraph or
chapter, is made by the prepared cadence ; and that certain vocal
means, and changes in the jjlirases of melody, formerly described,
may be employed to prepare an audience for the hegining of a new
subject, and to indicate the full consummation of the previous
sectional or paragraphic pause. The neglect of a speaker on this
point, may be considered a fault in partial Drift.

As the reverse of this fault, we have the unexpected transitions

from one style of uterance to another, without a coresponding

change of subject. I once heard an actor set the whole House

into a hum of meriment, by making that answer of Jaffier to the


Nay by Heaven I'll do this,

in the curling quaintnes of the Avave. The character of Jaffier, the

bestia.' 'For he who acts without a plan, Kesembles more the brute than

It may perhaps be askedj how I could well discriminate the diatonic
melody, at the time I was ignorant of its constituents and construction. I did
not at that date know it by analysis, as it may now be known ; yet its peculiar
character and dignity, in the personations of Mrs. Siddons,so caught my ear,
that after more than half a centurj', the efect of what I then heard, is still a
subject of my memory. And now that the Baconian system has, in its own
words, warned us, not to raise" experiments soley xtpon experiments, nor works
soley iipon works ; but upon the ^for-ms ' or goicral principles of works, to
lay-down a broad foundation for progresive experiments; and by further
showing the proper use of the senses, it has taught, and enabled me to unfold
some of the principles of speech ; I find the efect on my memory, of the in-
tonation of this remarkable Actress, is altogetiicr similar to that of the now
known, and named Diatonic Melody.

This is by no means, an after-thdt of conceit ; for by a like remembrance,
of an Interlude of Dancingj which folowed her evening apearance in Voltim-
nia, or in Lady Macbeth, at Covont-Gardenj I still retain at conuvnd, the just
time and intoiuition of a simple Gavot-Meludy, tlio licard only there, and only


solemnity of the ocasion, and tlie purpose of liis entrance among
the conspirators, are all at variance with the levity, conveyed by
this sneering intonation. Severity of resolution is the ruling state
of mind in Jaffier ; and this calls for the energy of stres, together
with the positivenes of a downward emphatic interval. And it
seems to have been a perception of the ludicrous, from a contrast
between the seriousnes of the Character, and the pertness of the
player, that caused the meriment : for the case, when duly con-
sidered, produces an impresion of the instinctive propriety and
taste of the Audience, and of the absence of both in the Player.
They, unaware of the principle, laughed at what was laughable.
He, in the conceit of ' genius, ' could not be serious at what was
grave ; and perhaps satisfied himselfj their laughter at the ridicu-
lous, was to him, a complacent tribute of aplause.

I have tried in vain to find a term for the extraordinary transi-
tions, sometimes heard on the Stage. They belong to the head of
the faults of Drift : but we must speak of them as vocal pranks,
without a name. I mean to designate, those abrujjt changes from
high to lowj from a roar to a whisperj from quick to slowj harsh
to gentlej from the diatonic melody to the chromaticj from the
gravity of long quantity, to the levity of sneer, to the quick stress
of anger and mirth, or to the ra])id muterings of a madman.

AVe had here, some years ago, a celebrated foreign Player from
whom I draw this picture ; yet for impressive ilustration, perhaps
slightly caricatured. His imitators, who have already disapeared,

caled themselves the school of ; a blank noNv to be well

filed up, as the school of Ignorance and Outrage, with benches
crowded by vociferating, I had nearly said 'Roivdy/ admirers.

A system of elocution may be defended, on either of two diferent
grounds. The one, that it is a copy from nature : the other, that it
does artificialy best answer the ends of speech. No apology for such
flagitious transitions can be derived from either of these sources.
I have seen persons under the highest excitement of natural not
theatric pasion, and changing from one degree and kind to another;
but I have never heard any thing even distantly like the harlequin-
transformations of voice, above alluded to, as aplauded on the
Stagej excei)t in a paroxysm of womanish hysteria. On the otlier
hand, suposing the practice to be founded on an artificial systemj


we would make no objection, provided it could acomplLsh by con-
ventional agreement, all the expresive purposes of speech. But
what plea can that system urge, which perverts all the beauty and
frugality of rule ; which destroys, by its anomaly and abruptnes,
all the pleasures of habit, and anticipation; and takes from the
fine arts, a delight in the boundles images, arising from the busy
exercise of well-established knowledge.

Where this fault of exageration does not arise from blundering
ignorance, or from slavish imitation, it is purposely asumed with
the view to produce what the small vocabulary of dramatic criti-
cism, calls 'Effect.' The Actor being deficient in the means of
that truth and variety of expresion, which only a knowledge of
the resources of the voice, not the practice of the Stage, can aford,
tries to help-out his uninstructed 'Genius' by breaking the even
tenor of an apropriate Drift, with some ear-starting stimulus or
some unexpected colapse.

We should however, do some Actors the justice to beleve, that
with a jDroper estimate both of nature and art, they must secretly
disaprove of such things. Yet how shall we absolve them from
the charge of submittino; to what they nuist know to be only a
blind conformity to the capricious fashion of aplause ; and of being
'wiling to deceve the people because they will be deceved?' the
easy art and resource of weaknes, with cunning ; and the wretched
apology of ambition and knavery. It is the part of elevated in-
telect to undeceve the world, even by unwelcome truth ; to make
all men at last bow down ; and to be the master of demonstration,
instead of the slave of popular conceit.

Faults in the Grouping of Speech. The Intonation at Pauses
denotes the degrees of eonedion between the suceding sections of
discourse j and between related words, within the limit of each.
Grouping is variously intended to keep these sections in a measure,
independent of each other; to unite tiie train of thot Avithin these
sections, when broken by expletives, or by gramatical inversion ;
and to bring together on the ear, separated words, even from (lif-
erent sections. In this way the Temporal rest makes a distinct
group of a section l)y dividing it from others. The I^hrases of
melodyj by the monotone, the rising ditone, and tritone ; conect
gramatical concords, when separated by intervening constructions.


The Abatement groups as it were, within brackets of the voice
and keeps together, what is heard under a reduced, or piano form
of force. The Flight limits to itself, the meaning of what is em-
braced in a huried uterance. The Emphatic-tie and the Punctua-
tive-reference respectively, by stres and pause, group within the
field of hearing, words and phrases, separated in construction, from
each other.

Faults in grouping arise from not aplying these several forms
as their purposes require ; and ignorance of their design, and apro-
priate use, cannot fail to mar the perspicuity of oral discourse.
He who has a full knowledge of the means and eficacy of group-
ing, will, on this subject, be able with just principles, to criticise
and corect the faults of others.

Fault of 3Iimicry. In a previous page of this section, it was
remarked, that imitations of speech, either serious, or for mirth,
are geueraly copies of its faults. I am here to speak of the efect
of Mimicry in corupting the principles and practice of vocal

Under the prevalent creed of the Old elocution, this purpose
may need explanation. The creed is, that all who speak with a
perception of the thot and pasion of their subject, speak with pro-
priety. Nearly all persons both read and speak so diferently from
each other, that we plainly distinguish the intonations, joined with
the other modes of the voice, in each individual. It is intonation,
with other modes, which constitutes the expresion of speech : and
we must alow that individuals universaly uter their own thots and
pasions. This creed then caries with it the conclusion, that speech
is not directed by a universal system of corespondence between
the state of mind and the vocal signj but that each individual
must have for his states of mind, a peculiar system of signs, pro-
ducing that distinguishable diference from all others, which we
perceve in both his reading and his speaking voice.

It would therefore folow, from the pretensions of this creed, that
mimicry, by amusing itself with the peculiarities of all, so far from
being injurious to the powers of speech, must on the contrary, tend
to suport and improve them. For, by this belief, all being suposed
to speak their respective states of mind corectly, while all speak
diferently, the mimic, who can asume the proprieties of each, must


poses the faculty of acquiring the excelencies of all. It is well
known, that the efects of mimicry depend on contrastj and the
contrast in this case, must be made, with some standard in the
human voice.

By the condition however, or consequence of the creed, the
standard of each individual is his own individuality ; and thus the
standard is destroyed by its endles variations. Mimicry then,
being able to asume the vocal ability of all, cannot, from the want
of a standard, asign to any one a comparative excelence, or superi-
ority : and tho it may, by universal imitation, add to its powers a
superfluous flexibility, it cannot, from the want of this measure
of excelence, improve or exalt itself. And as it must necesarily,
from the vast amount of worldly falsehood and bad taste, be
more frequently employed on vulgarity and exageration, than on
truth and refinement, its constant tendency must be to eror and

Mimicry in speech is the exact, or caricatured imitation of its
faults. It must therefore be founded on a perverted, or extrava-
gant employment of the various forms of Vocality, Time, Force,
Abruptness and Pitch. Mimicry is the result of the ignorance
and eror of man, in the uses of his voice. With all his imita-
tionsj except they remind him of his own defects of body or mind,
or of his want of dignity in the imitatiouj he cannot turn into
ridicule, the unviolated law of nature within the whole range of
the sub-animal voice. In the deformities, and erors of his own,
he is the fit subject of his own contempt. Had the true and ex-
presive system of that voice, been developed and taught, there
would have been, as in gramar, few faults, except upon the vulgar
tongue ; and perhaps no mimicry in speech, worthy of an intcli-
gent smile. The order of Nature, with all things aright except
untoward Man, has by its fitnes, its self-acordancc, its serious truth,
and its beauty, excluded every cause of the Kidiculous from her
works : and an elocution that elegantly obeys her laws, cannot be
mimiced for the anuisement of a discerning and respectful ear.

Mimicry is not only founded on faults, but it contributes to
multiply and to (confirm them. It nuiltiplios faults, by confound-
ing those just })crceptions, that might discern and prevent, or
corectthcm; and it confirms them in the mimic, by giving to a


habit of distortion, the force of second nature in his voice. Mim-
icry weakens and perverts the powers of expresion, by confusing
its signs, in representing the same state of mind, as diferently
expresed by diferent individuals : when in comon consistency it
should always have the same apropriate vocal sign. One cause
of our not readily perceving the true system of speech is, that the
ordained conection of sign and state of mind, is in the corupt prac-

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 51 of 59)