« PreviousContinue »
* the arms
and dramatic recitation, so as to attain a perfect control over the whole corporeal frame, for the purposes of visible expression.
Some preliminary exercises, such as the preceding, having been performed, and a sufficient period for rest and tranquil breathing having elapsed, the next stage of preparatory action may be as in the following directions :
1. Attitude of the Body, and Position of the Organs.
Place yourself in a perfectly erect, but easy posture; the weight of the body resting on one foot; the feet at a moderate distance, the one in advance of the other ; akimbo: the fingers pressing on the abdominal muscles, in front, and the thumbs on the dorsal muscles, on each side of the spine ; the chest freely expanded and fully projected; the shoulders held backward and downward ; the head perfectly vertical.
2. Erercises in Deep Breathing. Having thus complied with the preliminary conditions of a free and unembarrassed action of the organs, draw in and give out the breath very fully, and very slowly, about a dozen times in succession. Let the breathing be deep and tranquil, but such as to cause the chest to rise fully, and fall freely, at every effort.
3. Exercise in “ Effusive," or tranquil Breathing. Draw in a very full breath, and send it forth in a prolonged sound of the letter h. In the act of inspiration, take in as much breath as you can contain. In that of expiration, retain all you can, and give out as little as possible, merely sufficient to keep the sound of h audible. But keep it going on, as long as you can sustain it. In this style of respiration, the breath merely effuses itself into the surround
* The object in view, in this apparently minute direction, is, to secure perfect freedom and repose of body. A constrained or a lounging posture, is utterly at variance with a free, unembarrassed use of the voice, or the production of a clear and full sound.
The strength of the individual must be left to regulate the frequency with which this exercise should be performed, in succession; half a dozen times will suffice at first.
4. Exercise in “ Erpulsive" or forcible Breathing.
Draw in a very full breath, as before, and emit it, with a lively expulsive force, in the sound of h, but little prolonged, - in the style of a moderate whispered cough. The breath, in this style of expiration, is projected into the air. Repeat this exercise, as directed, in the statement preceding.
5. Exercise in “ Explosive" or abrupt Breathing. Draw in the breath, as already directed, and emit it with a sudden and violent explosion, in a very brief sound of the
h, - in the style of an abrupt and forcible, but whispered cough. The breath is, in this mode of expiration, thrown out with abrupt violence. Repeat this exercise, as before directed.
6. Sighing . Sighing, as a natural effort, designed to relieve the lungs and accelerate the circulation, when depressing emotions or organic impediments cause a feeling as if the breath were pent up, consists in a sudden and large inspiration and a full, strong, effusive expiration. In vocal training, it becomes a most efficacious means of free, unembarrassed respiration, and, consequently of organic energy and of full voice. It should be repeated as the other exercises, and practised both through the nostrils and the mouth; the former being its gentler, - the latter, its more forcible form. It should be practised, also, in the tremulous style of inspiration, in which the sigh resembles a series of prolonged and subdued sobs.
7. Sobbing. Sobbing, as an instinctive act, consists in a slightly convulsive, subdued and whispering gasp, by which an instantaneous supply of breath is obtained, when the stricture caused by the suffocating effect of grief, would otherwise obstruct or suspend too long the function of inspiration. The practice of the sob facilitates the habit of easy and rapid inspiration, and the expression of pathetic emotion.
8. Gasping. Gasping is an organic act corresponding somewhat to sobbing, but much more violent, as belonging to the expression of fierce emotions. Its effects as an exercise, in disciplining the organs, are very powerful, and its use in vehement expression in dramatic passages, highly effective, and, indeed, indispensable to natural effect.
9. Panting. Panting, as a natural act, in a highly excited state of the circulation, whether caused by extreme muscular exertion, or by intense emotion, consists in sudden and violent inspiration and expiration, the latter process predominating in force and sound. It is the only form of respiration practicable in high organic excitement. The practice of panting as an exercise, imparts energy to the function of respiration, and vigor to the organs. Its effect is inseparable from the expression of ardor, and intense earnestness in emotion.
The subjects thus far discussed in this manual, have been the mechanism of the vocal organs, and the preliminary exercises requisite for their training, as regards the function of respiration, which is antecedent to the exercise of voice, and determines the character of vocal sound. Our attention is now to be directed to the organic function of articulation, and to its audible result, which we term enunciation. It will be a matter of convenience, at the same time, to take into view the subject of pronunciation, or, in other words, enunciation as modified by the rules of sound and accent which are drawn from the usage of a particular language. To pronounce a word properly, implies that we enunciate correctly all its syllables, and articulate distinctly the sounds of its letters.
We commence with the study of articulation, as a function of the smaller organs of voice, including the larynx and the circumjacent parts, the mouth and its various portions and appurtenances. Our preceding observations applied to the use of the larger organs, - the cavity and muscles of the chest, &c., and to the production of vocal sound. we are now occupied with the function of speech.
Propriety of pronunciation is justly regarded as an inseparable result of cultivation and taste. We recognize an educated person by his mode of pronouncing words; and we detect slovenliness in mental habit, or the absence of culture, with no less certainty, in the same way. Whatever thus holds true of pronunciation, - a thing subject to the law of prevailing good custom, merely, and liable, therefore, to various interpretations in detail,
is still more emphatically applicable to distinct enunciation, the unfailing characteristic of correct intellectual habits, and the only means of exact and intelligible communication by speech.
But a distinct enunciation is wholly dependent on the action of the organs, - on their positions and their movements, on the force and precision of their execution. The breath having been converted into sound by the use of the component portions of the larynx, passes on to be modified or articulated into definite forms by the various portions of the mouth, and by the action of the tongue.
A person of perfect organization and in perfect health, in an undisturbed condition of feeling, and, consequently, with a clear state of thought,- utters his ideas distinctly and impressively, without special study. But defective organization, neglected habit, false tendencies of feeling, and confused conceptions, are so prevalent, that very few individuals in a community, can be selected as naturally perfect in the function of articulation. With most persons, and especially in youth, the negligence of unguarded habit impairs the distinctness and clearness of oral expression. The comparatively inactive life of the student, subjects him, usually, to imperfection in this, as in most other active uses of the organic frame; and every individual, whatever be his advantages, as such, — needs a thorough organic training, before he can pass successfully to the comparatively forcible and exact mode of using the organs,
which distinguishes public reading and speaking from private communication. The latter occupies but little space, and needs but a slight effort of attention or of will, to effect it: the former implies large space, and correspondent volun
tary exertion of the organs, with the due precision which stamps, at once, every sound distinctly on the ear, and renders unnecessary any repetition of an imperfectly understood word or phrase, - a thing allowable in conversation, but impracticable in public speaking.
The functions of the organs in articulation, must obviously be determined by the character of the sound which, in any case, is to be executed. We shall find advantage, therefore, in first considering the character of the component elementary sounds of our language, as a guide to the mode of exerting the organs in producing them.
Dr. Rush, in his Philosophy of the Voice, has adopted an arrangement of the elementary sounds of our language, which differs from that of grammarians, and is founded on a more strict regard to the vocal properties of each element,
a classification which is more convenient for the purposes of elocution, as well as more exact in relation to the facts of speech. Dr. Rush's arrangement we shall follow in this branch of our subject; as it is best adapted to the purposes of instruction.
On a very few points of detail, however, we shall take the liberty to vary from Dr. Rush's system, where precision and accuracy of instruction seem to require such variation.
Dr. Rush's mode of classifying the elementary sounds of our language, presents, first, those which he has denominated “ Tonic" elements, as possessing the largest capacity for prolongation of sound, and other modifications of tone. The following are the
I. Simple Sounds. 1. A,
as in A-ll. 2. A,
as in A-rm.
as in A-n. 4. E, as in E-ve. 5. 00, as in Oo-ze.
00*, as in L-oo-k. 6. E,
II. Compound Sounds. 9. A, as in A-le. 10. I,
as in I-ce. 11. 0, as in O-ld. 12. Ou, as in Ou-r.
as in E-rr.
* A shorter quantity, but the same in quality, with 00 in Ooze.