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The unmeaning style so often and justly complained of in school reading, and, sometimes, in professional performances, is, to a great extent, owing to want of perception in regard to the nature and effect of the “ slide.”
Persons who know what an expenditure of time and labor is requisite, to train the organs to clear and just execution, and even to correct intonation, in vocal music, will not be surprised at the extent of practice suggested in this department of elocution. Nor is there any branch of the subject in which close application and persevering practice are more sure of an ample reward. The ability to read aright the plainest passage of narrative, descriptive, or didactic writing, is wholly dependent on the just and discriminating use of the “ slide.”
THE “WAVE,' CIRCUMFLEX." One of the natural modes of " expression," in the “ melody of speech,” is, in the language of peculiar emotion, or marked distinction, the use of a double “ slide,” the upward and the downward on the same sound. This mode of voice, called the “ wave,” is the characteristic utterance of sarcasm, mockery, raillery, and other intense and keen emotions: it marks, likewise, the expression of humor, irony, and wit, and pungent antithesis, whether serious or humorous. In its lowest perceptible form, it aids the “swell “ median stress of solemn and sublime feeling. The “ wave, the single " slide,” exists in all varieties of effect, from the slightest undulation of solemnity, in the interval of the ó second,” (o the "concrete downward transition from one note of the scale to the next below,) to the “ third,' fifth,” and “ octave.” The “ is termed " direct,” when it slides first upward and then downward ; “ inverted,” when the “ downward slide” precedes, and the “ upward” follows. It is termed " equal,” when the “ slides
are of equal height and depth ; the upward and the downward being each a “ third,' ” on fifth,” or “ octave :" “ unequal,” when the one "slide" traverses a wider interval of the scale than the other; the upward, for example, being a “ third," and the downward, an octave." Grave and sedate feeling, or the affectation of such feeling, inclines to the use of the “ equal wave ;'' keen and sarcastic expression prefers the “ unequal wave,” from its greater pungency to the
This element of expression, is one of the most impressive in the whole range of vocal effect. It gives, in its subdued form, a sustained dignity and grandeur to utterance, without which the longdrawn sounds of solemnity, would sink into monotony and feebleness. Sarcastic and ironical expression cannot be given without it. Close distinctions of sense and meaning, lose their point and discrimination,
falsette of E in the “ fourth space,” in some male voices, it may be advisable to pitch the lowest radical, in execution, on C on the "first leger line below." This change will cause no hinderance in practice; as the intervals are not affected by it, and the slides, consequently, remain the same relatively.
when deprived of it. Wit and humor cease to exist to the ear, if the ambiguous and equivocal, or graphic effect of the " wave,' is dropped.
An intelligent and discriminating use of this element, is indispensable, however, to its right effect. Adopted too frequently, and expressed too pointedly, it offends the ear; as it implies a want of skill on the part of the reader or speaker, and a want of perception on that of the hearer. It forms, when given in excess, the striking feature in overdone emphasis, or that which seems, by its obtrusiveness, to forestall the judgment of the person who is addressed, and compel his perceptions. It is the usual resort of the author of a pun so poor, that, without his syllabic and waving enunciation, you could not have surmised its existence.
exists sometimes, as a mere local accident of usage, in what is termed national accent. The dialects of Scotland and of New England, furnish striking examples of the unmeaning prevalence of the 66
The popular - Yankee story,” and, not unfrequently, the emphasis of well-educated people, abound in instances of this local intonation.
The use of the “wave” should be carefully practised, in the spirit of the closest analysis, on the following examples, and, in its principal forms, applied to "tonic" elements, long syllables, and expressive words and phrases.
I. - The “Equal Wave."
Solemnity and Sublimity. (“Effusive orotund :” “Subdued” force: Full and prolonged "median
swell :" “ Low pitch :" “ Equal wave of the second.” The "wave so slight as barely to be discernible.)
1.- FROM THE MORNING HYMN. - Milton.
“ His ' praise, ye winds that from four quarters blow,
2.- FROM AN EVENING HYMN.-H. M. Williams.
“ While Thee I seek, protecting Power!
Be my vain wishes stilled ;
With better hopes be filled !"
1 The "wave” occurs on the letters denoted by italic type.
Pointed Antithesis. Serious Expression.
1. (“Pure tone :” “ Animated” force : “Radical and median stress :"
“ Middle Pitch :” “Equal wave of the third.”)
MORAL TO A FABLE. –Jane Taylor. “Let any man resolve to do right now leaving thěn to do as it can : and if he were to live to the
of Methuselah, he would never do wrong.
But the common error is to resolve to act right after breakfast, or åfter dînner, or to-měrrow môrning, or next time. But nôw, just now, this Ônce, we must go on the same as ever.”
2. (“Pure tone :” “Moderate” force, " grave" style: “Median stress :" “Middle pitch :” “Equal wave of the third.”)
CHANCE. — Shakspeare.
« Alas! the while !
Pointed Antithesis. Half-humorous Style.
(“Pure tone :” “ Animated” force : “Median stress :" "Middle pitch :"
“Equal wave of the third.”) ROMAN CITIZEN, MURMURING AGAINST THE PATRICIANS. - Shakspeare.
“ We are accounted poor citizens; the patrụcians good. What authôrity súrfeits on, would relieve ûs. If they would yield us but the superfluity, while it were whỏlesome, we might guess they relieved us humânely; but they think we are too dệar: the leanness that afflîcts us, the object of our misery, is an inventory to particularize their abûndance: ôur sửfferance is a glin to thêm. -Let us revenge this with our pîkes, ere we become răkes : for the gods know I speak this in hûnger for bread, not in thịrst for revenge.
1 The “ direct wave" is marked by the usual circumflex accent, the “inverted wave," by an inverted circumflex.
Wit. ("Pure tone,” laughing voice : “Radical and median stress :' “ High
pitch :” “Equal wave of the third.”)
BEATRICE, SPEAKING OF BENEDICK. — Shakspeare. “In our last conflict, fôur of his five wits went halting off; and now is the whole man governed with ône: so that if he have wit enough to keep himself wărm, let him bear it for a difference between himself and his horse ; for it is all the wit that he hath lêft, to be known a reasonable creature.”
Raillery. (“Pure tone:" "Animated” force : “ Median stress :” “High pitch :"
“Equal wave of the third.") MENENIUS, TO THE TRIBUNES BRUTUS AND SICINIUS. --Shakspeare “ You blame Marcius for being proud ? Brutus. We do it not alone, sir. Men. I know
your helps are mâny; or else your actions would grow wondrous sîngle : your abilities are too înfant-like for doing much alone. You talk of prîde: Oh! that you could turn your eyes towards the napes of your něcks, and make but an interior survey of your good selves!”
II. - The Unequal Wave.
Irony and Derision, (“Pure tone:” “ Animated” force : “Stress" varying from “ radical”
to “median:” “High pitch :" Unequal wave of the “third” and
The CRITIC.-Sterne. “How did Garrick speak the soliloquy, last night?” –“Oh! against all rule, my lord, most ungrammatically! Betwixt the substantive and the adjective, which should agree together in number, case, and gender, he made a breach thus — stopping, as if the point wanted settling ; and betwixt the nominative case, which, your lordship knows, should govern the verb, he suspended his voice in the epilogue, a dozen times, three seconds and three fifths by a stopwatch, my lord, each time.” Âdmirable grammarian ! - But, in
suspending his voice, - was the sense suspended ? — Did no expression of attitude or countenance fill up the chasm?
- Was the eye silent? Did you narrowly look?”. 6 I looked only at the stopwatch, my lord !
- Êxcellent observer!
Contempt and Derision. (" Aspirated quality :” “Impassioned"
< Median stress :" “High pitch :” “Unequal waves.
“ And who is Norval in Glenalvon's eyes ? Glenalvon. A peasant's sôn, [3. & 5.]' a wandering beggar
bông ! [3. & 8.] [3. & 5.] At bêst no more,—even if he speaks the trừth.
[3. & 5.] [5. & 3.] “ Hear him, my lord : he's wồndrous condescênd
ing! [5. & 3.] Mark the humility of shepherd Nôrval!” [3. &
Scorn and Derision.
(“Aspirated pectoral and guttural quality :” “Impassioned" force :
“Vanishing stress :” “High pitch :” “Unequal wave.") CORIOLANUS, TO THE SENATORS, WHEN HIS ELECTION TO THE CONSULATE
IS CONTRAVENED BY THE TRIBUNES BRUTUS AND SICINIUS;
They chose their magistrate ;
This designation, like many others used in the technical language of elocution, is not strictly applicable to the fact of voice which it is
1 The figures indicate the “unequal wave of the "third” and “fifth,” &c. In these exemplifications it is not intended that either a weaker or a stronger "expression," an inferior or a greater "wave,” may not be appropriately used, if it be not out of proportion to the context. In the stronger expressions, there might even be a prolonged and repeated, or “double " " wave,” in highly animated reading.