Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Before leaving this subject, it may be suggested that loud and rapid reading or speaking also furnishes a very valuable kind of training for the purpose of giving force and energy to the voice. These cannot however fully supply the lack of a prior discipline of the voice on the elementary sounds of our language, and on the simple combination of these elements; since without this the enunciation will be apt to be indistinct. A few speakers have acquired wonderful power of voice, mainly by the exercise of speaking. Dr. Porter says,—“The habit of speaking gave to the utterance of Garrick so wonderful an energy, that even his underkey was distinctly audible to ten thousand people. In the same way the French missionary Bridaine brought his vocal powers to such strength, as to be easily heard by ten thousand persons, in the open air; and twice this number of listening auditors were sometimes addressed by Whitefield.” Thousands, less fortunate than these, have broken down in the attempt to acquire this power by other means than we here recommend, and have been compelled to retire from public life, or have gone prematurely to their graves.

SECTION VIII.

OF THE QUALITY OF THE VOICE.

The Quality of the voice is usually designated by such terms as rough, smooth, harsh, soft, full, slender, musical, shrill, nasal, &c. Without going into any definition of these terms, we may remark that the quality of the voice, as regards all its general characters of excellence, cannot but be improved by the exercises and practice suggested in the preceding sections. In this section, instead of going into an explanation of these popular terms, it will better subserve the interests of the learner to examine the quality of the voice under the following heads;—the Orotund, the Tremor, the Aspiration, the Guttural, the Falsette, and the Whisper.

1. The Orotund.— The quality of voice implied in this term is possessed naturally by some, but more frequently has to be acquired by exercise and practice. It is possessed in no degree by a very large part even of public speakers, and in very different degrees by actors and orators of eminence. When possessed, it presents the following advantages, as set forth by Dr. Rush. First, The mere sound is more musical than that of the common voice. Secondly, It is fuller in volume than the common voice; and as its smooth musical quality gives a delicate attenuation to the vanishing movement, its fulness, with no less appropriate effect, displays the stronger body of the radical. Thirdly, It has a pureness of vocality that gives distinctness to pronunciation. Fourthly, It has a greater degree of strength than the common voice. Fifthly, Froin the discipline of cultivation it is more under command than the common voice; and is consequently more efficient and precise in the production of long quantity, in varying the degrees of force, and in fulfilling all the other purposes of expressive intonation. Sixthly, It is the only kind of voice appropriate to the master style of epic and dramatic reading. It is the only voice capable of fulfilling the majesty of Shakspeare and Milton. Through it alone the actor consummates the outward sign of the dignity and energy of his conceptions. Finally, Its use does not destroy the ability to use at will the common voice; their contrast may therefore throw a sort of vocal light and shade, so to speak, over the other means of oratorical coloring and design.

The practice which we have recommended in the preceding sections particularly the last, cannot fail to secure to the learner this quality of voice, in a higher or lower degree.

2. The Tremor.—This expresses the tremulous movements of the voice heard in the act of laughing and of crying, and is naturally associated with the language of mirth and of sorrow. It is an important function of the voice, and may be readily caught by the learner from the voice of the teacher, from the feigned effort of laughing, or from the affected expression of a feeling of mirthfulness or of deep sorrow. This function may be practiced on any element, syllable, or word of long quantity: but when acquired the learner should recollect that it has its peculiar significancy, and can never be properly introduced into ordinary delivery, when the feelings it expresses are wanting. Indeed, like the other most expressive elements of speech, it requires to be used with great caution.

3. The Aspiration.—The basis of the quality of voice here designated is found in the element h, which has been pronounced to be only a breathing. In the sigh we hear the sound of this single element associated with quantity, and can mark its radical and vanishing movement. There are several other elements which, admitting only of a whisper, are called aspirates; but these have a character and expression of their own, and are not to be confounded with the form of aspiration under discussion.

When we speak of this as a quality of the voice, it is implied that this element is capable of so blending with the other elements employed in speech, as to give a distinct character to the

[ocr errors]

utterance. For example, let the following lines be read with suppressed force, and with an expression of apprehension, or fear:

“ Hah! dost thou not see by the moon's trembling light;
Directing his steps, where advances a knight,

His eye big with vengeance and fate ?" If the learner does not on this passage spontaneously express the quality of voice bere described, it will at least indicate to him one of the principal sentiments of which this is the symbol.

If he succeed, he will find that such words as “dost," “moon,” “trembling,” “vengeance,” and “fate,” are uttered as though spelled dhost, mhoon, trhembling, vhengeance, fhate; and this process of aspiration is carried on according as the feeling rises, till the voice may be almost or entirely sunk in whispers.—This function of the voice requires to be used with caution.

4. The Guttural.—The quality of the voice here referred to is thus designated, because it is formed in the throat. It should never be employed in the current of discourse, nor as a function of the voice does it ever stand alone. It is usually combined with the radical or vanishing stress,

and the aspiration; and is thus used on the word “detestable," in the following passage :

Nothing I'll bear from thee

But nakedness, thou detestable town.” Any words of the same general import, such as despicable, dastardly, contemptible, scorn, &c., uttered with an affectation of the feeling which the use of them often implies, will for the sake of practice on this function bear the same modes of pronunciation. Dr. Rush says, “when this element is compounded with the highest powers of stress and aspiration, it produces the most impulsive blast of speech.”

5. The Falsette.- This term is used and is well understood in vocal music, as indicating the kind of voice employed by the singer when he wishes to rise above the compass of his natural voice. This admits of cultivation and may by a little practice be employed on many of the notes which the natural voice can reach. In speech however it is always a defect, either heard in the current melody of discourse, or in the breaking of the natural voice of the public speaker. It is not uncommon in the voices of women; and men of feeble voices, particularly if they have occasion to speak to large assemblies, are in danger of falling into it. It has its peculiar expression in the whine of peevishness, the high tremulous pitch of mirth, and in the scream of terror and of pain.

6. The Whisper.This may be called a kind of voice, but needs no illustration here. It is the symbol of secresy.

The voice generally used in common conversation, and which differs from any which we have described as employed to give effect to delivery, may be called the natural voice.

SECTION IX.

OF THE MELODIES OF THE VOICE.

In speaking of the slides of the voice, in the section on Pitch, the Slide of the Second was appropriated to simple narrative and to unimpassioned discourse. The object of this section is to develope the phenomena which occur, when the movements of the voice extend only to intervals of a single tone, as is the case always where neither feel

« AnteriorContinuar »