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 56 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 56 of 59)
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instrumental shake, afords a proof that the former like the latter,
consists of two sounds on diferent degrees of pitch. It also
apears, from the like ilustration by an instrument, that the co-
sounds, tho of diferent degrees of pitch, are of equal time, volume,
and force.*

* It may seem, that the shake might bo made by each of the co-sounds being
the momentary uterance of what we caled the rapid concrete : and as this
instinctively flies over -ivith the radical and vanish, aparently as quick as a
single co-sound, our explanation of an artificial and very dificult maner of
deriving the fluent and rapid movement of the shake, from the slow acentual-
eforts of the compound stress 7nay seem to be unecesary or incorect. It may
seem, being by the mass of mere Thinkers, from interest or other motive, so
readily changed into it is^ there is no calculating the mischief it has done.
I will not therefore opose what viay seem on one side, by what ??irn/ secrn on
the otherj for we should then have to invoke the aid of Plato, Aristotle, and
the ancient as well as the modern itinerant and lecturing Sophists^ but will
only state, that the m,ay seem, on our side, has already been submited to de-
cisive observation, and experiment, in the instinctive tremor of the voice ; and
we have in the Gurgle of the throat, an iteration of the rapid concrete with
hoik lia radical and vanish. Now this is not a shake; nor can any skill or
velocity ever make one of it. Vocalists call it the ' Goat's Quiver,' or some
such name, without being able to show the diference of structure between tho
Quiver and the Shake. Our history tolls us that the Gurgle or Quiver is
formed by tho Tittles of the second or of the semitone, on the tremulous scale;
the Shake, by a rapid execution of the compound stres, on either of these in-
tervals. Before the invention of the shakej which is altogether Artificial, and
is said to be of comparatively recent aplication to songj this Gurgle, or ' Trem-
bling,' as tho French formerly caled it, was used as a vocal ornament. It is
instinctively practiced for Laughter and Crying, and for other purposes in
the human voice; is found among sub-animals of all clases: and is distin-
guished from the shako by tho sliglitly abrupt and chatoring radical of tho
tittles. In tho aspirated grating, scratohiiig or cliatoring of the insoct-voioo,
the tremor is exemplified by our comon Black Cricketj Achcta abbrcviata ; and


From our previous views, the formation of the shake may be
described under two conditions; in each, the delay that might
arise from every impulse having both a radical and a vanishj
which we have shown, creates the whole dificulty of the casej is
obviatal by a subdivision of the concrete movement into the
Compound stres.

For representing the first formative condition^ let the sumit
of the concrete impulse, or the vanishing portion, be enforced to
an equality with the radical. We shall then have one impresive
sound at each extreme of the impulse, joined by a smooth transi-
tion of the fainter concrete, and forming the first two co-sounds
of the shake ; which, in this case, are both made within the time
required for one impulse, when that impulse contains both a radi-
cal and a vanish. The vanishing stres, or what, in this instance,
is improperly caled the uper note of the shake, being terminated
by an ocluded catch, as in the sob and hicup^ the voice is enabled
by an immediate opening of that oclusion, to begin a new radical
stres, improperly caled the lower note ; and by breaking from the
ocluded vanish of one impulse into the radical of the next, and
so, saving the time of transition on one whole concrete with both
its radical and vanish, the rapid and aparently united co-sounds of
the shake are efected. In the folowing diagramj

2 4


the lines a and 6 denote two proximate degrees of the scale. The
figure 1 the radical stres, or lower co-sound of the shake : 2 the
vanishing stres, or uper co-sound, on which the voice is ocluded.
In an imperceptible instant, this oclusion breaks out into the next
radical stres 3. The voice is then diminished in force ; and again
increased to its vanishing stres, and oclusion at 4.

the shake, tho not a rapid one, with the median swell on its course, by the
Cicada pruinosa, or Anual Locust of the Middle Slates.


When made in this way, the shake may be considered as a rapid
iteration of the compound stres, between the extremes of a tone or
a semitone.

For tlie second condition, let us take tlie first two of the co-
sounds, or as we may call them, co-streses, described and ilustrated
above. Deliberate trial will prove that an aplication of stres to
the u[)er extreme of the rising concrete at 2, and to the lower at 3,
as represented in the last diagram, in no way, prevents the voice,
from making a downward continuous turn, from 2 to 3, in one case,
and an upward continuous turn, from 3 to 4, in the other, into the
form of a continued wave : and by an alternate sucesion of these
radical and vanishing streses, or expansions, joined by the fainter
concrete, but without an oclusion of voice, we are able to produce
a rapid iteration of the co-sounds of the shake ; as represented in
the folowing diagram^ where the voice opens at 1, with the radical
stres ; then diminishes to the faint concrete ; subsequently enlarges
to the vanishing stres at 2; then lolthouf an oclusion, turns down-
ward, and after diminishing to the faint concrete, enlarges to the
stres in the radical place at 3 ; and in this way, when rapidly exe-
cuted, forms the proper co-sounds, or co-streses, or co-expansions of
the vocal shake.

2 4


1 3

Under this view, the shake is a rapid alternation of the com-
pound stres, on the rising and faling constituents of a continued
wave of proximate degrees. And by it we learn, that the iterated
co-sounds are not notes, but emphatic streses of no assignable time,
on the points of contrary flexure in the wave. ]5ut as there can
be a sudcn fulnes of the voice, only on a fii'st outbreak of the
radicalj an engrafting of the vanishing stres on the concrete, at
the place of the second or uj)er sound, nuist be made by a swell
or expansion into the fulnes of that stres. From 2, the I'ulnes
being diminished, is again sweled into the lower sound at 3 ; giving


the shake the form represented in the diagram. This junction of
the streses by an intermediate and atenuated concrete, witli the
gliding of one into the other, is the cause of the smoothncs, and of
the 'hquidity,' as it is caled, of a skilful and finished execution
of this vocal ornament. The peculiar maner of uniting this double
stress with rapid intonation, in the shake, not being part of the
coloquial and slower uses of the voice, for the compound stres
in speech consists of but tivo co-sounds, it is not surprisingj the
power of executing it, is unattainable by most singers, and only
acquired, in any case, after a long time, by great industry and

This is an atempt to explain the maner of combining stres and
intonation in the shake. And yet, I am unable to give an unques-
tionable description of it. By a slow and measurable movement
of my own voice, I perceve, it can be made under each of the con-
ditions above described. When it is quickened to its character-
istic rapidity, the distinct perception of its structure and motion is
lost, and I find it imposible to decide, which of the conditions is
then employed: tho strongly inclined to think it is the later. With
the asistance of the analysis here ofered, some other observer may
describe it more definitely.

Perhaps the explanation here given, may furnish a rule for
teaching the practice of the shake. A method founded on this
analysis, enabled me, Muth no other instructors than Observation
and Industry, to atain a comand over it, with a precision and
rapidity, suficient for the purposes of the present investigation :
which certainly, could not, unasisted by a Master, have been as
easily, if at all acomplished, without a knowledge of the com-
pound stres, experimentaly aplied in reference to the radical ex-
plosion, and the vanishing sob. It would be dificult to say, how
far the aid of our description might lesen the time and labor of
the Conservatorio, in teaching the practice of the shake.

As the compound stres is practicable on every interval, so a
shake might be com}X)Scd of an iteration of that stres on the ex-
tremes of wider intervals: and a slow shake of this kind, is some-
times heard among the tricks of the Florid song : but it is not
technicaly clased with that ornament. It has a singular, and as I
have heard it, not an agreeable efect ; and the M'idth of the con-


Crete, preventing the rapidity of the proper shake, it has not its
liquidity, nor its hovering pre-cadencial character.

It is a question among vocalists, whether the 'acent' as they call
it, is on the uper or the lower 'note,' or as we now regard it, co-
sound of the shake. From our preceding acount of this ornament,
no cause apears, for a diference of opinion in this case, and for
anything like an acent on either. There may be the usual ryth-
mic perception of acent on the bar or bars on which the shake is
sustained ; and with this mental b&d, there might be a slight mo-
mentary swell on the co-sounds, at the points of these beats. But
I ciinnot hear even this ; and cannot therefore beleve there is
an altetmate acent of force, much less an inequality in time, be-
tween the upper and the lower co-sounds. Once admit it, and
there would be an alternation both of stress and of pitch that
would destroy the even and graceful undulation, and the liquidity
of the shake ; and change the function to that of the tremulous

Vocalists have described several kinds of shake. With its
proper structure and efect, I can observe but two; the diatonic
and the semitonic, severaly formed on a tone and a semitone.
What has been caled a Rising and a Falling shake, is perhaps
only the gurgling, or rising and faling radical pitch of the rising
and faling of the tremor ; for as the tremor is not made up of co-
sounds, or compound streses, but of rapid concretes Avith each its
radical and vanishj the terms rising and faling, which do aply to
the course of the tremor or gurgle, and not to the continued line
of the shake, have been improperly retained, after the introduction
of the peculiar iteration on proximate co-sounds. This true shake,
after continuing along its level line of pitch, may be skipped a de-
gree, or perhaps more, and then continued on this new line. ' But
when caried directly upward or downward, by proximate degrees,
on more or less of the scale j which would make it a rising or
falling shakej the course of the co-sounds is caled a Division, the
structure and movement of which will be presently described.
Other shakes enumerated in books, are only particular uses of
that ornament ; or only combinations of it, with various forms of

The meaning and peculiar efect of the shakcj for it cannot except


on tl)e semitone, be called Expresive of the state of mindj may be
stated under Five heads; and First. The most striking and
agreeable character of the shake lies in its refined, its tunable, and
as it were, its polished vocality ; which however I here consider
with reference, exclusively to the high pitch of the Soprano voice.
In men, generaly speaking, the shake, like most of their florid
execution, denotes in their lower pitch, and rougher vocality, little
more than a muscular dificulty ; for a low pitch, with a holow ful-
nes, as we learn from instruments, destroys the esential elegance of
the shake ; yet perhaps the harmony of a tenor and soprano, where
the later takes the lead on the ear, produces the most delightful
efect of this ornament. Second. There is in the shake, what has
been called, its Liquidity. This arises in part, from its vocality,
and in part from the smooth and rapid gliding of the concrete into
the expansions of the co-sounds ; and is therefore more efective in
the higher voices of women. Third. An agreeable effect is pro-
duced by the variety of one or more swells, in the continued line
of the co-sounds. Fourth. The preceding remarks aply equaly to
both the shakes. But the semitone is distinguished by a pathetic
character, moderated perhaps, by the rapidity of the transit of the
concrete and its co-sounds thru the interval ; and by an overruling
impresion of vocality; with the. liquid pouring from one co-sound
to another, in the curent of their intonation. Fifth. I am dis-
posed to class the eject of the shake, particularly the diatonic, with
that of a downward skip, or a concrete of the third, in the Pre-
pared Cadence of speech : for, as it seemsj the balanced suspen-
sion or hawk-like flutter of a prolonged shake, before its final
stoop to the key-note, creates the expectation of a descent, and
calls for the imediate close of song, similar in maner and efect, to
that of the faling of a third, for the prepared and reposing cadence
of discourse. *

There is another ocasion, on which the compound stres is used
in song.

When an extent of the whole compas of the voice, greater or
less than the seven degrees of the scale, is ra2)idly traveled, but
with a marked designation of each degree in the flight, it is ealed,
' running a Division.' We have seen, in the formation of the
shake, that adjoining points of the scale cannot be marked in rapid


sucesloii by concretes, where each contains both the radical and
vanish ; it is uecesary therefore in executing a Division, that the
compound stres should be used, under one of the two conditions
of its rapid execution, above described. In the first, the concrete
receves the radical abruptnes, and the vanishing ocluded catch.
This oclusion prepares the way for a second radical, and by
sucesive concretes of compound stres, with a momentary but
imperceptible oclusive catch between them, the degrees of the
Division are rapidly traversed, and distinctly marked. For the
second condition, we must supose the voice to make a concrete
movement on the scale, to the whole extent of the designed
Divisionj and the expansion of an emphatic stres to be aplied
on each of the proximate degrees of the scale, \vithin that ex-
tent. This may be ilustrated, by suposing the chain of oblique
figures in the second diagram of the shake, drawn-out vertically
to a straight linej representing the streses on the proximate
des'rees of a risino- or a fallintj; scale. A Division is then, a
rapid iteration of the compound stres, on every proximate de-
gree of the scale, for a given extent, in an upward or downward

Song has various ways of runing a division, or as we may call
it, a Chain of compound stres. In long sweeps of agility, the
whole compas of the voice may be pased over in one continued
chain of an upward or downward, so to call it, knoted movement ;
or the progres may be less extensive ; or it may be made by varied
groups of compound streses, with a pause between the agrcgates.
In short, the compas may be traversed in numberles ways, by the
pitch, time, and maner of sucesion, of the co-sounds. ISometimes
the run is by the proximate step of a semitone : but whatever the
movements may be, they are all performed on the principle of the
compound stres. '

Of the Melody of /Sbn^r. 'Having described the particular forms
of pitcli, time, and stress, we may now take a general view of
their combinations into Melody.

The structure of melody exhibits every variety in the number
of its constituents, and in their interchangeable sucesion, from the
use of a simple protracted note with its (piick and almost imper-
ceptible concrete of a second, which we called DLscrcte-songj to


that of every form of the concrete, and of every form of stres,
particnlarly the compound j constituting 'airs of agility' or 'florid
execution;' which we called Concrete-song. This distinction
however serves only to mark the extremes of a varied use of the
voice ; song being rarely heard in the strictly discrete form ; and
when once the concrete movement of wider intervals than the
second is admited, no definite line of separation can be drawn
between the constituents of its structure. It was shown, in de-
scribing the drift of melody in Speech, that the three divisions of
the states of mind and of the voice, manifestly diiferent in their
several exclusive and restricted uses, often so run into each other,
as to prevent a systematic separation of their intermingled signs.
And we have the same dificulty of clasification with the intercurent
melody or st}de of Song.

In general terms then, and without pretending to describe the
confines of each, I would call the Discrete-melodyj That which
moves by proximate degrees, and by radical change, under the
form of intonation represented in the first two scales of the pro-
tracted radical and vanish ; and showing ocasionaly, because it can
scarcely be avoided, a concrete movement of some of the wider
intervals, and of the wave. This is the style of song used by the
Church, when the Choir is asisted by the Congregation. It is
suited to the comon capacity of the voice, and resembles the in-
strumental efect of the organ which acompanies it.

I would call the Concrete-melody j That disposition of the note,
concrete, wave, compound stres, and every form of time and into-
nation, which, united with the Discrete, constitutes, within due
limits, the delightful union of nature and art, in the expresion of
song ; but which forced beyond the just bounds of vocal facility,,
produces the extraordinary and unmeaning flights of a fantastic
and wonder-working execution. An execution that has too often
cuningly joined the profits of the Artist with the mere dificulties
of his art; and with all Avho do not see thru the vicious combination,
confounds a fanatical interest in the vocal artifices, name, and fashion
of a Singer, with the cultivated feeling and taste of a musical
ear. An execution that has at last brought an audience, too often
to mistake a faling-in with the noisy aplause of a surounding
crowd, for their own individual perception of the expresion of


melody, and to the harmonizing richnes of its perfecting acom-

Upon this, and our previous histor}^, we are now prepared to
sum up the diferences between the construction of song and speech.

TJie Discrete melody of song, resembling in a few points the
melody of speech, is still remarkably distinguished from it, by the
efect of the protracted note, and by the more frequent ocurrence
of wider transitions in the radical change.

In the Concrete-melody of song, under its most complicated
form, for I choose an extreme case, the difference consists still
further in the kind, number, and uses of its movements. The
range of its melodial corapas excedes that of proper speech. The
compound stress, under rapid iteration in the shake, and in the
rapid run of divisions, is the most frequent constituent of airs of
agility; by the speaking voice it is used only in the two co-sounds
of a slow and single concrete. A function comon to both is the
equable concrete, which is sometimes set to the short sylables of
song; tho comon perception does not then recognize it as a char-
acteristic of speech. The wider waves too, ocasionaly used for
emphasis in discourse, ocur perpetually in the florid song.

Oj the Expresion of Song. Expresion in song, and in other
music is the condition or state of mind, which in this case Ave

* When this medley of the vocal constituents, with all its studied ditlcultics,
was first taken over to England, for salej it was advertised as tlie Italian
Maner : and indeed its manerism was then regarded, and properly too, as a
caricature; for certainly its Bravura-song is an exageration, and its Recitative
a misplaced distortion of the natural voice of expresion. But wonder and
novelty are the chief Idols of popular Taste ; and whoever then posesed a
little vocal facility soon began to imitate the long-drawn concretes and waves
of the New Importation. To this we owe the monotonous Squeel, taught by
the Singing-Master in the Italian Style, with its ever-and-anon returning
wave, surging upon the ear, and drowning-out the rest of the song: a sad fato
to a Taste that ha|)ens to be in the neighborhood of a fashionable young lady
who frequents the Opera, and of the sowing-girl over the way, who has learned
from her, to execute those every half-minute Squeeling waves, equally well.

It is often easier to find causes, than excuses for an ofense. Perhaps tho
universal fashion, of our Italian-taught Misses afeeting this repeated Por.ta-
inento and Sostenido, in a high Soprano wave, with its median stres, is en-
couraged by a family recolection of tho perverse Squeeling of their little
brothers and sisters, and even of themselves; wiien cliildren begin to have
their own noisy way in the nursery.


properly call Feeling', exerted by means of the pitch, time, force,
vocality, and abruptnes of sound.

It apcars from this definition, that the materials of expresion
in song are the same as those in speech : still some diference will
be found in their special employment, and respective efect, in the
two cases. The Italians who have extensively taut us in musicj
and who, with the purpose of their art changed perhaps to a vain-
glorious authority, enslave too many fashionable, and often musi-
cal ears to their National Manerismj have divided their song, with
reference, rather to the style of its execution, and the places in
which it is displayed, than to its expresion. I am only hinting at
an arangement, upon the points of its rudimental functions and
the mental state of feeling.

In a general view of the subject of expresion, we findj the
dignit}' of Song is produced by the same fulnes in vocality, length
of time, gravity in intonation, and limitation of the extent of
concrete and of radical pitch, that give an elevated and solemn
character to reading. There can be no grandeur m a melody with
the reverse of these conditions.

A lively style of song, on the contrary, like the sprightly maner
of discourse, is made by a lighter vocality ; a quicker time ; wider
intervals of concrete, and of radical pitch ; and a greater variety
in its sucesions. The Aria Buffa or the Comic Song, generaly
consists of such short quantities, that most of its sylabic impulses
are made in the true equable-concrete of speech : and the only
causes, as it apears to me, why it is known to be song, are its
having a barred time, an ocasional long quantity, and a concrete
and radical pitch of wider intervals, than those of the curent of

The plaintive efect of the semitone, and of the minor third,
which is only a peculiar position of the semitone, is similar to the
chromatic character of spoken melody. Perhaps as remarked
above, we ought to consider the expresion of the cadence as
similar in these two uses of the voice ; for the return to the key-
note in song, does, like the intonation at the periods of discourse,
produce the agreeable feeling of satisfaction and repose.

Let us take another and more particular view of expresion,
with reference to the diferent kinds of melody. And Firstj


Of the Discrete-Song. This is not without expresion, tho it falls
short of what is efected by a judicious use of the more extended,
and varied vocal movements. Its sources are derived from vo-
cality, pitch, time, and stres.

The tunable sound of a prolonged note may give a peculiar
character to song. Fulnes produces in the hearer the state of
solemnity ; smootlmes that of grace ; and in the grotesk eforts of
the comic song, the extreme and distorted variations of Vocality
excite a perception of the gay or the ridiculous. On the subject
of this last named modej the principles of expresion are similar
in speech and song : but perhaps its efect is more obvious in the

The expresion of Pitch consists in the transition on certain inter-
vals. The discrete-melody can therefore display the plaintivcnes
of the semitone, and ocasionaly of the minor third ; together with
what may be efected by the sucesions of other intervals of the scale.

The Discrete-song may, by its Time, be either grave or gay.
It apears, that the longer quantity of song is more agreeable

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 56 of 59)