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 57 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 57 of 59)
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than the short sylabic impulses of speech, even when they each
have the same melodial order of pitch. This perhaps arises from
a memorial conection of the jjrotracted notes of song, with the
expresive efect of long quantity in speech ; for extended quantity
both in speech and song, is always the sign of either an energetic,
or dignified state of mind.

The radical and the median stres are aplicable to the protracted
note of the discrete-melody ; but a varied swell of the median,
constitutes the principal means of expresion. The protracted note
may also bear the tremor.

Some of the less expresive forms of the wave may be admited
into what I have called, without asigning a very definite boundary
to it, the discrete-song.

Our limited knowledge, in time-past, of the constituents of
speech, together with our vague and imperfect notions and nomen-
clature of the states and actions of the jnind, has created a diliculty
in aranging the intermingled vocal signs of thot and pasion. It is
the same with song. We can asign no exact line to the diference
between the discrete and the concrete melody. It may however
asist the purpose of system and nomenclature, to make an intcrme-


diate division, similar to that proposed in our sixtli section, for the
Inter-thoughtive or E-everentive style. We will then aply the
term Mixed melody, to a style consisting in part of the constituents
of the other tAvo.

From some very general descriptions, and some known particu-
lars of the Greek song, it might be infered that its most esteemed
melody was of this JNIixed character, enriched with all the concrete
graces of expresion, admisible into its simple structure. I speak
of song, rendered touching, self-relying, and unambitious ; song,
with its al-suficient melodial, andj as far as then known, its pecu-
liar harmonic resources for delightj free from vain intrusion of
hard-taught dificulties ; and restricted to itself by the efective
principles of Grecian taste. For we must supose, nay we know
from a satirical recordj there was a like cold caprice in composi-
tion, and a like dificulty in execution sometimes shown-off for the
profit of the Singer, and for the noisy excitement of an Athenian
Audience, that at present so often slight the natural and universal
feeling of the ear, to exalt the fantastic vanity of the fingers and
the throat.

In the intermediate style of Mixed melody, the simple dignity,
pathos, grandeur, or gayety of the discrete, is combined with the
more varied and expresive constituents of the concrete melody,
forming a peculiar style of song. A style, which employed under
the direction of feeling and taste, produces efects in the highest
degree impresive and delightful. A style that has been, is now,
and ever will be, the most generaly gratifying to the instinctive
and estheticaly educated ear. For, while perceving and wonder-
ing at muscular facility and precision, yet it rarely feels any efect
from concrete flourishes, and agility in vocalization, striving to re-
fine upon and to surpas itself j and which requires the delightful
melody of the ' Aria ' to preserve the fantastic mancrisni, and
mongrel recitative of the Italian Opera from the sadnes of a
meager audiencej except of those who go to look at one another's
dreses, and to think of themselves.

It has been thotj the Ccintus i^lanus of the early Christian
Salmody, improved afterwards to the Ambrosian and the Grego-
rian Chant, is a traditional descent of a form of Greek Temple-
Music, thru the old Roman ritual. However this may be, there


is a striking analogy, both as to structure and efect, between the
Diatonic melody, and the Plain-Chant, in its early simplicity.
This Chant, we are told, employed but four lines of the staff in
the range of its pitch ; the sucesion of its notes was by proximate
degrees, in the radical pitch of a second ; it never set more than
one note to a sylable ; and used but two divisions of time, the long
and the short. In. this acount, substitute the term Equable con-
Crete for that of Note, and the resemblance is in many points re-
markable. The Plain-Chant is an example of what we have caled
the discrete-song, and in its use had originaly, and when not dese-
crated by 'modern improvements' of wider concrete and discrete
intervals, and by afected graces j still has, in its holy purpose of
worship and prayer, that deep and long-drawn note of solemn
dignity, which is but a transcending degree of the character, given
to epic and dramatic reading, and to parts of the Church-service,
by the fulnes and quantity of an orotund voice, in the diatonic

* We have in the course of this Work, pointed out similarities between the
principles of Music and of Elocution, and have shown their very materials or
tunable constituents, with the exception of the Note, to be comon to both.

The further we look into the Arts, the more closely we iind them by their
principles, related to each other: yet who will say, there is a resemblance
between Architecture and Speech ? To the eye and ear of the Doorkeeper,
who within the grandeur of the Capitol, was obliged to listen to Cicero, there
could have been none. But turn an inquiring and reflective mind to a con-
sideration of the causes that constitute, or create, a similarity between thenij
and observe how, in the analytic Perspective of a philosophic taste, their
conditions aproach each other ; and with a still extended view, how, by the
principles that direct them, they mingle into one.

I have long perceved the analogy to which I here alude ; but bcleving it
might pass for a metaphoric extravagance, rather than an ilustration, I have
not till this last moment, the date of the fourth Edition, dared to cull the Dia-
tonic Melody, the Doric order of Speech. In this country at least, I have
met with none, so much interested in the Esthetic principles of these arts, as
to wish to discover, or desire to be told their points of resemblance. When
however, I think of a Doric Perii)toral Temple with its marble-purity,
brightly distinct in structure and outline, to the neighboring eye, yet still
distinctly traceable in distant prospectj with its compendious Design at once
upon my memory, in clearnes of image second only to reality; I see an am-
bitious samencs in form and liglit, yet varied in line, and shadow, just to show-
forth the striking elegance of its Unity^ a Grandour rising above lu'avines,
till it iipears in Grace; and a Simplicity, with only such apropriate ornaments


Second. Oj ConcrcieSoiig. This melody, in its forms of into-
nation, time, and force, is varied from the limits of the Mixed
style, to that intricate and afected composition of the extreme
Bravuraj "which by turning words into vowels, destroys the mean-
ing of language ; and by a continued whirling of these vowels,
confounds every feeling excited by the more natural song.

The means.of expresion in the unexagerated forms of this melody
include those of the Discrete and the Mixed ; with the adition of
other more elaborate forms of intonation. The further use of the
radical and median force on the rising and faling concrete, as well
as on the wave, adds a briliant variety to its character. We have
in the Bravuras and Volatas of this kind of song, all the extraor-
dinary coloring of the compound stres, in the production of the
shake, and of the endles run of Divisions on their course of stres
and intonation. It likewise comands the powers of the Tremulous
scale, both on the plaintivenes of the semitone, and the laughing
movement of wider intervals.

All the forms of expresion, both in the Concrete and the Dis-
crete song, M'hether of the grave, the gay, or the plaintive ; and
whether produced by pitch, time, vocality, or force, are to be con-
sidered as independent of any purpose in thought or meaning:
for it will be shown presently, that except in some acidental or
habitual conections, song has, apart from the words which may
acompany it, an ^tnintelectual expresion altogether of its own.

As song employs in its composition, the expresional means of
speech, it might be suposed that certain movements must have in
each case an identiail efect. Yet it is not always so. We have
learned that some signs, as the semitone, the laughing and crying
tremor, and long quantity, do rejjresent the same state of mind
in both : but many forms of intonation lose their meaning and
force when separated from words, and transfercd to song. On

as make them harmonious parts of nn unclividecl whole. With this picture
before me, it brings-up iu related efect, the liUenes of Roscius again upon
the Stage, breaiiing his silence, with the gravity and fulnes of the thotive
orotund ; and impresing the respectful ear by a simplicity in time and into-
nationj varied only to give grace to its dignity ; and rising ocasionalj', with
contrasted interval, and force, to beautifj' and not to destroy the jilain and
impresive unity of diatonic speech.


the subject of the vocal signs of thot and pasion, it was shownj
their purpose is not only modified by conventional language, but
is sometimes purely dependent upon it. This was ilustrated by
reference to the voices of birds : and song afords a still more
satisfactory proof. For as its elaborate structure does employ all
those forms of concrete and radical pitch, and of the wave, which
produce the expresion of speech, it Avould seem, we ought during
the varied course of its melody, to be constantly recognizing the
vocal signs of interogation, surprise, positivenes, sneer, contempt,
and railery ; whereas the florid song which makes the freest use of
these signs, never conveys any of these states except when joined
to language that describes them.

Song, nevertheles, without the use of words, may be powerfully
expressive ; and it is so by the use of these very concretes, quan-
tities, waves, and swelling streses, that give the thotive and pas-
ionative meaning to speech. The expresion of song is produced
in a maner ^peculiar to itself, and in very few, if any instances
has relation to the thot or pasion of particular words or phrases.
Persons who enjoy the melody of song must percevej the feelings
created by it are so indefinitej they are not able to refer them to
any other source, than that of primary perception, or of subse-
quent memory ; nor to reduce the expresion to anything more than
certain clases of efects.

Upon this subject I would ask two questions. Has song a sys-
tem of expresion properly its OAvn, and does our indefinite percep-
tion of its forms arise from this system never having been analyzed
and rendered familiar and specific by names? Or does the ex-
presion of song depend on some conection between its vocal move-
ments, and those of speech ; the former asuming the agreeable
efect of the latter, without their definite meaning?

By a comparison of the characteristics of speech and of song,
it apears that song has a system of expression of its own, dis-
tinct in most ])oints from that of speech. If the Reader luis fol-
owed me atentively, he nuist admitj the vocjil expresion of the
latter is derived soley from the concrete and discrete intervals
of intonation, with the other modes of the voice; and that he
has at least heard of the precepts for that expresion, if he has
not the power of acurately executing them. Still we here ofer


in pardonable repetition, a few remarks on the expresion of both
song and speech.

And first. No thought, term, proposition or meaning is directly
conveyed in song. By the melodial sucesion alone of its notes, it
excites a state of mind, which we distinctively caled feeling ; always
agreeable, except under some acidental and pervertive circum-
stances. In song we are further pleased with the vocality of its
notes; in which its prolongation, is more agreeable than in the
concrete of speech. It is a question so inviting to dispute, that
we will not stop to considcrj whether these agreeable feelings are
exclusively the direct result of the simple vocal impresion, or are in-
directly derived from memory, and in a maner, conected with thot.
These feelings produced by the melodial sucesion of notes, and
by their agreeable vocality in prolongation, are therefore peculiar
to song.

After the preceding view of the distinction between speech and
song, we are prepared to hear, that a sucesion of intervals in song,
when joined with the other modes of vocality, time, and force, and
properly distributed, is, by the melodial relations of those intervals,
marked by its notes, capable of exciting the feelings of Grandeur,
Solemnity, Plaintiveness, Gayety, and Grace. And if to these be
added a perception of Oddity, or what has been called the Gro-
tesk, they will perhaps include all the clases of efects, that inde-
pendently of any peculiarities of thot and of the ear, seem to
be within the expresive powers of song. We here exclude all
those notional and false analogies, between sound and meaning,
whichj to try something like a transcendental metaphorj are more
remote than far-fetch'd, if a resemblancej but infinitely distant,
if at all a paralel ; such as are found in the music of 'Alexander's
Feast,' ' St. Cecilia's Day,' and the ' Ode on the Passions,' to-
gether with not a few in Haydn's ' Creation,' Handel's ' ISIessiah,'
and thruout that once fashionable and serious folly, the ' Battle of
Prague.' These pretensions and falsities hold the same relation
to the real expresion of song, that we shall endeavor to show the
pretensions and falsities of Recitative do to the truth of expresion
in speech.

Second. The agreeable expression of song by the mode of
Pitch, consists in the comparison of one note, Avith others of a


proximate, or of a remote degree; for song by its protracted
notes^ and by its key, which definitely marks the places of the
tones, and semitones in the scale, has in the fixed places of its
notes, the means for comparing them one with another, that they
may be heard under what has been considered, a kind of harmony
in melodial succession.*

On the effect of this melodial succession of notes alonej without
the individual note itself exciting or conveying a thotive or pas-
ionative state of mindj the pitch of song altogether depends for
the means of producing agreeable Feelings of whatever kind. But
the resource of this melodial sucesion of notes, speech does not
posses. Its efects are derived from a power in the individual
concrete, and individual discrete interval to expres thot and pasion,
independently of a comparison with preceding or folowing con-

Third. The expression of concrete, and of discrete intervals,
in the melody of speech, difers both in character and cause, from
that of the sucesion of the notes of song : tho each is, in its own
way, variously agreeable, acording to the susceptibility of the car
and intelect of an audience. We have said the intonation of
speech, derives its expresion, soley from the extent and direction
of the single concrete and discrete interval, and the wave, asisted
by the other modes of the voice. Plaintivenes is the efect of the
single semitone; interogation and wonder, of the single wider up-
wardj anger and comand, of the single wider downward concrete ;
dignity, of the wave of the second ; contempt and scorn, of the
wider single or double waves : the expression being here derived
altogether from the individual interval itself, and not from the

* In the musical scale, the First, Third, Fifth, and Octave notes, when
heard together, are said to be concordant: and Harmony to the ear, not its
theory, is the perception of the efcct of shnulfaneous concordant notes.

Melody to the ear, regarding only the mode of Pitch, is the perception of
the efect of certain relationships between sucesive notes.

The efects of mu.sic arise then, from two conditions of its notes: one simul-
taneous ; the other sucesive. But the individual notes which produce har-
mony are so impresive, that when heard in sucesion, the ear can compare the
instant-pased, with the instant-present note; and thus perceve a harmonious
relation between the presently audible and the memorial note. This is what
I call in the text, harmony in melodial sucesion.


relation of one interval to another. For tho a Fifth, for example,
is emphatically perceptible in speech, by its contrast with a second,
in a diatonic melody, it is not that contrast which gives the ex-
presion ; as the Fifth is alike interogative, both in a thoro inter-
ogative sentence, where it is placed beside itself j and when it is
unrelated to any other interval, on a neighboring sylablc. And
the same may be said of every expresive concrete, either solitary
or in series. The expresion of speech, again to repeat the propo-
sition, is therefore derived from the efect of the concrete and dis-
crete intervals alone : as speech having no System of Key to
direct its progresions, cannot excite musical feeling by thq harmony
of melodial siicesions : for the perpetual sliding of its concretes,
afords no stationary point nor continvious level line, by which a
concord with any other point or line might be recognized. The
wordsj second, third, fifth, octave, semitone, and wave, that in
song convey the meaning of a melodial relationshipj designate in
speech, only concrete and discrete intervals ; which in themselves ,
denote thot and pasion, by their extent and direction, not by any
harmonic or melodial relations to each other.

We have saidj the sucesions alone, of melody in song, with their
varieties in time, and without embracing thot or meaning, produce
its peculiar feeling or expresion. Hence the permutations in the
order of these notes for an agreeable sucesion would seem to be
inumerable. But the more agreeable sucesions j whether they afect
the mind instinctively by the ear, or habit, or by conection with
feelings derived from other senses^ might perhaps with their apro-
priate expresion, be reduced to a few melodial phrases, and be
described and named. As far as I have been able to asign the
agreeable efects of melody, to such phrases, the forms do not seem
to be numerous ; and are realy so simple, and comparatively so
few, that they probably have all been known and used in song,
from immemorial time; yet their intermingling sucesions, as it
has hapened Avith the long unknown and aparently confused
phrases of intonation in speechj have to this day, prevented their
being separately perceved and named.

Composers are often charged with plagiary of certain agreeable
pasages of melody. But all these pasages, or Phrases of Expres-
sion in song, as they may be caled, have long been familiar to the


ear, and enjoyed by Feeling ; and liave come down to us with-
out known Authorship or Date. On the subject of this combi-
nation of notes into agreeable phrases in the melodial sucesion
of song, there can be no more originality, than on that of the
combination of the elements into sylables of speech ; which in
all their permutations, have in time, and among nations, already
been made. The mass of Composersj like the mass of Writers,
respectively, again and again borow and repeat the commonplace
phrases of melody and of thotj and only a few, like Bacon and
Shakspeare, or Haydn and INIozart, choicely select and combine
those striking, if not original thots, in one case, and expresive
melodial phrases in the other, which, in their exalted acordance
with nature and truth, are so far above being vulgarized by gen-
eral adoption and imitation, as to seem to be always new, and
destined to please forever.

Under the class of phrases of expresion in song, are included
those groups of notes called Graces. And here, speech has nothing
directly corresponding to the Beat, the Turn and Shake. Per-
ha]:)s however, there is a remote analogy, in efed, between the
median stress of speech, and the apogiature ; between the Tremolo,
and the prolongation of the tremor on one line of pitch ; between
the anticipative character of the prepared cadence, and the suspen-
sion of the shake preceding a close on the key-note of song. But
why has song been without a classification of other phrases, with
their peculiar and no less striking expresion, than that of its
named ornamental Graces ?

That song has its own peculiar expression, in no way connected
with thot, or meaning of any kind, is i)roved by a well-known
fa(;t in lyric history. It has long been the practice of song writers,
to adapt their verses to the music of existing airs; nor, with an
exception of the use of the major and the minor mode; of the
allegro and pcnseroso, does tliis seem to have been done, under
the asumcd fitnes of certain melodial ])hrascs of the Air, to the
thot or pasion of the words ; language of every diferent meaning
and expresion being adapted to the same air, and receved as satis-
factory, without the least perception of a want of congruity.*

* From imimoniblc instances of tliis print'i])lo, we select the folowing. Tlicre
is a ciilcbrated En

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 57 of 59)