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ence, by which a choked and struggling utterance, a suppressed or inarticulate voice, or even absolute silence, becomes the index to the heart.
The command of all degrees of force of voice, must evidently be essential to true and natural expression, whether in reading or speaking. Appropriate utterance ranges through all stages of vocal sound, from the whisper of fear and the murmur of repose, to the boldest swell of vehement declamation, and the shout of triumphant courage. But to give forth any one of these or the intermediate tones, with just and impressive effect, the organs must be disciplined by appropriate exercise and frequent practice. For every day's observation proves to us, that mere natural instinct and animal health, with all the aids of informing intellect, and inspiring emotion, and exciting circumstances, are not sufficient to produce the effects of eloquence, or even of adequate utterance.
The overwhelming power of undisciplined feeling, may not only impede but actually prevent the right action of the instruments of speech; and the novice who has fondly dreamed, in his closet, that nothing more is required for effective expression, than a genuine feeling, finds, to his discomfiture, that it is, perhaps, the very intensity of his feeling that hinders his utterance; and it is not till experience and practice have done their work, that he learns the primary lesson, that force of emotion needs a practised force of will, to balance and regulate it, and a disciplined control over the organs, to give it appropriate utterance.
The want of due training for the exercise of public reading or speaking, is evinced in the habitual undue loudness of some speakers, and the inadequate force of others; the former subjecting their hearers to unnecessary pain, and the latter to disappointment and uneasiness.
Force of utterance, however, has other claims on the attention of students of elocution, besides those which are involved in correct ex pression. It is, in its various gradations, the chief means of imparting strength to the vocal organs, and power to the voice itself. The due practice of exercises in force of utterance, does for the voice what athletic exercise does for the muscles of the body: it imparts the two great conditions of power, — vigor and pliancy.
“ Vocal gymnastics” afford no discipline more useful than that which accompanies the daily practice of the various gradations of force. Exercises of this description, enable the public speaker to retain perpetually at command the main element of vivid and impressive utterance; and they furnish to young persons of studious and sedentary habit the means of thorough invigoration for the energetic use of the voice, required in professional exertions.
Vocal exercises of the kind now suggested, are also invaluable aids to health, and cheerfulness, and mental activity, in all who practise them, and are not less useful in training the voice for the gentle utterance required in the practice of reading in the domestic or the social circle, than in invigorating it for public performances.
The effect of vocal training in the department of force, is greatly augmented, when the bolder exercises are performed in the open air or in a large hall. A voice trained on this scale of practice, easily accommodates itself to a more limited space; while it is equally true, that a voice habituated to parlor reading only, usually fails in the attempt to practise in a room more spacious. Farther, the fact is familiar to instructors in elocution, that persons commencing practice with a very weak and inadequate voice, attain, in a few weeks, a perfect command of the utmost degrees of force, by performing their exercises out of doors, or in a hall of ample dimensions.
It is a matter of great moment, in practising the exercises in force, to observe, at first, with the utmost strictness, the rule of commencing with the slightest and advancing to the most energetic forms of utterance. When practice has imparted due vigor and facility, it will be a useful variation of order, to commence with the more powerful exertions of the voice, and descend to the more gentle. It is a valuable attainment, also, to be able to strike at once, and with perfect ease and precision, into any degree of force, from whispering to shouting.
As the exercises in the various “ qualities” of the voice, have already led us over the ground of “ force,” in all its gradations, it will be sufficient to present them once in succession, without farther explanation. (See “ exercises on force,” in the appendix.)
DEGREES OF FORCE.
The perfect command of every degree of force, and an exact dis crimination of its stages, as classified by degree and character of emotion, are indispensable to correct and impressive elocution. Extensive and varied practice on force, in all its gradations, becomes, therefore, an important point, in the vocal culture connected with elocution. Nor is it less valuable as the chief means of imparting power of voice and vigor of organ, - as was formerly intimated.
The student's attention is again directed to the importance of this element, for the purpose of securing a patient and persevering practice on elementary sounds, with an exclusive view, at present, to the mechanical exertion of the organs in the successive stages of mere loudness of voice. It will be found a useful practice to repeat the first line of each example in succession.
After having completed the practice on force, as prescribed in the preceding exercises, — in which its degrees are indicated by the feeling expressed in each example, the various component elements of the language, the “ tonics,'
,"; " subtonics,” and “ atonics,” and examples of their combination in syllables and words, may be repeated successively, (1.) in forms corresponding to the style of each exercise ; (2.) in the musical gradations of“ pianissimo,” (very soft ;) “ piano,”' (soft ;) mezzo piano,” (moderately soft;)
(moderate ;) mezzo forte,” (moderately loud ;) (loud ;) and “ fortissimo,” (very loud ;'') (3.) in successive stages, commmencing with the slightest and most delicate sound that can be uttered in “pure tone,” and extending to the most vehement force of shouting and calling in the open air, and with all the power that the voice can yield.
Persons who practise such exercises several times a day,' for ten or fifteen minutes at a time, will find a daily gain in vocal power and organic vigor to be the invariable result: every day will enable them to add a degree to their scale of force. To young persons whose organs are yet fully susceptible of the benefits of training, to students and sedentary individuals, in general, whose mode of life is deficient in muscular exercis and consequently in power of voice, and to professional men whose exercises in public speaking are at comparatively distant intervals, (in which case, the organs need the aid of invigorating daily practice more than in any other,) the mechanical practice of graduated force, is the most effective aid that can be found.
The kind of exercise now recommended, if presented in a form addressed to the eye, might be marked thus :
Each dot represents, in this scale, one and the same sound, or word, repeated with a gradually increasing force. The repetition of the same sound, for at least a dozen times, is preferred to a change of elements, because, by repetition, the ear becomes, as it were, a more exact judge of the successive degrees of force, when not distracted by attention to anything else than the one point of mere loudness.
This exercise can never injure, but will always strengthen, even weak organs, if the gradation of voice be duly observed, and the note of the scale kept rigorously the same, throughout, and not pitched,
at first, - either very high or very low on the scale.
Force, as a property of voice, may be regarded either as it exists in consecutive or in single sounds. Thus, the force of utterance, in a sentence or a clause, may be on one plırase, or even on a single word. In the pronunciation of a word, it may be exclusively on one syllable. In the enunciation of a syllable, the organic force may lie chiefly on a single letter. In the sound of a letter, the force of the voice may lie conspicuously on the first, or on the last part of the sound, on the middle, or on both extremes; or it may be distributed, with an approach to equalizing force, over all parts of the sound.
1 It may not be improper to remark here, that vocal exercise should be practised at a point of time as nearly as may be interMEDIATE to the hours assigned for meal-times; as the organs are then in their best condition, — neither embarrassed nor exhausted, as regards the state of the circulation. The rule of the Italian vocal training, which prescribes powerful and continued exertion of voice, before breakfast, with a view to deepen the "register,” implies a state of organs already inured to fatigue ; and the stereotype direction of the old physicians, to declaim after dinner, with a view to promote digestion, implies either a meal in the poet's style of "spare fast, that oft with gods doth diet," or a strength of the digestive organ, ihat can render it callous to the powerful shocks which energetic declamation always imparts by impassioned emotion, 10 that chief a local habitation" of the « sympathetic"
The term “stress," as used by Dr. Rush, is applied to the mode in which force is rendered perceptible or impressive, in single sounds. Stress includes two elements of vocal effect:
- 1st, mere force of sound; 2d, the time which it occupies. To these may be added, not improperly, a third element, which is the result of the union or combination of the other two, viz., abrupt or gradual emission.
The classification of the forms of stress is as follows:
1st, “ Radical stress," or that in which the force of utterance is, usually, more or less “explosive,” and falls on the "radical” (initial, or first) part of a sound.
2d, “Median stress," that in which the force is “expulsive" or “effusive," and swells out whether slowly or rapidly, at the middle of a sound.
3d, “Vanishing stress,” or that which withholds the 's pulsive" or "explosive" force till the “vanish," or last moment of the sound.
4th, " Compound stress," or that in which the voice, with more or less of “explosive" force, touches forcefully and distinctly on both the initial and the final points of a sound, but passes slightly and almost imperceptibly over the middle part.
5th, "Thorough stress," in which the initial, middle, and final portions of a sound, are all distinctively and impressively marked by special" expulsive force” of voice.
6th, “Tremor,” tremulous, or intermittent “stress."
This form of vocal force is exemplified in the mechanical act of abrupt coughing. In speech, its highest form exists in the utterance of all sounds which embody startling and abrupt emotions; as fear, anger, &c. It exists, also, although in a reduced form, in the tones of determined will, earnest argument, emphatic and distinct or exact communication, and other unimpassioned modes of expression.
1“ There are so few speakers able to give a radical stress to syllabic utterance, with this momentary burst, which I here mean to describe, that I must draw an illustration from the effort of coughing. It will be perceived that a single impulse of coughing, is not, in all points, exactly like the abrupt voice on syllables: for that single impulse is a forcing out of almost all the breath yet if the tonic element' a-we'he employed as the vocality of coughing, its
In the latter shape,“ radical” stress does little more than impart to speech an additional degree of that clear, distinct, and energetic character of utterance, which is marked by the decision of its “ radical movement,” — the phrase, (it will be recollected,) by which Dr. Rush has designated the opening, or initial part, of articulate sounds. But, even in this reduced degree, it forms one of the most valuable accomplishments of elocution ; for, although it does not, in this mode, aim at a sympathetic effect on passion or imagination, it subserves the substantially useful purpose of addressing, in clear, distinct style, the ear and the understanding. The definiteness and decision of the speaker's intention, the clear conviction of his judgment, the distinctness of his perceptions, and the energy of his will, are all indicated in this natural language of voice.
A due “radical stress,” farther, imparts point and spirit to articulation : it gives an edge and a life to utterance, and hinders emotion from rendering the voice confused and indistinct. Vehemence, without “radical stress,” becomes vociferation and bawling.
The energy of the “radical movement,” may, indeed, be justly termed the salt and the relish of oral communication, as it preserves the pungency and penetrating effect of articulate utterance. Without due “ radical stress,” reading or speaking becomes insipid and ineffective. The argumentative speaker who has not this quality at command, seems to strike with the flat rather than the edge of the rhetorical weapon.' Carried to excess, it becomes, of course, a fault : it savors of dogmatical arrogance and assumption, of selfish wilful
abrupt opening will truly represent the function of radical stress when used in discourse.
“ The clear and forcible radical stress can take place only after an interruption of the voice. It would seem as if there is some momentary occlusion in the larynx, by which the breath is barred and accumulated for the purpose of a ful! and sudden discharge. This occlusion is most under command, and the explosion is most powerful, on syllables beginning with a tonic element, or with an abrupt one preceding a tonic; for, in this last case, an obstruction in the organs of articulation, is combined with the function of the larynx, above supposed.” – Dr. Rush.
1“ It is this,” (radical stress,) “which draws the cutting edge of words across the ear, and stariles even stupor into attention :— this which lessens the fatigue of listening, and outvoices the stir and rustle of an assembly:and it is the sensibility to this, through a general instinct of the animal ear, which gives authority to the groom, and makes the horse submissive to his angry accent."--Id.