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Regarded in connection with the sense of beauty or of pleasure, however, we perceive at once a marked difference between the “ melody" of music and that of speech. The former, has, comparatively, the effect of poetry: beauty is its chief element; and it yields to the ear an exquisite sense of pleasure. The latter may, as in the recitation or the reading of verse, possess a degree of this charm, though comparatively an perfect one. But it may, on the contrary, possess no such beauty: it may exhibit a succession of the most harsh and grating sounds, intended to jar and pain the ear, by the violence of discordant and disturbing passion; or it may, at least, be but a tame and insipid succession of articulation, in the utterance of a fact addressed exclusively to the understanding, as in the common relations of magnitude, shape, or number. The melody of speech, in such cases, intentionally divests itself of whatever quality in tone is adapted, whether to pleasure or to pain, and adheres to the customary intonation of dry fact and plain prose.
In the latter case, however, not less than in the former, the relations of sounds to each other, as measured by the musical scale, can be distinctly traced; and, on this account, the “ melody of speech,” or of reading,” is a phrase as truly significant as that of the “ melody of a strain of music."
The word “ melody," used in its technical sense, occupies, then, the same ground in elocution as in music, and refers us, in the first instance, to an initial or commencing sound to which others in a series may be compared as high or low or neither. To this sound the term “pitch” is applied, as designating the particular point of the scale, as high or low, on which the voice is thrown out. Thus, we speak of the deep tones or low notes of an organ, as contrasted with the shrill sound of a fife, of the grave tone of the voice of a man, or of the comparatively high pitch of that of a woman; or of the low voice of devotion, as contrasted with the high, shrill scream of excessive fear, or the piercing shriek of terror.
The correct practice of elocution, as in appropriate speaking, recitation, or reading, implies the power of easily and instantly shifting the pitch” of the voice, according to the natural note of emotion required for every shade of expression depicted in the composition which is spoken, recited, or read. Nature, or, - more properly speaking, - the Author of the human constitution, has so contrived the organization of the corporeal frame, in conjunction with the sensibility of the soul, that certain notes of the voice are necessarily associated with certain emotions. Thus a repetition of low and subdued tones, overheard from an adjoining apartment, suggests to us
the thought that its occupant is employed in the exercise of devotion ; because solemn and reverential feeling is uniformly associated in voice with low notes of the scale. A succession of high and vivid tones, overheard, might suggest the idea of a lively conversation, or an earnest debate, or a fierce dispute, as the case might be; for the emotions implied in such communication, are all associated with high notes of the scale.
The study of “ pitch,” as an element of “ melody,” leads us accordingly to a classification of emotions as characterized by comparatively “high" or notes. The science of music possesses, in the department of “pitch,” a great advantage over that of elocution; as it refers, in all cases, to a perfectly exact measure of sound, as ascertained by reference to the invariable standard of certain notes, at given points of the scale, executed by musical instruments not liable to variation. The musician can thus apply, as his rule, a definite scale of vast extent, and of perfect precision in admeasurement. The elocutionist, on the contrary, derives his scale from feeling rather than from science or external rule. The natural pitch of human voices, varies immensely, not only with sex and age, but in the accustomed notes of one individual, as differing from those of another.
The musician, when speaking of a low strain of melody, can conveniently refer to a precise note of the scale, by the exact letter which designates it. The elocutionist, when referring to the low tone of awe, has no more definite measure in view than a note which lies low, in comparison even with the customary low notes of the voice of the reader or speaker.
Due attention, may, no doubt, enable the elocutionist to ascertain, in a given case, the precise note of the scale required according to the organic formation and the vocal habit of an individual. But such a note might prove too low for the compass of voice, in another person, or quite too high to be appropriate or impressive, in another still, whose voice is naturally low-pitched.
The language of elocution is accordingly limited to the familiar designations of “ low,” and “ very low," " high,” and “ when the scale is traced to any great extent beyond the "middle" or average pitch of utterance. This indefinite reference, however, is usually sufficient for the purposes of reading and speaking, which regard a general sympathetic effect, or feeling, rather than any which requires the precise measure of science.
I. “Middle" Pitch.
The "middle" pitch of the voice is that of our habitual utterance, on all occasions of ordinary communication in conversation or address. It implies a medium or average state of feeling, or a condition of mind free from every strong or marked emotion. It is the natural note of unimpassioned utterance, seeking to find its way to the understanding rather than to the heart, and hence avoiding high or low pitch, as belonging to the language of feeling or of fancy. Common conversation, a literary or a scientific essay, a doctrinal sermon, or a plain practical discourse on any subject limited to purposes of mere utility, and demanding the action of judgment and reason, principally, may be mentioned as examples of “middle" pitch.
This form of "pitch” being that which is habitual, in comparison with others, becomes, in popular usage, the criterion of what is termed “natural” reading or speaking. It is, indeed, justly adopted as the standard of ordinary communication. The habit of observing this pitch on all common occasions of speech and of reading, becomes an important means of natural and true effect in elocution. Falling below this average of utterance, we drop necessarily into tones associated with grave and solemn effect; and, rising above it, we approach the style of light, gay, or humorous expression. Either of these extremes becomes not merely an error of taste in elocution, but of judgment and ear : it sets the voice at variance with the nature of the subject of communication, and defeats its proper effect.
Both of the extremes which have been mentioned, however, are current faults of usage. Some juvenile readers, in consequence of the effort which they usually make in their exercises, cause a slight overstrain of voice, which becomes apparent in the pitch rising above its appropriate level : others, from embarrassment, let the voice sink, as it were into the chest, with a partially hollow sound, and a note too grave. Students and sedentary persons, from their exhausting mode of life, incline habitually to the latter fault; and, when excited by unusual interest in public communication, perhaps unconsciously assume the opposite extreme, of a pitch too high for the free use of the voice.
The proper standard of middle pitch, for the purpose of , vocal practice, is that of serious and earnest conversation in a numerous circle.
In selecting examples according to the rhetorical characteristics of style, the choice should be made from intermediate modes of writing, which are neither so deep-toned in their language, as those which are denominated “ grave solemn,” nor yet so high-pitched as the “ gay,” or brisk, and the.“ humorous
or playful. The rhetorical styles intermediate to these, are the “serious” and the “ animated.
These are the fairest average representatives of plain expression, as it usually occurs in conversation and discourse : they serve also to exemplify the common forms of narrative and descriptive writing.
Close attention and a discriminating ear, are required, to keep the pitch exactly true, in such examples as the following. The least deviation of voice, downward or upward on the scale, interferes with
the appropriate utterance of sentiment; making the expression either too grave or too light. The practice of these examples should be accompanied by frequent repetition of the elements and of detached columns of words, with a view to fix permanently in the ear, the proper note of middle pitch, whether in " serious” or in animated” utterance. The former is, of course, somewhat lower on the scale than the latter : the exact degree depends on the shades of expression in particular passages.
Serious Didactic Style. (“ Pure Tone :” “ Moderate" force : “ Unimpassioned radical," and
gentle “ median stress.”
PLEASURES OF KNOWLEDGE. -Alison. “How different is the view of past life, in the man who is grown old in knowledge and wisdom, from that of him who is grown old in ignorance and folly! The latter is like the owner of a barren country, that fills his eye with the prospect of naked hills and plains, which produce nothing either profitable or ornamental : the former beholds a beautiful and spacious landscape, divided into delightful gardens, green meadows, and fruitful fields, and can scarce cast his eye on a single spot of his possessions, that is not covered with some beautiful plant or flower.”
Serious Narrative. (“Quality,” “ force,” and “stress," as in the preceding example.)
· Raleigh's cheerfulness, during his last days, was great, and his fearlessness of death so marked, that the dean of Westminster who attended him, wondering at his deportment, reprehended the lightness of his manner. But Raleigh gave God thanks that he had never feared death; for it was but an opinion and an imagination ; and, as for the manner of death, he had rather die so than in a burning fever; that some might have made shows outwardly; but he felt the joy within."
A SCENE OF ARAB LIFE. - Anonymous. “All that has been related concerning the passion for tales, which distinguishes the Arabs, is literally true. During the night which we passed on the shore of the Dead Sea, observed our Bethlehemites seated around a large fire, with their guns laid near them on the ground, while their horses, fastened to stakes, formed a kind of circle about them. These Arabs, after having taken their coffee, and conversed for some time with great earnestness, and with their usual loquacity, observed a strict silence when the sheik began his tale. We could, by the light of the fire, distinguish his significant gestures, his black beard, his white teeth, and the various plaits and positions which he gave to his tunic, during the recital. His coinpanions listened to him with the most profound attention; all of them with their bodies bent forward, and their faces over the flame, alternately sending forth shouts of admiration, and repeating, with great emphasis, the gestures of the historian. The heads of some few of their horses and camels, were occasionally seen elevated above the group, and shadowing, as it were, the picture. When to these was added a glimpse of the scenery about the Dead Sea and the mountains of Judea, the whole effect was striking and fanciful, in the highest degree."
Serious Conversational Style.
IDLENESS. -Addison. « An idle man is a kind of monster in the creation. All nature is busy about him: every animal he sees, reproaches him. Let such a man, who lies as a burden or dead weight upon the species, and contributes nothing either to the riches of the commonwealth, or to the maintenance of himself and family, consider that instinct with which Providence has endowed the ant, and by which is exhibited an example of industry to rational creatures.”