« PreviousContinue »
137. Love for Humanity ......................... Mrs. Child.
148. The Departed .......
....Mary Ann Brown.
160. The Brides of Venice
PRINCIPLES OF ELOCUTION.
MANAGEMENT OF THE VOICE.
[The following observations on the management of the voice, are intended to be used as exercises in reading, as well as rules of elocution. One or more of the subjects indicated by the “captions,” may be taken up, as a daily lesson.]
Few young ladies are aware how prevalent, even among the most cultivated of the sex, are some of the worst faults of utterance, as regards the "quality" of the voice. By “quality,” is meant the character which the voice assumes in individuals, in consequence of its peculiar sound, as more or less “pure” in tone, and therefore more or less agreeable to the ear. — A few preliminary observations on this subject, may prove serviceable, as aids to the correction or the formation of habit in this particular.
“Pure tone” is the designation used, in the science of music, for that perfectly vocalized and liquid quality of voice, which is free from murmur and from “ aspiration,” or the roughening effect of the breath escaping, in a whispering style, along with the sound, and audible apart from it. “Impure tone” is as much a fault in reading and in conversation, as in singing.
Willis, in his essay on “ unwritten music,” has placed the appropriate sound of the female voice among the most beautiful of its forms; and there is, unquestionably, a fine analogy between the sound of the running brook, the note of the wood-bird, the voice of a happy child, the low breathing of a flute, and the clear, soft tone
of a woman's voice, when it utters the natural music of home, -- the accents of gentleness and love.
To a well-tuned ear, there is a rich, deep melody in the distinctive bass of the male voice, in its subdued tones. But the key-note of poetry, seems to have been lent to woman. On the ear of infancy and childhood, her voice was meant to fall, as a winning prelude io all the other melodies of nature; the human nerves are attuned, accordingly, to the breath of her voice; and, through life, the chords of the heart respond most readily to her touch.
Yet how often is this result impeded by the processes of artificial culture, — by the over excitement of mind and nerve, attending excessive application, by that unwise neglect of health, and healthful action, which dims the eye and deadens the ear to beauty, and robs life of the joyous and sympathetic spirit which is native to childhood; and which, otherwise, would ever be gushing forth, in notes of gladness and endearment, — the physical not less than the moral charm of human utterance!
It is one of the serious errors of education, that amidst our innumerable processes for cultivating the intellect, we have so few for developing the sources of health and happiness; that the common results of education, are so meagre and unattractive, compared with the beauty and perfection of unmodified nature. The child has, usually, a full, sweet, and musical tone: the school girl, too often, a hollow pectoral murmur, of exhaustion or reserve; a shrill, sharp, and creaking note; a harsh, grating, guttural utterance, indicating an uncultivated taste, undisciplined emotions, and masculine habits; or, perhaps, a nasal twang, which addresses itself to the risible faculty ; a drawl, which even Patience on her monument, could not away with ; or a compressed dental articulation, escaping with difficulty from a half-shut mouth.
There are beautiful exceptions, undoubtedly, to this general fact of ungainly habit. But the ground of just complaint, is, that there is no provision made, in our systems of education, for the cultivation of one of woman's peculiar endowments, - an attractive voice. Our girls do not come home to us, after their period of school life, qualified to read with effect in their own language. Far from them seemns the power to realize the beautiful vision of fireside happiness, depicted by the muse of Mrs. Hemans, where,
“ Lips move tunefully along
Some glorious page of old.”
There is wanting, in their voices, that adaptation of tone to feeling, which is the music of the heart, in reading; there is wanting that clear, impressive style, which belongs to the utterance of cultivated taste and judgment, and which enhances every sentiment, by appropriate emphasis and pause; there is even a want of that distinct articulation, which alone can make sound the intelligible medium of thought
We evidently need some reforming measures in our modes of early culture for females, by which a vigorous, healthy, organic action, may be secured, as a habit of utterance. We need the aid of systematic training, in this particular, — a discipline, correspond
ing, in results, to the effects of that thorough practice in the elements 1 of vocal music, of which the schools of continental Europe, furnish
so beautiful examples. The organs of speech are evidently susceptible of the same practised excellence in execution, which distinguishes the cultivated from the uncultivated vocalist.
Identity of Musical and Elocutionary Culture. Dr. Rush's masterly analysis of the human voice, has rendered systematic training in this department practicable to diligence and study; and, in Philadelphia and Boston, there are establishments now expressly devoted to instruction and practice in the elements of vocal culture.
The opportunities thus afforded for the formation of the voice, are invaluable, for the purposes of elocution, and equally so, for the advantages of adequate training in the elements of vocal music; since whatever imparts power and pliancy of organ for the one, must be as useful for the other.
The production of pure and full tone, is the common ground on which elocution and vocal music unite, in elementary discipline. Both arts demand attention to appropriate healthful attitude, and to free, expansive, energetic action in the organs. Both require erect posture, free opening of the chest, full and regular breathing, power of producing and sustaining any degree of volume of voice, and, along with these, the habit of vivid, distinct, articulation. Both equally forbid that imperfect and laborious breathing, which mars the voice, exhausts the organs, and produces disease. Both tend to secure that healthy vigour of organ, which makes vocal exercise, at once, a source of pleasure, and a source of health.