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which Dr. Webster's
style is peculiar to himself, or merely to the local custom of New England, which, as regards the standard of the genuine pronunciation of the English language, is justly considered, elsewhere, as liable to the same objections with the local peculiarities of Scotland or of Ireland, — current, as sanctioned by respectable authority, in their several regions, but, when referred to the standard of general English usage, to be condemned as faults.
“QUALITY” OF VOICE.
The learner, having acquired, by the exercises prescribed in the preceding chapters, a free and forcible use of the breathing apparatus, und of the organs of speech which are employed in articulation, has thus laid the requisite foundation for the course of vocal training in “ expression,” or the various qualities of utterance, which are the appropriate language of emotion.
The word utterance, as a term in elocution, is used to designate the mere act of forming and emitting voice: it does not necessarily imply any of those functions of the organs by which articulate sound is produced; thus we speak of a person uttering a cry, a groan, a sigh, a moan, à sob, or a laugh. In a correspondent use of language, we read that “ the seven thunders uttered their voices."
The function of utterance is necessarily attended, however, with a given degree of force in sound, — from that of whispering, or of any of the intermediate stages, to that of shouting and calling. It implies, also, a certain note of the scale, — high, low, or intermediate in pitch. ''he utterance of successive sounds is, farther, slow, rapid, or moderate, as regards the rate of movement. These properties, – force, pitch, and rate, or movement, coexist in one strain of utterance, and are, to the ear, independent of the process of articulation or the function of speech. An example of mere utterance is furnished in the successive notes of a song hummed or sung without words,
- or sung at such a distance from us, that we cannot distinguish the words. The case is similar, when we overhear a person reading, or talking, in an adjoining room, but when we do not hear so distinctly as to recognize the enunciation of letters or syllables. We perceive, in such instances, that the voice of the reader or speaker, is soft or loud, high or low, and that it moves fast or slow ; but we cannot tell what is said: we hear the utterance, but not the articulation, of vocal sound.
The formation of even a single sound of the human voice, is necessarily attended by yet another property, its predominating quality as “tone,” – in the popular sense of that word. When we overhear, as already supposed, a person reading or talking, but at such a distance from us, or with such objects intervening, that we cannot make out the articulate character of the sounds which are uttered, we may still be able to say, with confidence, that the voice of the reader or speaker has a cheerful or a mournful tone, a lively or a solemn sound. Farther, we say, perhaps with equal certainty, that the person has a hollow, a guttural, a nasal, a sharp, a thin, a rough, a round, a full, or a smooth voice.
The utterance of even a single exclamation of emotion, may, in this way, enable us to define the feeling of a reader or speaker, and, at the same time, to recognize the “ quality,”. - as it is termed, of his voice.
The progressive discipline of the organs, for the purposes of utterance, comprises the practice of every stage of audible voice, from whispering to shouting and calling. We proceed, now, to the first stage of utterance, - that of whispering, which is the nearest, in style and effect, to breathing, and forms the extreme of " aspirated," or breathing " quality.”
The function of whispering lies, as it were, half way between breathing and “ vocality,” or the actual production of vocal sound, in the form termed by musicians “pure tone.” Whispering differs from even the “explosive,” or strongest form of the breathing exercises, in being articulated as a mode of speech, and in taking on, to a certain extent, the qualities of " expression;" thus we not only use the whisper for secret communication, but for the utterance of excessive fear, or of deep awe, suppressed anger, or any other naturally violent emotion, when it is kept down by some overawing restraint.
Whispering, therefore, as a discipline of the organs of voice, carries on, to a greater extent, and with more special effect, all the beneficial results of the exercises in full, deep, and forcible breathing. The whisper, even in its gentlest or“ effusive” form, should, as a vocal exercise, be practised on the scale of public speaking, - that is to say, with a force sufficient to create full and distinct articulation, and intelligible utterance, in a large hall, or any similar apartment. The function of whispering, on this scale,
will be easily perceived, demands the full expansion of the chest, a deep inspiration, a powerful expulsion of the breath, the practice of frequent pausing and renewing the supply of breath, without which a forcible whisper cannot be sustained.
This species of exercise combines, therefore, the discipline of full and energetic respiration, with that of forcible utterance. "It demands a large and a frequent supply of breath, and trains the student to close attention to his habit of breathing, and to the position of the body and the action of the organs. It thus facilitates the acquisition of a perfect control over the organs of speech, - the prime requisite to easy and effective utterance.
A subsidiary advantage attending this process of powerful whisper
ing, consists in the greatly increased intensity which it produces in the organic function of articulation. The whisper being performed as if addressed to a person at the distance of a hundred feet from the speaker, compels a force of percussion in the tongue and the other minor organs of speech, sufficient to compensate for the absence of the common round tone of the voice. The style of enunciation, accordingly, becomes that of the most intense earnestness. The exercise now prescribed, therefore, is of immense advantage, as a preparatory discipline to the organs of speech, as well as a process of training for full-toned and energetic use of the voice.
Whispering, - like breathing, and like resonant vocal utterance, - has the three forms described under the head of Exercises in Breathing, 6 effusive,” or tranquil; “ expulsive,” or forcible; and
explosive,” or abrupt and violent.
This mode of utterance belongs to tranquil emotion, when expressed in the language of deep-felt awe or profound repose, which represses, by an approach to fear, at the same time that it excites the voice by its intensity.
The exercise in “ effusive” whispering, should be practised with strict attention to full, deliberate breathing, and the exact articulation of every element, — 1st, on all the “ tonic" 1 elements of the language; 2d, on the “ subtonics ;" 3d, on the “atonics ;”! 4th, on syllables ; 5th, on words, as arranged in the columns of Exercises in Articulation ; 6th, on the following stanza, which should be often repeated.
STILLNESS OF Night. – Byron
“ All heaven and earth are still, — though not in sleep,
But breathless, as we grow when feeling most; And silent, as we stand in thoughts too deep :
All heaven and earth are still: From the high host
Of stars to the lulled lake, and mountain coast,
Where not a beam, nor air, nor leaf is lost,
1 See Chapter on Orthoēpy, and Tables of Orthophony.
2 It is not meant that the above stanza is necessarily and uniformly to be whispered, in reading or reciting the passage from which it is taken. The extract is here used as a convenient exercise, merely.
This species of exercise, being much more forcible than the preceding, and corresponding, in energy, to the style of bold declamatory utterance, when given forth with the full round tone of the voice, has yet a more powerful influence on the action and habits of the vocal organs. It should be repeatedly performed, with the utmost force of the whisper, which the student can command, on the elements, syllables and words, and on the following example, the tone of which implies the intensest force of earnest utterance, suppressed by apprehension approaching to fear.
MILITARY COMMAND. - Anonymous. “ Soldiers! You are now within a few steps of the enemy's outpost. Our scouts report them as slumbering in parties around their watch-fires, and utterly unprepared for our approach. A swift and noiseless advance around that projecting rock, and we are upon them, - we capture them without the possibility of resistance. - One disorderly noise or motion may leave us at the mercy of their advanced guard. Let every man keep the strictest silence, under pain of instant death!”
3. “Explosive” Whispering.
The“ explosive” whisper, like the" explosive” breathing, imparts a still greater power to the vocal organs, by the vivid, abrupt, and instantaneous force, with which it bursts out. The explosive intensity of articulation, which it produces, calls at the same time for the utmost precision in the functions of the tongue, the lips, and all the minor instruments of enunciation. The whisper should, in this form, burst forth as suddenly as if the breath were forced out by the instant effect of a violent blow applied to the back. This style of whispering should be repeatedly practised on the elements, syllables, and words, and on the following exercise, which exemplifies the utterance of the most abrupt and intense alarm, at once exciting and suppressing the voice.
MILITARY COMMAND. - Anon. “ Hark! I hear the bugles of the enemy! They are on their march along the bank of the river. We must retreat instantly, or be cut off from our boats. I see the head of their column already rising over the height. Our only safety is in the screen of this hedge. Keep close to it; be silent; and stoop as you run. For the boats! Forward !”
The exercises in whispering may now be repeated, on the preceding examples, in the form of a half whisper, - which, as its name imports, lies half way between a whisper and the ordinary quality" of the voice, or “pure tone."
One of the most important parts of vocal culture, is that which defines the 66 qualities of the voice, and prescribes appropriate exercises for the formation of good, and the eradication of bad, habits of utterance.
A deep, round, clear, full, and sweet voice, is too commonly regarded as one of nature's rare gifts to her few favorites. This popular impression, like many others of a similar nature, proceeds upon the erroneous assumption, that what we observe as fact, is necessarily such.
A good voice, - owing to our prevalent deficiency in cultivation, – is a thing so rare, that we are apt to regard it as an original endowment of constitution, - a grace not lying within the scope of acquisition, a charm the absence of which, like that of personal beauty, implies no fault.
Observation, however, will remind us of the fact that all children in good health, and in cheerful or tranquil mood, have, naturally, in their habit of utterance, a round, sweet, and clear tone. The fact continues thus, with every child, in the earliest stage of life. It ceases, when the voice ceases to utter the feelings of the heart, – when the mechanical processes of spelling and syllabication commence, and the voice becomes adapted to the routine of reading, as commonly taught at school.
— Judicious culture might evidently preserve, and cherish, and confirm the beautiful tendency of habit, originally implanted in the human voice and ear.
We are familiar with the fact, that true musical cultivation proceeds upon the assumption, and insists, with inevitable authority, on the primary rule, that every human voice can and must utter“ pure tone. No failure, no remissness, in this respect, is ever tolerated in appropriate training in vocal music. The result,
- as might be expected, - corresponds to the pains taken to regulate the position and action of the organs, in elementary practice. All who are recognized as even tolerable singers, utter every sound of the voice in the form of pure tone,- entirely free from pectoral gruffness, guttural suffocation, nasal twang, or oral thinness of quality; and among proficients in the art, whatever personal peculiarity of voice is suffered to exist, is such only as keeps within the limits of perfect purity, and serves rather to form a crowning grace from the hand of nature, than in any sense, a defect.' — A similar result will always
1 We may refer, here, to familiar examples, in the occasionally rich, racy