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RESPIRATION, OR EXERCISES IN BREATHING.1
THE organs of voice, in common with all other parts of the bodily frame, require the vigor and pliancy of muscle, and the elasticity and animation of nerve, which result from good health, in order to perform their appropriate functions with energy and effect. But these indispensable conditions to the exercise of the vocal organs, are, in the case of most learners, very imperfectly supplied. A sedentary mode of life, the want of invigorating exercise, close and long continued application of mind, and, perhaps, an impaired state of health, or a feeble constitution, prevent, in many instances, the free and forcible use of those muscles on which voice is dependent. Hence arises, to students of elocution, the necessity of practising physical exercises, adapted to promote general muscular vigor, as a means of attaining energy in vocal functions; the power of any class of muscles, being dependent on the tone of the whole system.
The art of cultivating the voice, however, has, in addition to the various forms of corporeal exercise, practised for the general purpose of promoting health, its own specific prescriptions for securing the vigor of the vocal organs, and modes of exercise adapted to the training of each class of organs separately.
The results of such practice are of indefinite extent: they are limited only by the energy and perseverance of the student, excepting, perhaps, in some instances of imperfect organization. A few weeks of diligent cultivation, are usually sufficient to produce such an effect on the vocal organs, that persons who commence practice, with a feeble and ineffective utterance, attain, in that short period, the full command of clear, forcible, and varied tone.
Gymnastic and calisthenic exercises are invaluable aids to the culture and development of the voice, and should be sedulously practised, when opportunity renders them accessible. But even a slight degree of physical exercise, in any form adapted to the expansion of the chest, and to the freedom and force of the circulation, will serve to impart energy and glow to the muscular apparatus of voice, and clearness to its sound.
There is, therefore, a great advantage in always practising some preliminary muscular actions, as an immediate preparation for vocal exercise. These actions may be selected from the system of prepartory movements, taught at gymnastic establishments; or they may be made to consist in regulated walking, with a view to the acquisi
1 For a description of the vocal organs, see Appendix.
tion of a firm, easy, and graceful carriage of the body, with appro priate motion of the arms and limbs, - in the systematic practice of gesture, in its various forms, for the purpose of obtaining a free, forcible, and effective use of the arm, as a natural accompaniment to speech, or in the practice of attitude and action combined, in the most vivid style of lyric and dramatic recitation, so as to attain a perfect control over the whole corporeal frame, for the purposes of visible expression.
Some preliminary exercises, such as the preceding, having been performed, and a sufficient period for rest and tranquil breathing having elapsed, the next stage of preparatory action may be as in the following directions:
1. Attitude of the Body, and Position of the Organs.
Place yourself in a perfectly erect, but easy posture; the weight of the body resting on one foot; the feet at a moderate distance, the one in advance of the other; the arms akimbo: the fingers pressing on the abdominal muscles, in front, and the thumbs on the dorsal muscles, on each side of the spine; the chest freely expanded and fully projected; the shoulders held backward and downward; the head perfectly vertical.
2. Exercises in Deep Breathing.
Having thus complied with the preliminary conditions of a free and unembarrassed action of the organs, draw in and give out the breath very fully, and very slowly, about a dozen times in succession. Let the breathing be deep and tranquil, but such as to cause the chest to rise fully, and fall freely, at every effort.
3. Exercise in "Effusive," or tranquil Breathing.
Draw in a very full breath, and send it forth in a prolonged sound of the letter h. In the act of inspiration, take in as much breath as you can contain. In that of expiration, retain all you can, and give out as little as possible,- merely sufficient to keep the sound of h audible. But keep it going on, as long as you can sustain it. In this style of respiration, the breath merely effuses itself into the surrounding air.
1 The object in view, in this apparently minute direction, is, to secure perfect freedom and repose of body. A constrained or a lounging posture, is utterly at variance with a free, unembarrassed use of the voice, or the production of a clear and full sound.
4. Exercise in "Expulsive," or forcible Breathing.
Draw in a very full breath, as before, and emit it, with a lively expulsive force, in the sound of h, but little prolonged, —in the style of a moderate whispered cough. The breath, in this style of expiration, is projected into the air. Repeat this exercise, as directed, in the statement preceding.
5. Exercise in "Explosive," or abrupt Breathing.
Draw in the breath, as already directed, and emit it with a sudden and violent explosion, in a very brief sound of the letter h,— in the style of an abrupt and forcible, but whispered cough. The breath is, in this mode of expiration, thrown out with abrupt violence. Repeat this exercise, as before directed.
Note to Adult Students and Teachers.
The habit of keeping the chest open and erect, is indispensable to the production of a full, round tone of voice. But it is of still higher value, as one of the main sources of health, animation, and activity.
The effect, on the student, of the preceding exercises in breathing, is usually soon perceptible in an obvious enlargement of the chest, an habitually erect attitude, an enlivened style of movement, a great accession of general bodily vigor, an exhilarated state of feeling, and an augmented activity of mind. To persons whose habits are studious and sedentary, and especially to females, the vigorous exercise of the organs of respiration and of voice, is, in every point of view, an invaluable discipline.
FIRST TABLE OF ORTHOPHONY.
ELEMENTS OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE,
Classified by the Ear, as Sounds.
I. TONIC, OR VOCAL AND DIPHTHONGAL ELEMENTS.
SIMPLE,- having one unchanging sound.
The element of sound, in every instance, is indicated by italic type, and should be repeated, by itself, after the pronunciation of the whole word, in a full, clear, exact, and distinct style.
1, A-ll; 2, A-rm; 3, A-n; 4, E-ve; 5, Oo-ze, (long ;) L-oo-k, (short;) 6, E-rr; 7, E-nd; 8, I-n; 9, Ai-r;* 10, U-p; 11, O-r;5 12, O-n.o
COMPOUND, beginning with one sound and ending in another. 13, A-le; 14, I-ce; 15, O-ld; 16, Ou-r; 17, Oi-l; 18, U-se, (verb, long ;) U-se, (noun, short.)
II. SUBTONIC, SUBVOCAL, OR SEMIVOWELS ELEMENTS.
SIMPLE.-1, L-u-ll; 2, M-ai-m; 3, N-u-n; 4, R-ap, (hard, but not rolled;) 5, Fa-r, (soft, not silent ;) 6, Si-ng; 7, B-a-be; 8, D-i-d; 9, G-a-g; 10, V-al-ve; 11, Z-one; 12, A-z-ure; 13, Y-e; 14, W-oe; 15, TH-en. COMPOUND. — 16, J-oy.
III. ATONIC, ASPIRATE,10 OR MUTE ELEMENTS.
SIMPLE. 1, P-i-pe; 2, T-en-t; 3, C-a-ke; 4, F-i-fe; 5, C-ea-se; 6, H-e; 7, Th-in; 8, Pu-sh. COMPOUND. Ch-ur-ch.
1 So called from their comparatively musical sound, and susceptibility of See pages 19, 20.
2 The same in quality, but not in quantity, with the preceding.
3 Middle sound, between ur and air.
4 Middle sound, between a-le and e-nd.
5 A sound closer than that of a in a-ll.
6 Closer than o in o-r.
7 So called from their inferiority in tone, when contrasted with tonics.
8 So called from their partial vocality, when contrasted with atonics or mutes.
9 So called from their want of tone.
10 Formed by a process of breathing. 11 Deficient in sound.