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of such effects is owing to early influence on habit, in connection with the fact that rank, in European society, is indicated by refinement in utterance, as much as by other points of taste and culture.
Comparative Value of Reading and Music, as Accomplishments.
An eloquent writer in the North American Review, speaking on the subject of elocution, says,
“We had rather have a child return to us from school a first-rate reader, than a first-rate performer on the piano-forte. We shou d feel that we had a far better pledge for the intelligence and talent of our child. The accomplishment, in its perfection, would give more pleasure. The voice of song is not sweeter than the voice of eloquence. And there may be eloquent readers, as well as eloquent speakers. We speak of perfection in this art; and it is something, - we must say, in defence of our preference, - which we have never yet seen..
“Let the same pains be devoted to reading, as are required to form an accomplished performer on an instrument; let us have our phonasci, as the ancients had, — the framers of the voice, the musicmasters of the reading voice; let us see years devoted to this accomplishment, and then we should be prepared to stand the comparison. It is, indeed, a most intellectual accomplishment. So is music, too, in its perfection. We do by no means undervalue this noble and most delightful art; to which Socrates applied himself, even in his old age. But one recommendation of the art of reading, is, that it requires a constant exercise of mind. It demands continual and close reflection and thought, and the finest discrimination of thought. It involves, in its perfection, the whole art of criticism on language.”
ORGANS OF VOICE.
Neglect of the proper Modes of Organic Action. It is an error too common in the practice of young readers, to overlook the important fact, that utterance is an organic process, executed by appropriate instruments, specially provided in the corpo real frame. The use of the voice, in the daily habit of conversation, is a process so entirely free and natural, that, - like the act of breathing, – it escapes our notice, or, at least, seldom becomes a matter of consciousness or reflection. We do not think of it as a thing subject to the action of the will; and whilst we feel the importance of devoting the closest attention, and practising with the utmost care, in the execution of a piece of vocal music, we are apt to overlook the fact that every syllable and every letter uttered in reading and conversing, requires an express adjustment and motion of the organs. We contract, consequently, in early life, a negligence of habit in these exercises, which lays the foundation for innumerable errors and defects : our articulation becomes indistinct, our pronunciation slovenly, our emphasis feeble and imperfect, our pauses inappropriate, our inflections inexpressive, our tones monotonous and lifeless, and destitute of the appropriate melody of the human voice, in the utterance of sentiment.
All these faults have undoubtedly their origin in the remissness of the mind; but they have their “ local habitation” in the action of the organs; and they are to be avoided or corrected by attention to the latter as well as to the former source of error: we must direct our observation to the organic functions which produce intelligible and impressive utterance: we must analyze the processes of speech, and study the structure and action of the organs of voice
Proper Attitude for the Exercise of Reading. If we contemplate the human frame, in relation to the purposes of utterance, as one great speaking instrument, — as, for instance, we might study an automaton,- one of the first peculiarities that must strike our attention, would obviously be its capaciousness, in the great cavity of the chest, which, by its extensive space, lends to the voice its volume and resonance. The first condition of full vocal sound, is accordingly found to be the full expansion of the chest, – a state of that organ which implies a perfectly erect attitude of the body, attended by a backward and downward pressure of the shoulders. The upper part of the chest is thus at once dilated, raised, and projected : all its capacity of space and resonance is thus attained.
But a lounging or stooping posture compresses the chest, impedes the action of its muscles, and diminishes the natural and healthful supply of breath. The vocal instrument is thus diminished in size; the play of its parts cramped, and its quantity of air withheld. A feeble and imperfect sound is the necessary result.
To all these unfavourable conditions most young ladies subject themselves by habitual stooping postures — particularly in the attitude of study and reading. Such postures, while they impair, to a great extent, the general health of the body, are one principal cause of weak voice and imperfect utterance; as they disable all the primary organs of speech, by cramping those of respiration.
Mode of Respiration required for Appropriate Reading. Having attended to the due enlargement of the vocal instrument, the next step in execution, obviously, is to provide it with a full supply of air. The habit of deep and full inspiration, is at once indispensable to the healthy action of the whole corporeal frame, and to the formation of adequate sound. Let the “blower” fail to do his duty of supplying the instrument with air, and no skill, in the organist, can produce music.
Young ladies, in general, whether from constitutional imperfection or defective habit, fail in the great requisite of voice, – a full supply of breath. The habitual practice of exercise in the open air, and a special attention to the mode of breathing, are indispensable prerequisites to the right use of the voice.* The organs of respiration, it should never be forgotten, are also, by their constitution, the primary organs of voice; and without their free and vigorous action, no adequate vocal sound can be produced.
Appropriate Mode of producing Vocal Sound. The next stage, in the organic processes, is to give free scope and action to the organs which serve to erpel the breath from the lungs, and to form vocal sound. — The preparatory step of deep and full inspiration having been taken, and a full supply of the material of sound having been secured, it is not less important that the remaining condition of effective voice should be fulfilled, which is that the great expulsory muscles, extending, in front of the body from the chest downward, should be made to play with due energy.
These muscles, by an impulsive motion, participated in and ren
* The appropriate exercises for regulating the breath and forming the voice, are prescribed in detail in the volume entitled, “Orthophony, or Vocal Culture in Elocution.”
dered expulsory by the diaphragm, the pleuræ, and the lungs, throw up the breath from the air-cells of the lungs, through the bronchial tubes, which connect these with the trachea, or windpipe, into the larynx, or the upper part of the windpipe, to the glottis, or opening of the larynx, where the issuing breath is converted into voice. The vigorous condition, the unembarrassed posture, and the energetic action of these expulsory muscles, evidently must be of the utmost consequence to the formation of full vocal sound. We are thus reminded, once more, of the great importance of healthy vigour, of true position, and energetic action, in the appropriate organs of voice. In imperfect health, the expulsory muscles are incapable of the activity adequate to produce a firm and clear tone; as may be observed in the habitual utterance of the sick, the feeble, the languid, or the exhausted person. By a stooping posture, the expulsory muscles are curved, and, consequently, incapacitated for effective action.
In coughing, and in sneezing, which are mechanical expulsory acts, and in the utterance of a sudden interjection of fear, joy, or any other strong emotion which causes an abrupt involuntary expulsive act, we may observe how powerful the exertion of these muscles, in such circumstances, becomes. In vehement speaking, it is, although not so violent, —yet quite perceptible. But, in the usual forms of speech and of reading, it escapes our notice; as the effort with which it is attended is so slight in comparison, and so easy to the organs. The motion is, in these cases, one of which we are scarcely conscious, and which we are apt to think of as wholly involuntary. It is only in part so, however; and the vividness and expressive character of the human voice, are more dependent on the vigorous action of the expulsory muscles, than on any other condition.
What is required of the reader, in regard to the play of these muscles, is, that there be a voluntary effort, a consentaneous action of the will, added to the habitually unconscious movement of the organs, — in order to give efficacy to the function of voice.
Munagement of the Breath. Another stage in the management and control of the vocal organs, is to be attentive to very frequent renewal of the breath, — to keep a supply always in advance of the demand, and thus never to " get out of breath,” or to become feeble in voice. — A person of very delicate
organization, who is duly attentive to an upright, expanded, and projected position of the chest, and to breathe frequently, can easily give forth a full and resonant tone of the voice. But the prevalent habit, among female readers especially, – is to neglect all these conditions,
— particularly that of renewing the breath at every pause, and inhaling a little frequently; instead of which, the opposite practice is customary, - that of drawing in a long breath, at distant intervals. In consequence of this neglect, there is not at command the only means of giving out a full and true vocal sound, - an adequate supply of air. The voice, accordingly, betrays this fact in feeble and husky sound; and the tender air-cells of the lungs suffer, at the same time, to the great and lasting injury of health. The rule of vocal exertion in reading, is, a little breath at every pause, to keep the aircells of the lungs always full, — never empty or approaching to exhaustion. Reading, without frequent breathing, is, in degree, an unconscious process of self-destruction, by partial deprivation of the great means of life, - air.
Having paid due attention to the use of the vocal organs, in those forms of action which are common to respiration and to speech or reading, it remains that the reader should see to it that the smaller
organs of speech be appropriately exerted. We can, by careful · practice, gain a great power over these.
Utterance as modified by the Glottis. At the top of the larynx, the upper portion of the windpipe, is situated its opening, called the glottis. The force and the precision of sound, are greatly dependent on the power to shut and open, forcibly and effectually, this aperture. The acts of opening and closing the glottis, and the mode of these acts, make vocal sounds forcible or feeble, abrupt or gradual, definite or indefinite, high or low.— The most useful form of exercise, for securing a perfect command over the glottis, is that of practising, in all degrees of force, from whispering to shouting, from the most abrupt to the most gentle and gradual formation of sound, and on every note from the lowest to the highest, the various sounds of vowels and diphthongs, with perfect exactness of execution,* at the opening and the close, and with perfect purity of vocal sound.
* See the manual on Orthophony. “Radical” and “ vanishing” “move. ments,” in Enunciation.