Page images

This mode of voice proceeds from a violent and abrupt exertion of the abdominal muscles, acting on the diaphragm, and thus discharging a large volume of air, previously inhaled. The breath, in this process, is, as it were, dashed against the glottis or lips of the larynx, causing a loud and instantaneous explosion. In the act of “explosion," the chink of the glottis is, for a moment, closed, and a resistance, at first, offered to the escape of the breath, by a firm compression of the lips of the larynx, and downward pressure of the epiglottis. After this instant pressure and resistance, follows the explosion caused by the appulsive act of the abdominal muscles and the diaphragm, propelling the breath, with powerful and irresistible volume, on the glottis, and epiglottis, which at length give way, and suffer the breath to escape, with a loud and sudden report, of a purely explosive character.

The preceding and accompanying state of the organs, in the act of

explosion,” sufficiently indicates the propriety of this mode of utterance being termed " orotund;" as it possesses all the depth, roundness, and fulness of the other forms of that “ quality,” which have been already discussed, and implies farther, that these are now compacted and condensed, to an extraordinary degree, so as to make the sound of the voice resemble, in its effect on the ear, that of a firm and hard ball striking against the surface of the body.

· Explosive orotund” is the language of intense passion : it is heard when the violence of emotion is beyond the control of the will, and a sudden ecstasy of terror, anger, or any other form of intensely excited feeling, causes the voice to burst forth involuntarily from the organs, with all the sudden and startling effect that would arise from its sound being forced out, by a sudden blow, applied to the back of the speaker. It exists only in the extremes of abrupt emotion, as in the burst of anger, or the shout of courage, and admits of no gradations.


This form of the human voice is one of the most impressive in its effect. By a law of our constitution, it acts with an instantaneous shock on the sympathetic nerve, and rouses the sensibility of the whole frame; it summons to instant action all the senses; and in the thrill which it sends from nerve to brain, we feel its awakening and inciting power over the mind. With the rapidity of lightning it penetrates every faculty, and sets it instinctively on the alert. It seems designed by nature as the note of alarm to the whole citadel within the soul.

We hear the "explosive orotund quality" exemplified in the sudden alarm of fire, in the short and sharp cry of terror or of warning, at the approach of instant and great danger, in the eruptive curse of furious anger, in the abrupt exclamation of high-wrought courage, and in the burst of frantic grief. In reading and recitation, it belongs appropriately to the highest ecstatic effects of lyric and dramatic poetry, as the language of intense passion.

Without the full command of this element, emotion becomes lifeless and ineffective in tone; and the inspired language of the poet dies upon the tongue.

To gain the full command of “ explosive orotund” voice, the practice of the elements, of syllables, and words, in the tones of anger and terror, should be frequently repeated, along with the following and similar examples. A previous organic practice should also be repeatedly made, on the mechanical exercise of abrupt and loud coughing, which is the purest form of “explosive orotund.” The vocal elements and syllabic combinations should be repeated in the form of a sudden cough, at the opening of each sound. Laughing,

- in its strongest and fullest style, — is another natural form of "explosive orotund ;” and the mechanical practice of the act is one of the most efficacious modes of imparting to the organs the power of instantaneous explosion,” required in the vivid expression of high-wrought feeling. These processes at once secure a vigorous state of the organs of voice, and a round and compacted form of sound. No exercise is so effectual for strengthening weak organs, or imparting energy to tone, as the “explosive orotund” utterance. Like all other powerful forms of exertion, it should not, at first, be carried very far; neither should it be practised without a due interspersing of the gentler and softer exercises of voice. Pursued exclusively, it would harden the voice, and render it dry and unpleasing in its quality. Intermingled with the other modes of practice, it secures thorough-going force and clearness of voice, and permanent vigor and elasticity of organs.

Examples of " Explosive Orotund.
1. Courage. (** Explosive" Shouting.)

- Strike for the sires who left


Strike for their sakes who bore you !
Strike for your homes and liberty,
And the Heaven you worship, o'er you!”

2. Anger.
“ Villains ! you did not threat, when your

vile daggers Hacked one another in the sides of Cæsar!

You showed your

teeth like


and fawned like hounds, And bowed like bondmen, kissing Cæsar's feet; Whilst damned Casca, like a cur, behind, Struck Cæsar on the neck. -Oh! flatterers !”

3. Terror.


To arms !— they come!- the Greek, the Greek!”

4. Hurry and Commotion.

“ Send out more horses,-skirr the country round;

Hang those that talk of fear! - Give me mine armor.”

ASPIRATED QUALITY.” The “ qualities” of voice which are most frequently exemplified in reading and speaking, are those which have been defined and exemplified, under the designations of “pure tone” and “orotund.” Deviations from purity of tone, are usually to be regarded as faults of inadvertency or of personal habit. Still, there are some classes of emotions, which, from their peculiar nature, require, as one element in their “ expression,” an aspirated quality," or that in which, from the forcible character of the feeling, operating with a corresponding effect on the organs, more breath is expelled from the trachea, in the act of utterance, than is converted into sound by the exertion of the larynx. The stream of air which the excited action of the expulsory muscles, throws out, under the influence of certain passions, becomes too wide and too powerful to be moulded by the glottis and controlled by the vocal chords, which, for the moment, become, as it were, either paralyzed or convulsed, and unable to act with effect. Hence a rushing sound of the breath escaping, unvocalized, is heard along with the partially vocalized sounds by which such passions are expressed. The half-whispering voice of fear, and the harsh, breathing sound of anger, are examples in point, in the extremes of " expression.”

The agitating character of these and similar emotions, disturbs the play of the organs, and not only prevents, in utterance, the effect of purity of tone, which is always connected with comparative tranquillity of feeling, – but causes, by “ aspirated quality,” or redundant breath superadded to vocal sound, a positive impurity of tone, which has a grating effect on the ear, somewhat as takes place when we hear a person attempting to play on a wind instrument which has been cracked, and which allows hissing sound of the breath to escape along with the musical notes.


The emotions which are naturally expressed by the strong. est form of “aspirated quality,” are principally of that class which an eminent writer on the passions has denominated “ malignant,” from their peculiar character and effect, as contrasted with those of others which he denominates “ genial.” The former class includes fear, hatred, aversion, horror, anger, and all similar feelings : the latter, love, joy, serenity, tenderness, pity, &c.

“ Aspirated quality,” like other forms of utterance, may exist, according to the force of emotion, in the three gradations of “effusive," " expulsive," and "explosive" voice. The muscular action attending utterance in the form of “s pirated quality,” is usually such as to blend with the "aspiration” either a pectoral” or a “guttural” resonance, very strongly marked. Hence these properties of voice, which would, in the expression of other emotions, be mere organic faults, now become requisites to effect, and are, therefore, comparative excellences. They require, accordingly, special study and practice as modes of “expressive" utterance.

The “aspirated quality,” in the “ pectoralform, belongs usually to despair, deep-seated anger, revenge, excessive fear, horror, and other deep and powerful emotions.

Other emotions, however, besides those which may be designated as “ malignant," partake of "aspirated quality." Awe, may be mentioned as an example, which, when profound, is always marked by a slight aspiration, and a "pectoral quality.” Joy and grief, too, become “ aspirated” when highly characterized. Ardor and intense earnestness of emotion, are always " aspirated.” The fervent expression of love, and even of devotion, admits, accordingly, of "aspirated” utterance. • Aspiration,” like “ tremor,” thus becomes a natural sign of extremes in feeling; and these two properties united, form the acmé or highest point of expression."

The “ aspirated quality,” in the "guttural” form, belongs, in various degrees, to all malignant emotions. In its stronger expression, it gives a harsh, animal, and sometimes even fiend-like character to human utterance, as in the malice

and revenge of Shylock. In a reduced, though still highly impassioned degree, it gives its peculiar choking effect to the utterance of anger.

In the yell of rage and fury,“ aspiration” is displaced by perfectly “pure tone of the loudest sound, — by a law of man's organization, which it is unnecessary here to analyze, but which seems to make all the extremes, or utmost reaches of human feeling, musical in their effect. Joy, and the extremes of both grief and anger, may be mentioned as illustrations.

Aversion, disgust, displeasure, impatience, dissatisfaction, and discontent, all, in various degrees, combine "aspirated" utterance and “ guttural quality.”

The due “ aspiration ” of the voice, in all the emotions which have been enumerated as requiring that property, is a point indispensable to the natural and appropriate " expression ” of emotion, and consequently an important accomplishment of good elocution, whether in reading or speaking.

To learners who have practised the exercises in whispering, which is the extreme of “aspiration,” this quality will not prove difficult of acquisition. It will be of great service, however, to power of

expression," to render the command of “ aspiration” easy by frequent repetition on elements, syllables, and words, selected for the purpose, and on the examples contained in the “ exercises on aspirated quality,” in the Appendix.



A PRIMARY characteristic of utterance, as expressive of emotion, is the degree of its energy, or force. The effect of any feeling on sympathy, is naturally inferred from the degree of force with which the sound of voice, in the utterance of that feeling, falls upon the ear of the hearer. The cause of this impression upon the mind, is, obviously, the law of organic sympathy, by which one part of the human frame naturally responds to another. A powerful emotion not only affects the heart and the lungs, and the other involuntary agents of life and of expression, but starts the expulsory muscles into voluntary action, and produces voice, the natural indication and language of feeling. The degree of force, therefore, in a vocal sound, is intuitively taken as the measure of the emotion which causes it. Except, only, those cases in which the force of feeling paralyzes, as it were, the organs of the voice, and suggests the opposite measure of infer

« PreviousContinue »