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This species of exercise, being much more forcible than the preceding, and corresponding, in energy, to the style of bold declamatory utterance, when given forth with the full round tone of the voice, has yet a more powerful influence on the action and habits of the vocal organs. It should be repeatedly performed, with the utmost force of the whisper, which the student can command, on the elements, syllables and words, and on the following example, the tone of which implies the intensest force of earnest utterance, suppressed by apprehension approaching to fear.
MILITARY COMMAND. - Anonymous.
"Soldiers! You are now within a few steps of the enemy's outpost. Our scouts report them as slumbering in parties around their watch-fires, and utterly unprepared for our approach. A swift and noiseless advance around that projecting rock, and we are upon them,- —we capture them without the possibility of resistance. One disorderly noise or motion. may leave us at the mercy of their advanced guard. Let every man keep the strictest silence, under pain of instant death!"
The "explosive" whisper, like the "explosive" breathing, imparts a still greater power to the vocal organs, by the vivid, abrupt, and instantaneous force, with which it bursts out. The explosive intensity of articulation, which it produces, calls at the same time for the utmost precision in the functions of the tongue, the lips, and all the minor instruments of enunciation. The whisper should, in this form, burst forth as suddenly as if the breath were forced out by the instant effect of a violent blow applied to the back. This style of whispering should be repeatedly practised on the elements, syllables, and words, and on the following exercise, which exemplifies the utterance of the most abrupt and intense alarm, at once exciting and suppressing the voice.
MILITARY COMMAND.- Anon.
'Hark! I hear the bugles of the enemy! They are on their march along the bank of the river. We must retreat instantly, or be cut off from our boats. I see the head of their
column already rising over the height. Our only safety is in the screen of this hedge. Keep close to it; be silent; and stoop as you run. For the boats! Forward!"
The exercises in whispering may now be repeated, on the preceding examples, in the form of a half whisper, which, as its name imports, lies half way between a whisper and the ordinary "quality" of the voice, or "pure tone."
One of the most important parts of vocal culture, is that which defines the "qualities' "of the voice, and prescribes appropriate exercises for the formation of good, and the eradication of bad, habits of utterance.
A deep, round, clear, full, and sweet voice, is too commonly regarded as one of nature's rare gifts to her few favorites. This popular impression, like many others of a similar nature, proceeds upon the erroneous assumption, that what we observe as fact, is necessarily such.
A good voice,
owing to our prevalent deficiency in cultivation, -is a thing so rare, that we are apt to regard it as an original endowment of constitution, a grace not lying within the scope of acquisition, a charm the absence of which, like that of personal beauty, implies no fault.
Observation, however, will remind us of the fact that all children in good health, and in cheerful or tranquil mood, have, naturally, in their habit of utterance, a round, sweet, and clear tone. The fact continues thus, with every child, in the earliest stage of life. It ceases, when the voice ceases to utter the feelings of the heart, when the mechanical processes of spelling and syllabication commence, and the voice becomes adapted to the routine of reading, as commonly taught at school. - Judicious culture might evidently preserve, and cherish, and confirm the beautiful tendency of habit, originally implanted in the human voice and ear.
We are familiar with the fact, that true musical cultivation proceeds upon the assumption, and insists, with inevitable authority, on the primary rule, that every human voice can and must utter" 'pure' tone. No failure, no remissness, in this respect, is ever tolerated in appropriate training in vocal music. The result, - as might be expected, corresponds to the pains taken to regulate the position and action of the organs, in elementary practice. All who are recognized as even tolerable singers, utter every sound of the voice in the form of pure tone,- entirely free from pectoral gruffness, guttural suffocation, nasal twang, or oral thinness of quality; and among proficients in the art, whatever personal peculiarity of voice is suffered to exist, is such only as keeps within the limits of perfect purity, and serves rather to form a crowning grace from the hand of nature, than in any sense, a defect.'—A similar result will always
1 We may refer, here, to familiar examples, in the occasionally rich, racy
be found to attend the diligent cultivation of the voice, in the modes of utterance appropriate in reading and conversation.
Faults in "Quality," which impair " Purity" of Tone.
The first point to which, in the training of the vocal organs, it becomes important to direct the attention, with a view to render the ear discriminating in relation to the qualities of the voice in utterance, is the exemplification of the common faults in "quality," by which purity of tone is prevented or impaired. These are the following:
1. A hollow and false pectoral murmur, arising from an imperfect habit of breathing, in consequence of which, the lungs are not furnished with a sufficient supply of air, to produce full and clear tone.
Another cause of this fault in utterance, usually is the feeble action of the abdominal muscles, and, therefore, an inadequate expulsion of the breath, and a smothered or muffled quality of voice, which makes its sound appear buried within the frame or issuing directly from the chest. This fault of utterance may, from the character of its effect on the ear, be properly denominated pectoral tone. It arises, in some instances, from ill health, or a feeble condition of the bodily organs; in others, from the oppressive influence of diffidence and constraint. Students, and other persons of sedentary habit, and female readers, in particular, incline to this faulty mode of utterance. The low note which always accompanies this quality of voice, serves greatly to increase its false and hollow sound, the prevalence of which gives to all reading, indiscriminately, the tones of solemnity and awe. Full inspiration, the expulsive action of the abdominal muscles, and the cultivation of the middle notes of the voice, together with habits of healthful exercise and cheerful emotions, are the best remedies for a tendency to hollow pectoral
2. A fault which bears a resemblance to the preceding, is that of aspirated quality, by which, a half-whispering effect of fear is imparted to every sound of the voice.
This defect of utterance arises, in part, from the want of sufficiently full and deep inspiration, to produce pure and full tone; it arises, sometimes, from organic weakness, or from embarrassment, which causes a slight " rigor " of the organic parts, and consequently allows more breath to escape from the trachea, than is converted into sound by the larynx. The condition of pure tone is, that much
quality, which characterizes the vocalist, Mr. H. Russell; the clear, crystalline points of sound, in that of Madame Caradori Allan; the warm, breathing glow of that of Mrs. Wood, or the exquisite, soft fulness of that of Mr. H. Phillips.
breath should be drawn in, but little given out, and that the whole of what is suffered to escape, should be converted into sound; while, in "aspirated quality," little is drawn in, and much is given out. In this faulty style of utterance, the due action of the abdominal muscles is neglected, and a forced and exhausting action of the thoracic and intercostal muscles, is substituted, causing an incessant sinking and collapsing of the chest, and a tone of voice such as belongs to sickness and pain. This mode of reading or speaking, is very prevalent, and, especially among the weak and the sedentary: yet no habit is more exhausting to the vocal organs, more injurious to health, or more destructive of life. A due attention to the full expansion of the chest, to deep inspiration, and to the vigorous action of the abdominal muscles, is the chief preventive of the faulty habit of aspirated utterance.
3. Another bad quality of voice consists in what is termed guttural tone, a mode of utterance which seems to make the voice issue from an obstructed throat.
This fault is of a twofold character, - first, the soft, choked sound not unusual in the utterance of persons inclined to fulness of habit and corpulence,―second, the hard, dry, and barking voice, which sometimes characterizes persons of an opposite habit and frame. Both these forms of vocal sound, are disagreeable in their effect; as they indicate a want of ear, coarseness of feeling, or an undue ascendancy of the animal nature. Such properties of tone are not less repulsive and objectionable, in reading and speaking, than in singing, in which they are universally regarded as intolerable to an ear regulated by taste and feeling. The immediate organic cause of this bad quality of tone, is an improper pressure of the muscles around the larynx, and the root of the tongue, causing the voice, in the one case, apparently to issue from the pharynx or swallow, instead of the larynx, and, in the other, to originate in the upper part of the throat only, cut off from all communication with either the chest or the mouth. Defective taste or an inadvertent ear, rather than organic necessity, is usually the origin of the guttural tone; and the free expansion of the chest, and the energetic action of the abdominal muscles, with the habit of opening the mouth freely, when reading or speaking, are the surest means of avoiding or removing this great hindrance to purity of tone.
4. Another fault is that commonly termed nasal tone,which makes the voice sound as if it came only through the
Of this fault it is unnecessary to say much. It is a habit of utterance which makes the reader or speaker ridiculous to most hearers, and uncomfortable to all; yet it is one which is very prevalent, although not always in its worst forms. The chief security against it, consists in the habit of fully expanding the chest, which aids
depth of voice, and takes off the wiry sound that is otherwise imparted to the tone. Another preventive, of still greater efficacy, is, the free opening of the mouth, not only in front, but in the back part, by raising the veil of the palate, as is mechanically done in the act of coughing, in consequence of which the voice escapes in its proper direction, instead of being allowed to drift with force against the nasal passages, while they remain partially shut. At the same time, care must be taken not to raise the veil of the palate so high as to stop the nasal passage entirely, in the style of obstruction caused by a cold, producing the utterance of "Cub id," for "Come in." A due degree of nasal ring is one of the component elements of a good voice.
5. Both the guttural and the nasal tones are combined in the utterance of some readers and speakers; and the effect is, of course, rendered, in such cases, doubly injurious. Sometimes the pectoral tone is blended with the other two, causing the extreme of impure tone, in all its bad properties. The effect of this species of voice, is a grunting utterance, resembling that of the inferior animals, instead of the clear resonant tone of the human being.
6. There is still another fault of utterance, which is yet more prevalent than those which have been described. It consists in what may be termed oral tone. It is the slight ineffective voice of indifference, of feebleness, or fatigue, or the mincing tone of false taste. It causes the vocal sound to issue from the mouth, in a style which seems to make it lose all connection with the throat and the chest, and consequently to lose all its natural depth and fulness.
Without these last-mentioned properties, no voice can ever sound earnest or sincere in utterance. Hence we observe "oral tone always ascribed to the languid beauty or the trifling fop. The full expansion of the chest, and the vigorous, appulsive action of the abdominal muscles, which ensures the energetic expulsion of the breath, together with the cultivation of the lower notes of the scale, in the habits of utterance, are the chief correctives of the tendency to the fault of the slender "oral" tone. The musician, it is true, denominates purity of utterance by the phrase "head-tone." But, in the usages of music, this phrase is not strict or exclusive, in its application: it is used rather in contradistinction to the false and impure tones of the throat and the chest, the guttural and the pectoral. It is meant to designate that species of tone which rings clearly in the cavity of the head, by the head becoming, as it were, a sounding-board to reflect the voice downward, and secure, at the same time, the resonance of the chest, blended with that of the head.