Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ALL!

(Repeat six times in suc(Radical Stress.") All, cession, with constantly

increasing force.) ("Vanishing Stress.") (Median Stress.”) (“Compound Stress.") (Thorough Stress.") ("Tremor.")

To commence with a definite idea of the mode of stress in each instance, set out from the standard of a given emotion decidedly marked, and let the degree of emotion and the force of utterance be increased at every stage. Thus, let represent the “ radical stress on the sound of a, in the word all, in the following example of authoritative command: Attend

the "vanishing stress'' on the same element, in the following example of impatience and displeasure : "I said ALL, not one or two.”

the “ median stress on the same element, in reverence and adoration : “Join all ye creatures in His praise!"

the compound stress," in astonishment and surprise: What ALL? did they all fail ? ”

the “thorough stress," in defiance :

come ALL!the “ tremor of sorrow : “Oh! I have lost you ALL !” — The practice of the examples and the elements should extend to the utmost excitement of emotion and force of voice. Ocular references may seem, at first sight, to have little value in a subject which relates to the ear. But notes and characters, as used in music, serve to show how exactly the ear may be taught through the eye ; and even if we admit the comparatively indefinite nature of all such relations, when transferred to the forms of speech and of reading, the suggestive power of visible forms has a great influence on the faculty of association, and aids clearness and precision of thought, and a corresponding definiteness and exactness in sound.

[ocr errors]

66 Come one

CHAPTER VII.

“MELODY."

The word “ melody” may be applied to speech, in the same general sense as in the technical language of music, to designate the effect produced on the ear, by the successive notes of the voice, in a passage of music or of dis

course.

reverse.

well as

The use of this term presupposes, both in music and in speech, a certain "pitch," or initial note, whether predominating in a passage, or merely commencing it, and to which the subsequent sounds stand in the relation of higher or lower or identical.

The term “ melody," used as above, does not ncessarily imply a melodious or pleasing succession of sounds, or the

It has regard merely to the fact just mentioned, that the successive sounds to which this term is applied, are comparatively higher or lower on the musical scale, or in strict unison with the first sound of a series. In this technical sense, the word "melody” applies to speech as

music. Regarded in connection with the sense of beauty or of pleasure, however, we perceive at once a marked difference between the “ melody" of music and that of speech. The former has, comparatively, the effect of poetry : beauty is its chief element; and it yields to the ear an exquisite sense of pleasure. The latter may, as in the recitation or the reading of verse, possess a degree of this charm, though comparatively an imperfect one. But it may, on the contrary, possess no such beauty: it may exhibit a succession of the most harsh and grating sounds, intended to jar and pain the ear, by the violence of discordant and disturbing passion; or it may, at least, be but a tame and insipid succession of articulation, in the utterance of a fact addressed exclusively to the understanding, as in the common relations of magnitude, shape, or number. The melody of speech, in such cases, intentionally divests itself of whatever quality in tone is adapted, whether to pleasure or to pain, and adheres to the customary intonation of dry fact and plain prose.

In the latter case, however, not less than in the former, the relations of sounds to each other, as measured by the musical scale, can be distinctly traced ; and, on this account, the “ melody of speech,” or of “reading,” is a phrase as truly significant as that of the “ melody of a strain of music."

« РІтсн." The word “melody," used in its technical sense, occupies, then, the same ground in elocution as in music, and refers us, in the first instance, to an initial or commencing sound to which others in a series may be compared as high or low or neither. To this sound the term “pitch” is applied, as designating the particular point of the scale, as high or low, on which the voice is thrown out. Thus, we speak of the deep tones or low notes of an organ, as contrasted with the shrill sound of a fife, of the grave tone of the voice of a man, or of the comparatively high pitch of that of a woman; or of the low voice of devotion, as contrasted with the high, shrill scream of excessive fear, or the piercing shriek of terror.

The correct practice of elocution, as in appropriate speaking, recitation, or reading, implies the power of easily and instantly shifting the “pitch” of the voice, according to the natural note of emotion required for every shade of expression depicted in the composition which is spoken, recited, or read. Nature, or, - more properly speaking, the Author of the human constitution, has so contrived the organization of the corporeal frame, in conjunction with the sensibility of the soul, that certain notes of the voice are necessarily associated with certain emotions. Thus a repetition of low and subdued tones, overheard from an adjoining apartment, suggests to us the thought that its occupant is employed in the exercise of devotion; because solemn and reverential feeling is uniformly associated in voice with low notes of the scale. A succession of high and vivid tones, overheard, might suggest the idea of a lively conversation, or an earnest debate, or a fierce dispate, as the case might be; for the emotions implied in such communication, are all associated with high notes of the scale.

The study of “pitch," as an element of “ melody," leads us accordingly to a classification of emotions as characterized by comparatively “ high" or "low" notes. The science of music possesses, in the department of“ pitch,” a great advantage over that of elocution; as it refers, in all cases, to a perfectly exact measure of sound, as ascertained by reference to the invariable standard of certain notes, at given points of the scale, executed by musical instruments not liable to variation. The musician can thus apply, as his rule, a definite scale of vast extent, and of perfect precision in admeasurement. The elocutionist, on the contrary, derives his scale from feeling rather than from science or external rule. The natural pitch of human voices, varies immensely, not only with sex and age, but in the accustomed notes of one individual, as differing from those of another.

The musician, when speaking of a low strain of melody, can conveniently refer to a precise note of the scale, by the exact letter which designates it. The elocutionist, when referring to the low tone of awe, has no more definite measure in view than a note which lies low, in comparison even with the customary low notes of the voice of the reader or speaker.

Due attention may, no doubt, enable the elocutionist to ascertain, in a given case, the precise note of the scale required, according to the organic formation and the vocal habit of an individual. But such a note might prove too low for the compass of voice, in another person, or quite too high to be appropriate or impressive, in another still, whose voice is naturally low-pitched.

The language of elocution is accordingly limited to the familiar designations of " low," and "very low," "high,"

very high,” when the scale is traced to any great extent beyond the "middle" or average pitch of utterance. This indefinite reference, however, is usually sufficient for the purposes of reading and speaking, which regard a general sympathetic effect, or feeling, rather than any which requires the precise measure of science.

and

[blocks in formation]

The “middle pitch ” of the voice is that of our habitual utterance, on all occasions of ordinary communication in conversation or address. It implies a medium or average state of feeling, or a condition of mind free from

every strong or marked emotion. It is the natural note of unimpassioned utterance, seeking to find its way to the understanding rather than to the heart, and hence avoiding high or low pitch, as belonging to the language of feeling or of fancy. Common conversation, a literary or a scientific essay, a doctrinal sermon, or a plain practical discourse on any subject limited to purposes of mere utility, and demanding the action of judgment and reason, principally, may be mentioned as examples of“ middle pitch."

This form of "pitch” being that which is habitual, in comparison with others, becomes, in popular usage, the criterion of what is termed “ natural” reading or speaking. It is, indeed, justly adopted as the standard of ordinary communication. The habit of observing this pitch on all common occasions of speech and of reading, becomes an important means of natural and true effect in elocution. Falling below this average of utterance, we drop necessarily into tones associated with grave and solemn effect; and, rising above it, we approach the style of light, gay, or humorous expression. Either of these extremes becomes not merely an error of taste in elocution, but of judgment and ear: it sets the voice at variance with the nature of the subject of communication, and defeats its proper effect.

Both of the extremes which have been mentioned, however, are current faults of usage. Some juvenile readers, in consequence of the effort which they usually make in their exercises, cause a slight overstrain of voice, which becomes apparent in the pitch rising above its appropriate level : others, from embarrassment, let the voice sink, as it were into the chest, with a partially hollow sound, and a note too grave. Students and sedentary persons, from their exhausting mode of life, incline habitually to the latter fault; and when excited by unusual interest in public communication, perhaps unconsciously assume the opposite extreme, of a pitch too high for the free use of the voice. The proper standard of middle pitch, for the purpose

« PreviousContinue »