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Τ Η Ε
J U L Y,
ART. I. An Ejay towards establishing the Melody and Measure of Speech
to be expressed and perpetuated by peculiar Symbols. 410. 10 s. 6 d.
CERO, Quintilian, and other ancient writers might be
cited, as bach been very lately observed by Dr. Burney, in his History of Music*, to prove that • not only musicians and ađors, but even orators, had a notation, by which the inflexions of voice peculiar to their several profesiions of singing, declaiming, and haranguing in public, were ascertained.' Mr. Duclos t, be afterwards adds, denies the posibility of such a notation; as the intervals are too minute to be ascertained ; or, even granting the practicability of such a scheme, this French writer thinks that “ it would serve no other purpose than to render actors cold and infipid; for by a servile imitation they would destroy the natural expression which the sentiments inspire; and such notes would give neither the refinement, delicacy, grace, nor paflion, which constitute the merit of an actor, and the pleasure of an audience."
After having made some pertinent reflections relating to this fubject, Dr. Burney remarks, in opposition to this last observation of Mr. Duclos, tható a well written, and well-set scene of recitative, from the mouth of a great finger, and good ador, oversets all his reasoning; for though confined to musical notes, it has frequently great power over the passions of that part of an audience who understand the language.' He afterwards observes that " he cannot help giving a place to the invention of characters for theatrical declamation, among musical desiderata ; --and that 'the notation of the tones, in which a favourite and
* See General History of Music, page 179, &c.
† Ency:lopedie. Art. Declamar, des Anciens, VOL. LV.
affecting speech was spoken by a Garrick, or a Cibber, would not only be an excellent lesson to inferior actors ; but would be a means of conveying it to pofterity; who-will so frequently meet with their names and elogiums, in the history of the stage, and be curious to know in what nuanner 'they acquired such universal admiration.'
The speculations of the excellent judge above quoted, on this curious subject, appear to be realised, or at least a laudable attempo is here made for that purpose, by Mr. Steele, the Author of the present performance ; in which he has endea. voured to arrest the fleeting sounds in human speech, and to ascertain them, as far as is practicable, by certain marks or symbols denoting their gravity or acuteness, measure, and other modifications : so that, for instance, a passage excellently spoken by an orator or actor, accompanied with the Author's marks or notation, may be repeated, or transmitted to pofterity on paper, as nearly as posible, with the same accent (using this term exclusively to express melody of grave and acute, or diversity of tone) quantity, emphasis, pause, and force, as were used by the original speaker, whose tones and elocution are thus attempted to be conveyed by writing. In short, it is the Author's intention, in this performance, to sew how, by means of certain characters, : all the varieties of enunciation may be committed to paper, and read off as easily as the air of a song tune.'
The principal difficulty attending the practice of this art appears to us to arise from the great difference with respect to the partie cular article of melody; considered as employed in singing, and recitative; or as used in common Speech. In the two former, every tone or sound is precisely ascertained, with respect to its gravity or acuteness, and is separated from the preceding and subsequent tone, by a void, diftinct, and affignable interval; or, the melody skips, by abrupt bounds or leaps, never smaller than the interval of a quarter tone. Hence, the facility of a notation for musi al melody is apparent : whereas, in speech, the voice flides, or flows, from grave to acute, and from acute to grave, without any intervals, or distinct separation of the tones; and without continuing a fingle instant on the level, or dwelling any perceptible time on any one tone, except perhaps the last. The melody of discourse, and its various infections or turns, may, as the Author remarks, be pretty well imitated by drawing the bow over a string of a violoncello ; and Niding the finger alternately up and down the finger-board.
After having exemplified his rules, by setting several passages in different Authors, according to his new notation, the Author adds, that when this system was explained to Mr. Gar
rick, among many judicious remarks and queries, he asked this question :
• Suppofing a speech was noted, according to these rules, in the manner he spoke it, whether any other person, by the help of these notes, could pronounce his words in the same tone and manner exactly as he did ?
To which he was answered thus : • Suppose a first-rate musician had written down a piece of mufic, which he had played exquisirely well on an exceeding fine toned vielin; another performer with an ordinary fiddle might undoubt. edly play every note the same as the great master, though perhaps with less ease and elegance of expression; but, notwithstanding his correctness in the tune and manner, nothing could prevent the audience from perceiving that the natural tone of his instrument was execrable : so, though these rules may en. able a master to teach a just application of accent, emphasis, and all the other proper expressions of the voice in speaking, which will go a great way in the improvement of elocution, yet they cannot give a sweet voice where nature has denied it.'
We do not think that the Author has, in the preceding paragraph, given a perfectly satisfactory answer to Mr. Garrick's question; with respect at least to the objection which we have made above, and which we suppose to have been implied in it*. For though his answer is juft, lo far as it goes it does not reach what we conceive to be the principal difficulty attending the atte rpt to put his scheme in execution. Mr. Steele has indeed contrived a good set of symbols, accompanied with ingenious remarks on their use, in which the rhythmus, the rests or pauses, the forte and piano, &c. are sufficiently marked : but how, we would ask, is the just intonation to be known, and written down, from the mouth of a speaker, or to be executed on the view of his notes ?-Or what ear can be so quick, nice, and discerning, as to keep pace with, discriminate, and ascertain the rapid and evanescent musical sides of the human voice, up and down the scale, in common speech, or even in theatrical declamation; so as to enable a person to mark the limits of each fyllable, with regard to gravity and acuteness, and to express them on paper ? The Author indeed allows a latitude in
By tone we should imagine Mr. Garrick to have meant-at leaft, such would be our meaning in ftating the same question - the eleva. tions, or depreffions, of the voice, as regulated, and limited, within certain determinate bounds, with respect to acutene's or gravity, by the Author's notes, or fymbols :-whereas Mr. Steele, in his answer, considers the phrase as denoting nothing more than the sweetness of dcre, or other excellence of the vocal organ, or pipe of the speaker ; in the same sense in which the French use the term Tymbre d'un violon, ou d'un voix.
this matter ; but this allowance, in our apprehension, though it lessens, does not by any means remove the difficulty; as we have found when we have attempted, viva voce, to reduce this part of his scheme to practice-even with a violoncello under our hands, as a guide and prompter.
Let us, for instance, by way of praxis in this particular branch of this new art, take only the fingle monosyllable, and interjection, Oh! -- which the Author has set to music as an example to illustrate his method of delineating notes or characters to represent the melody of the sides made by the voice in common speech.- The performer, that is, the speaker, begins, according to the Author's diagram, at B nacural, and is directed to Nide up to Ex, that is, to E diesis, or E + tone : having arrived there, he is instantly to slide down to C*; the whole flight, up and down, being equal to eighteen enharmonic intervals, or quarter tones.Now those who can execute this single Ob! accurately,—or even within an intire tone or more ;-or who can judge when another has done so ;-or can even tell at what quarter tone, balf tone, or tone, the speaker who should execute it, began and ended, so as to be able to found the initial and final element of the rapid modulation, in unison, on a violoncello,-must have more attentive ears, a quicker apprehension, and much more flexibility of throat, and command of his vocal organ, than we are pofleired of; though we do not rank ourselves among the Aux001.
By offering the preceding objections or doubts with respect to a part of the Author's scheme, we do not mean to depreciate his attempt to reduce to rule the art of speaking, by means of appropriate symbols. He has clearly shewn that there is a musical melody in common speech, and that it is formed by Nides, or Auxions : though we dispute the practicability of ascertaining or even estimating the pitch, or extent, of these slides in practice. The characters which he has invented to express the quantity, or time to be allowed to each note or fyllable, the relts or pauses, the forle and piano, and the other modifications of speech, and his rules relative to the use of them, seem well adapted to the purpose of greatly improving those who will attentively study them, in the practice of a proper and graceful elocution. His differtation likewise contains many ingenious observations on language, both made by himself, and by the learned Author of the philosophical treatise on the Origin and Frogress of Language; whole correspondence with the Author relative to his system, and the Author's answers to his queries and observations, throw much new light upon the subject.
ART. II. The Lufiad, concluded : fee Review for May.
predecessors in the Epic, indulged his genius in palatial description. Soon after we enter upon the fixth book, we find the following animated and picturesque view of the palace of Neptune :
• Deep where the bases of the hills extend,