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Only waiting, till the glimmer
Tread its pathway to the skies."
Every tone may have its chief characteristics classed under the three following heads: Force, Pitch, and Rate.
First. Force, which regards the impulse of sound, and characterizes a tone as loud, faint, or moderate in utterance.
Second. Pitch, which regards the strain of the voice in which words are uttered as on high, low, or middle notes of the musical scale.
Third. Rate, which regards the utterance or the articulation, as rapid, slow, or moderate.
Forcible and loud tones belong to the following and similar forcible feelings and emotions: joy, courage, admiration, when strongly expressive, anger, indignation, revenge, terror.
Gentle, soft, or weak tones characterize fear, when not excessive,— pity, love, admiration, in its moderate expression,- tenderness, grief, and sorrow, when not excessive,- all of which imply comparative feebleness of feeling. Fear and grief, in excess, becomes loud.
Low notes, as naturally coinciding with deep feeling, are the appropriate expression of awe, sublimity, reverence, amazement, indignation, anger, when grave and deep,-horror.
High notes belong to the extremes of joy and of grief; they characterize the tone of terror; they prevail, also, in pathetic and tender expression. They occur sometimes in violent anger and in scorn.
Slowness characterizes the tones of grave and sedate feeling, awe, sublimity, solemnity, reverence, pity, admiration, and grief, when deep and subdued, rather than violent.
Rapidity marks the tones of excited and agitated feeling,—anger, eagerness, hurry, confusion, fear, terror, joy, and sometimes grief, when strongly expressed.
Moderate emotions, or tranquil states of mind are distinguished by a moderate force, the medium pitch, and a moderate rate.
From Prof. Russell's observations on modulation, we glean the following: No gravity of tone, or intensity of utterance, or precision of enunciation, can atone for the absence of that natural change of the voice by
which the ear is enabled to receive and recognize the tones of the various emotions accompanying the train of thought which the speaker is expressing. These, and these only, can indicate his own sense of what he utters, or communicate it by sympathy to his audience. The adaptation of voice to the expression of sentiment, is not less important when considered in reference to meaning as dependent on distinctions strictly intellectual, or not implying a vivid or varied succession of emotions. The correct and adequate representation of continuous or successive thought, requires its appropriate intonation, as may be observed in those tones of the voice which naturally accompany discussions and argument, even in their most moderate forms. The modulation or varying of tone, is important also as a matter of cultivated taste; it is the appropriate grace of vocal expression. It has a charm founded in the constitution of our nature; it touches the finest and deepest sensibilities of the soul; it constitutes the spirit and eloquence of the human voice, whether regarded as the noblest instrument of music, or the appropriate channel of thought and feeling.
The pitch of the voice which may be referred to most conveniently as a standard, is that of animated conversation. The average force of the voice may be taken as that which is sufficient for appropri ate and intelligible utterance. The middle or common rate of articulation is that which prevails in moderate emotion. Variation, then, is to be understood as any departure from one or all of these, towards either extreme of utterance, whether loud or faint, high or low, fast or slow, - or as a transition or passing from one extreme to another of one or more of these qualities. Strong emotion will require marked, and great, and sometimes, sudden changes; whilst in moderate emotion, the changes will be slight and gradual.
The common faults in single tones are,
First:-A mechanical, unmeaning sameness of voice, which indicates the absence of appropriate feeling, and deprives spoken language of its natural expression.
Second:-A want of force and vividness in tone, though otherwise appropriate,—a fault which renders delivery feeble, uninteresting, and unimpressive.
Third: - An excessive force of tone, usually attended by a mouthing or a drawling manner, -a style utterly repugnant to correct taste, and subversive of the genuine expression of emotion.
Fourth-An habitual and personal tone, which characterizes the individual speaker merely, and is not the appropriate expression of feeling, but rather interferes with and prevents it.
The first two of these faults would be avoided by entering deeply and fully into the sentiment which is expressed in the language read or spoken. This can be done only by giving to it that earnest and steadfast attention which is required to produce interest and sympathy in the mind, the true source of appropriate and natural tones.
The third error arises from the habit of allowing the attention to Loat on the stream of language, instead of directing it to the thoughts expressed in what is read. The harmonious succession of the words, and not the force or beauty of the ideas, becomes involuntarily the object which occupies the mind; and hence arises a measured and rhythmical flow of tone, adapted to clauses and sentences according to their sound, rather than to their sense. The fault is usually exemplified in the recitation of poetry. This habit would be overcome by directing the attention to the thought as exclusively as possible, not suffering the mind to linger upon the phraseology, but endeavoring to attune the ear to a style of utterance flowing from the energy and harmony of the ideas.
The fourth class of errors being as various as the habits of different persons, cannot be specifically described. They are necessarily points of attention between teachers and pupils individually.
The bad consequences of these faults are obvious. By monotony in reading, we lose almost as much as we should by pronouncing in conversation every word in the same key. The voice becomes insipid and childish in its tone; meaning is entirely extracted from it; sense is sacrificed to timidity or awkwardness of habit, and the mental power of utterance is exchanged for a dull and lifeless uniformity or organic exercise, -unworthy of a human being, and resembling rather the reiterated sound of a machine.
Rhetorical affectation, on the other hand, is disgusting in its effect; it obscures or changes meaning by ill-judged and unnecessary variations of voice; it obtrudes the speaker to the exclusion of his subject, and substitutes a ridiculous parade of art for the simple eloquence of nature.
Early practice in modulation is of the utmost importance, as the foundation of good habit; and this department of elocution instead of being deferred till late in the course, should be introduced as early as possible, and cultivated with the utmost attention.
The first object of attention in practising in this department of elocution, should be to eradicate faulty and personal tones, as influenced by habits of utterance, articulation, emphasis, or cadence. The imitation of incorrect tones may sometimes be necessary, to give the learner a distinct conception of the fault to be overcome.
The next point is to succeed in producing force and appropriateness in tone, and facility in variation. One expedient for this purpose is by frequent illustrations and repetitions to impress on the reader's mind, the difference between true and false tones of voice, — those of dignified conversation, and those of familiar talk, or of mechanical and monotonous reading. Another means of rectifying errors of this class, is, by interesting conversation and illustrative anecdote, to bring the learner's mind into the right mood of emotion, for the full expression of the sentiment.
The pupil's own attentive study of the meaning of what he reads,
is, however, the best security for natural force and variation of tone. Little improvement can be made in intonation, till the learner has acquired the power of abstracting his attention from a mechanical enunciation of the words he is reading, and can fix his mind with such force on the thoughts as to make them his own.
The teacher may, by the proper selection of exercises in reading, do much to favor the acquisition of easy and natural tones of voice, care being taken that for young readers nothing is chosen which is above their comprehension, or not adapted to their taste. Monotonous dulness and forced variety of tone, are equally caused by promiscuous and inappropriate reading. Where the mind has not the command of thought and feeling, it will naturally flow into a mechanical attention to words; and in reading or speaking, the tones of the voice, (as they are always a true echo to the actual state of feeling,) will indicate the fact by formal and unmeaning ntterance.
""Tis not enough the voice be sound and clear;
When desperate heroines grieve with tedious moan
Some o'er the tongue the labored measures roll,
And e'en in speaking we may seem too just.
In vain for them the pleasing measure flows,
Some placid natures fill the allotted scene
He who in earnest studies o'er his part
In the white handkerchief and mournful drawl;
A single look more marks the internal woe
Than all the windings of the lengthened O!
Up to the face the quick sensation flies,
And darts its meaning from the speaking eyes:
"Speak the speech, pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue: but if you mouth it, as many of our players do, I had as lief the town-crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus; but use all gently: for in the very torrent, tempest, and (as I may say) whirlwind of your passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance, that may give it smoothness. O, it offends me to the soul, to hear a robustious, periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings; who, for the most part, are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb shows, and noise: I would have such a fellow whipped for o'er-doing Termagant; it out-herods Herod pray you avoid it.
"Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion be your tutor: suit the action to the word, the word to the action: with this special observance, that you o'erstep not the modesty of nature; for anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was, and is, to hold, as 'twere, the mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time, his form and pressure. Now this, overdone, or come tardy off, though it make the unskilful laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve. O, there be players, that I have seen play, and heard others praise, and that highly, not to speak it profanely, that, neither having the accent of christian, pagan, nor man, have so strutted, and bellowed, that I have thought some of nature's journeymen had made men, and not made them well, they imitated humanity so abominably."—Hamlet's Instruction to the Players.