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pitch would be exemplified in passing from the utterance of a thought which is merely serious, and so termed in contradistinction, rather to one of an animated and sprightly character, to that of one still deeper in its shade of feeling, and which would be appropriately termed grave. At the stage of voice expressive of the latter, we should perceive an obvious though not very strikingly marked deepening of tone, or descent on the scale.
It is to this degree of depression of voice, properly, that the word “ low" in its connection with pitch, is applied, in elocution, as a technical designation; there being still lower notes of the scale implied in the expression of those emotions which are still deeper in character and deeper in utterance.
The full and impressive effect of a sentiment, particularly in circumstances of a grave character, as on the occasion of an address on topics of politics, morals, or religion, must often be dependent on appropriate gravity of tone. A uniformly grave tone, even in public reading or speaking, becomes, it is true, dull and uninteresting. But the absence of a due degree and application of it, divests public speaking of dignity and authoritative effect, and deprives deep sentiment of its impressive power over the mind. The “grave” style carried too low, becomes “ solemn," a fault in consequence of which the lawyer and the popular orator sometimes seem to usurp the tone of the pulpit, and the preacher to lose the vocal and the moral power which comes from touching distinctly all the chords of sacred eloquence, and not dwelling exclusively upon one. There is more than a mere music to the ear, in the skill with which a practised elocutionist leads his own voice and the sympathies of his audience, as they glide gradually but perceptibly down the successive stages of emotion, from serious attention, to grave listening, and solemn impression.
The attainment of a perfect control over pitch,” renders the practice of all its gradations highly important. The following examples require attentive practice in conjunction with the repetition of the elements and of words selected from the exercises in enunciation.
(“' Pure tone”: “Moderate " force : Unimpassioned radical”
and moderate “median stress.”)
“Now comes the autumn of life, the season of the sere and yellow leaf.' The suppleness and mobility of the limbs diminish ; the senses are less acute; and the impressions of external objects are less remarked. The fibres of the body grow more rigid; the emotions of the mind are more calm and uniform; the eye loses its lustrous keeness of expression. The mind no longer roams abroad with its original excursiveness: the power of imagination is, in great degree, lost. Experience has robbed external objects of their illusiveness: the thoughts come home : it is the age of reflection. It is the period in which we receive the just tribute of veneration and confidence from our fellow-men, if we have so lived as to deserve it, and are entitled to the respect and confidence of the younger part of mankind, in exact proportion to the manner in which our own youth has been spent, and our maturity improved.”
Grave, Authoritative Manner. ("Expulsive orotund : " “Declamatory” force : Firm “median
My life is grafted on the fate of Rome.
This designation applies to the notes of those emotions which are of the deepest character, and which are accordingly associated with the deepest utterance. chiefly, the following: deep solemnity, awe, amazement, horror, despair, melancholy, and deep grief.
The exceedingly“ low pitch” of these and similar states of feeling, is one of those universal facts which necessarily become laws of vocal expression, and, consequently indispensable rules of elocution. Any passage strongly marked by the language of one of these emotions, becomes utterly inexpressive without its appropriate deep notes. Yet this fault is one of the most prevalent in reading, especially with youth. That absence of deep and powerful emotion of an expressive character and active tendency, which usually characterizes the habits of the student's life, often leaves a great deficiency in this element of vocal effect, even in individuals who habitually drop into the fault of a slackness of organic action which causes too low a pitch in serious or in grave style. The “very low" pitch is not a mere accidental or mechanical result: it requires the aid of the will, and a special exertion of organ, to produce it.
This lowest form of pitch is one of the most impressive means of powerful natural effect, in the utterance of all deep and impressive emotions. The pervading and absorbing effect of awe, amazement, horror, or any similar feeling, can never be produced without low pitch and deep successive notes; and the depth and reality of such emotions are always in proportion to the depth of voice with which they are uttered. The grandest descriptions in the Paradise Lost, and the profoundest meditations in the Night Thoughts, become trivial in their effect on the ear, when read with the ineffectual expression inseparable from the pitch of ordinary conversation or discourse.
The vocal deficiency which limits the range of expression to the middle and higher notes of the scale, is not, by any means, the unavoidable and necessary fault of organization, as it is so generally supposed to be. Habit is in this, as in so many other things, the cause of defect. There is truth, no doubt, in the remark so often made in defence of a high and feeble voice, that it is natural to the individual, or that it is difficult for some readers to attain to depth of voice without incurring a false and forced style of utterance. But, in most cases, it is habit, not organization, that has made certain notes natural or unnatural, — in other words, familiar to the ear, or the reverse. The neglect of the lower notes of the scale, and, consequently, of the organic action by which they are produced, may render a deeptoned utterance less easy than it would otherwise be. But most teachers of elocution are, from day to day, witnesses to the fact, that students, from the neglect of muscular action, and from all the other enfeebling causes involved in sedentary habits and intellectual application, sometimes commence a course of practice, with a high-pitched, thin, and feminine voice, which seems at first incapable of expressing a grave or manly sentiment, and, in some instances, appears to forbid the individual from ever attempting the utterance of a solemn thought, lest his treble tone should make the effect ridiculous; but that a few weeks' practice of vocal exercise on bass notes and deep emotions, as imbodied in rightly selected exercises, often enables such readers to acquire a round and deep-toned utterance, adequate to the fullest effects of impressive eloquence.
The exercise of singing bass, if cultivated as an habitual practice, has a great effect in imparting command of deeptoned expression, in reading and speaking. Reading and reciting passages from Milton and from Young, and particularly from the Book of Psalms, or from hymns of a deeply solemn character, are exercises of great value for securing the command of the lower notes of the voice.
The practice of the following examples should be accompanied by copious exercises on the elements, and on words selected for the purpose. These exercises should be repeated till the student can, at any moment, strike the appropriate note of awe or solemnity with as much certainty as the vocalist can execute any note of the scale.
Deep Solemnity, Sublimity, and Awe.
Cato, [in soliloquy.] (“ Effusive and Expulsive orotund”: 6. Subdued and Sup
pressed” force : “ Median stress.")
Else, whence this pleasing hope, this fond desire,
Awe, Dismay, and Despair. (" Aspirated pectoral Quality”: “Suppressed” force : “Me
" At dead of night, In sullen silence stalks forth PESTILENCE : CONTAGION, close behind, taints all her steps With poisonous dew: no smiting hand is seen; No sound is heard; but soon her secret path Is marked with desolation : heaps on heaps Promiscuous drop. No friend, no refuge, near : All, all is false and treacherous around, All that they touch, or taste, or breathe, is DEATH !"
Amazement and Horror. (“ Aspirated pectoral Quality”: “Impassioned ” force : “ Thor
ough stress.”) “What means that ruinous roar ? — why fail These tottering feet? Earth to its centre feels The Godhead's power, and, trembling at His touch, Through all its pillars, and in every pore, Hurls to the ground, with one convulsive heave,