Page images
PDF
EPUB

from slovenliness and indistinctness to perfect precision and propriety, united to fluency and freedom of style.

To adults, also, the practice of such exercises as have been mentioned, proves, in the highest degree, useful, as an effectual means of correcting erroneous habit, and of acquiring that distinctness of utterance which is so important in the exercise of public speaking, or in that of private reading, for social and literary purposes.

An exercise of great practical value, as regards the formation of habit in enunciation, is, to select from every reading lesson, before and after the regular consecutive reading of a piece, all words and phrases which contain difficult combinations, and repeat them often.

PRONUNCIATION.

The rules of usage in pronunciation, do not properly fall within the scope of this work, which is designed rather for the cultivation of the voice, and the discipline of the organs, than as a manual of orthöepy. This branch of the subject will be found discussed, at considerable length, in the “ American Elocutionist, to which the present volume forms the introduction. It is discussed still more fully, for the instruction of young readers, in the “Introduction to the American Common-School Reader and Speaker,” and for the use of professional speakers, in the volume entitled “ Pulpit Elocution.'

For the present purpose it may suffice to suggest the benefit arising from the daily systematic study of a good standard dictionary of orthöepy; such as Walker's, which,

with due allowance for a very few points in which custom has slightly changed since that work was written, remains the most accurate report of authorized custom, in the vast majority of places where the English language is spoken. If Dr. Webster's dictionary be preferred, the 8vo edition of it, prepared by Mr. J. E. Worcester, will be found the most useful; as it contains, in the introduction, a full list of all words in which Dr. Webster's style is peculiar to himself, or merely to the local custom of New England, which, as regards the standard of the genuine pronunciation of the English language, is justly considered, elsewhere, as liable to the same objections with the local peculiarities of Scotland or of Ireland, current, as sanctioned by respectable authority, in their several regions, but, when referred to the standard of general English usage, to be condemned as faults.

* The works mentioned in the text, are prepared by William Russell, compiler of this manual.

CHAPTER IV.

“QUALITY" OF VOICE.

a

The learner, having acquired, by the exercises prescribed in the preceding chapters, a free and forcible use of the breathing apparatus, and of the organs of speech which are employed in articulation, has thus laid the requisite foundation for the course of vocal training in “ expression," or the various qualities of utterance, which are the appropriate language of emotion.

The word utterance, as a term in elocution, is used to designate the mere act of forming and emitting voice: it does not necessarily imply any of those functions of the organs by which articulate sound is produced ; thus we speak of a person uttering a cry, a groan, a sigh, a moan, sob, or a laugh. In a correspondent use of language, we read that “ the seven thunders uttered their voices.”

The function of utterance is necessarily attended, however, with a given degree of force in sound, — from that of whispering, or of any of the intermediate stages, to that of shouting and calling. It implies, also, a certain note of the scale, — high, low, or intermediate in pitch. The utterance of successive sounds is, farther, slow, rapid, or moderate, as regards the rate of movement. These properties, force, pitch, and rate, or movement, coexist in one strain of utterance, and are, to the ear, independent of the process of articulation or the function of speech. An example of mere utterance is furnished in the successive notes of a song hummed or sung without words, or sung at such a distance from us, that we cannot distinguish the words. The case is similar, when we overhear a person reading, or talking, in an adjoining room, but when we do not hear so

we

distinctly as to recognize the enunciation of letters or syllables. We perceive, in such instances, that the voice of the reader or speaker, is soft or loud, high or low, and that it moves fast or slow; but we cannot tell what is said: hear the utterance, but not the articulation, of vocal sound.

The formation of even a single sound of the human voice, is necessarily attended by yet another property, its predominating quality as “tone,” — in the popular sense of that word. When we overhear, as already supposed, a person reading or talking, but at such a distance from us, or with such objects intervening, that we cannot make out the articulate character of the sounds which are uttered, we may still be able to say, with confidence, that the voice of the reader or speaker has a cheerful or a mournful tone, a lively or a solemn sound. Farther, we say, perhaps, with equal certainty that the person has a hollow, a guttural, a nasal, a sharp, a thin, a rough, a round, a full, or a smooth voice.

The utterance of even a single exclamation of emotion, may, in this way, enable us to define the feeling of a reader or speaker, and, at the same time, to recognize the " quality," — as it is termed, - of his voice.

WHISPERING.

[ocr errors]

half way

The progressive discipline of the organs, for the purposes of utterance, comprises the practice of every stage of audible voice, from whispering to shouting and calling. We proceed, now, to the first stage of utterance, that of whispering, which is the nearest, in style and effect, to breathing, and forms the extreme of “ aspirated,” or breathing, “ quality.” The function of whispering lies, as it were,

between breathing and vocality," or the actual production of vocal sound, in the form termed by musicians “ pure tone.” Whispering differs from even the “explosive, strongest form of the breathing exercises, in being articulated as a mode of speech, and in taking on, to a certain extent, the qualities of “ expression; thus we not only use the whisper for secret communication, but for the utterance of excessive fear or of deep awe, suppressed anger, or any other naturally violent emotion, when it is kept down by some overawing restraint.

Whispering, therefore, as a discipline of the organs of

or

voice, carries on, to a greater extent, and with more special effect, all the beneficial results of the exercises in full, deep, and forcible breathing. The whisper, even in its gentlest or “effusive" form, should, as a vocal exercise, be practised on the scale of public speaking, that is to say, with a force sufficient to create full and distinct articulation, and intelligible utterance, in a large hall, or any similar apartment.

The function of whispering, on this scale, it will be easily perceived, demands the full expansion of the chest, a deep inspiration, a powerful expulsion of the breath, the practice of frequent pausing and renewing the supply of breath, without which a forcible whisper cannot be sustained.

This species of exercise combines the discipline of full and energetic respiration, with that of forcible utterance. It demands a large and a frequent supply of breath, and trains the student to close attention to his habit of breathing, and to the position of the body and the action of the organs. It thus facilitates the acquisition of a perfect self-control, the prime requisite to easy and effective utterance.

A subsidiary advantage attending this process of powerful whispering, consists in the greatly increased intensity which it produces in the organic function of articulation. The whisper being performed as if addressed to a person at the distance of a hundred feet from the speaker, compels a force of percussion in the tongue and the other minor organs of speech, sufficient to compensate for the absence of the common round tone of the voice. The style of enunciation, accordingly, becomes that of the most intense earnestness. The exercise now prescribed, therefore, is of immense advantage, as a preparatory discipline to the organs of speech, as well as a process of training for full-toned and energetic use of the voice.

Whispering, - like breathing, and like resonant vocal utterance, has the three forms described under the head of Exercises in Breathing, -"effusive," or tranquil; "expulsive,” or forcible; and “ explosive," or abrupt and violent.

1. Effusive" Whispering. This mode of utterance belongs to tranquil emotion, when expressed in the language of deep-felt awe or profound

repose, which represses, by an approach to fear, at the same time that it excites the voice by its intensity.

The exercise in “effusive" whispering, should be practised with strict attention to full, deliberate breathing, and the exact articulation of every element, — 1st, on all the

tonic elements of the language; 2d, on the “subtonics ;” 3d, on the “ atonics ; 4th, on syllables ; 5th, on words, as arranged in the columns of Exercises in Articulation ; 6th, on the following stanza, + which should be often repeated.

Exercise. “ All heaven and earth are still, - though not in sleep,

But breathless, as we grow when feeling most ; And silent, as we stand in thoughts too deep :

All heaven and earth are still : From the high host

Of stars to the lulled lake, and mountain coast,
All is concentred in a life intense,

Where not a beam, nor air, nor leaf is lost,
But hath a part of being, and a sense
Of that which is of all Creator and Defence."

[ocr errors]

2.

Expulsive Whispering. This species of exercise, being much more forcible than the preceding, and corresponding, in energy, to the style of bold declamatory utterance, when given forth with the full round tone of the voice, has yet a inore powerful influence on the action and habits of the vocal organs.

It should be repeatedly performed, with the utmost force of the whisper, which the student can command, on the elements, syllables and words, and on the following example, the tone of which implies the intensest force of earnest utterance, suppressed by apprehension approaching to fear.

Exercise. “ Soldiers ! You are now within a few steps of the

* See Chapter on Enunciation.

+ It is not meant that the above stanza is necessarily and uniformly to be whispered, in reading or reciting the passage from which it is taken. The extract is here used as a convenient exercise, merely.

« PreviousContinue »