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QUALITY OF VOICE.
THE peculiar character of the voice, or quality of sound (called by the French timbre), is different in different indi. viduals, as the tone of any two instruments of the same kind differs. To whatever circumstances this property is to be ascribed, it is beyond our power to alter it materially; and in this volume we confine our attention to those things which we can teach; and devote our time to the removal of all obstacles within our reach, which obstruct the agreeable and correct use of the voice. So we have but little to say on the subject of timbre.
Many persons are in the habit of speaking with the MOUTH NEARLY CLOSED, so that the words are not articulated, and the sound is badly emitted.
The defect of this class of speakers has been spoken of as the swallowing of words. Those who have this fault to overcome, this practice of mumbling, should be required to follow the loud exploding practice daily, until they can easily insert three of their fingers, one upon another, between their upper and lower teeth.
This may at first appear a difficult undertaking; but patient perseverance in the use of the jaws, producing loud explosive vowel sounds, will be found greatly to facilitate the desired end; and will furnish the best possible remedy for this very disagreeable fault. The practice enjoined may be made upon the Table of Elements, and continued advantageously through all the subsequent exercises for Articulation.
Some speakers keep the MOUTH OPEN while they speak; that is, the orifice of the mouth is too soon enlarged, and suffers the sound to escape before the syllables are formed. This gives rise to an effeminate and loose kind of speech, very objectionable and wholly devoid of dignity.
The correction of this defect lies in the most rigid practice of forming the syllables further back in the mouth, and in keeping the lips nearly closed until the moment of uttering a syllable. In this way the muscles of the mouth will be trained to a more careful and correct articulation. And although the effect of this practice will be a constrained and somewhat artificial manner for awhile, yet it is essential in such cases as are here alluded to, and constitutes the only remedy that will prove adequate to the cure of this defect.
NASALITY is a very common fault in speech, and affecis unfavorably the quality of voice. It affects the manner, to a greater or less extent, of a far greater proportion of speakers than is commonly supposed. Perfect exemption from this pernicious fault is only to be attained by preserving a proper attitude, and keeping the head passages open and free; and by watching with jealous care the character of every sound, particularly where the elements m' and 'n' are concerned.*
There is also a huskiness of voice, or ASPIRATION, which is unpleasant to the ear. The only remedy for this roughness is constant and careful practice in exploding. The explosive quality or intensity of the vowel sounds is in its nature diametrically opposite to the aspiration in question; and this property (the former) should be made to preponderate over the latter. The aspiration may be greatly diminished by watchful care in the utterance of each syllable.
†HEAD TONES. It is to be hoped that no student will reach this chapter in ignorance on this subject. For the object of the earliest lessons in exploding was to train the voice to the clear and full expression of † Chest tones ; and all tendency to the use of head tones (called by musicians falsetto), and, indeed, to other faults in uttering sound, should have been wholly overcome before the practice of exploding exercises was discontinued or remitted. Nevertheless it has been thought proper to specify in this chapter, under the head of Quality of Voice, precisely those faults, and to characterize and describe them thoroughly, which are susceptible of emendation or removal by legitimate and practical means.
* The habit of speaking in spectacles has been considered objectionable on account of the compression occasioned at the point of contact; a degree of nasality will be likely to ensue.
+ These terms, head and chest tones, are not founded in science, nor strictly correct; but are usually employed to indicate well-known characters of voice.
GRACES OF DELIVERY.
TRE RHETORICAL PAUSE-EVENNESS OF TONE--NATURE OF HEAVY OR AC
CENTED SYLLABLES-QUANTITY-SHORT ACCENTED SYLLABLES-FORCE OF PERCUSSION_LIST OF WORDS ADAPTED TO THE DISPLAY OF QUANTITYTHE VANISH-ABRUPTNESS-TRANSITION.
Among the various arts by which the most effective utterance of language is acquired is the use of the RHETORICAL PAUSE.* This is the suspension of the voice before or after
* The renowned Garrick was eminently skillful in the use of these pauses. His unrivalled power over the minds of his audience is proverbial; and there is no doubt that among the arts by wbich he acquired it may be reckoned his judicious use of the rhetorical pause. A striking record of it may be found in the severe though expressive language of Sterne :-
“And how did Garrick speak the soliloquy last night?”
“Oh, against all rule, my lord. Most ungrammatically! Betwixt the substantive and the adjective, which should agree together in number, case, and gender, he made a breath thus- stopping as if the important matter, in order to give it prominence, to call attention to it, to allow time to reflect upon it, or to leave it more strongly impressed on the mind. Much of the effect in reading depends upon the pauses which are introduced, and an essential art to be acquired is the judicious use of them. To excel in this requires the exercise of a cultivated taste and ear, as much as the management of inflections, the observance of measure, the transition of voice, the acceleration or retarding of rate, the display of contrast, or any other resources of graceful delivery, require it; and the places and length of these pauses can only be determined by the exercise of such taste and judgment.
Another of these graces of a finished style, is a property called by Professor Barber EVENNESS OF TONE.
It is easier to understand what is meant by this expression, than to point out in few words wherein it particularly consists. But if we can give clear and intelligible directions for the avoidance of those faults and abuses which mar the agreeable utterance of language, we shall have taken a step towards the
point wanted settling; and betwixt the nominative case, which your lordship knows should govern the verb, he suspended his voice in the epilogue, a dozen times, three seconds and three-fifths by a stop watch, my lord, each time.”
"Admirable grammarian! But in suspending his voice was the sense suspended likewise? Did no expression of attitude or countenance fill up the chasm? Was the eye silent? Did you narrowly look ?"
“I looked only at the stop watch, my lord.” • Excellent observer !"