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whose first steps should be always vigorous and alone, is often obliged to lean for support and progress on the arm of Time; who then only, when supporting her, seems to have laid aside his wings.
Philadelphia, January, 1827.
THE HUMAN VOICE.
Of the general Divisions of Vocal Sound : with a more
particular account of its Pitch.
ALL the varieties of sound in the human voice, may be referred to the following general heads:
PITCH The detail of these five genera, and of the multiplied combination of their species, includes the enumeration of the expressive powers of speech.
It would be fruitless to attempt to give an analytical history of the voice, without the use of definite terms for the appreciable modes of sound. It is therefore proper to inquire how far common nomenclature realizes the purposes of precision; and by what means any obvious deficiency may be supplied.
The terms by which the Quality or kind of voice is distinguished, are rough, smooth, harsh, full, thin, slender, soft, musical, and some others of the same metaphorical structure. They are sufficiently numerous; and as descriptive as possible, without reference fixed to and exemplar sounds. Some attempt towards this kind of illustration has been made, by variously distinguishing the singing voice, according to its resemblance to the sound of the reed, the string and the musical glass. The voices of inferior animals also afford analogies to the variety of quality in the human voice.
For the specifications of Force we use the words strong, weak, feeble, loud, soft, forcible, and faint. These are indefinite in their indication, and without any fixed relationship in degree. Music has more orderly and numerously distinguished the varieties of force, by its series of terms from Pianissimo to Fortissimo. I shall have occasion hereafter to add some terms answerable to new and curious distinctions in the modes of applying this accident.
Time, in the art of speaking, is subdivided into long, short, quick, slow and rapid. Music has a more precise scale of relationship, in its order of signs from semibreve to doubledemisemiquaver. The single or unaccompanied sound of speech does not require that nicety in Time which the concerting of music demands; yet there is need of more precision in designating its species than the usual terms of prosody afford. Mr. Steele has given, in his work, a notation of time, sufficient for all the syllabic purposes of discourse.
I shall hereafter make a division of this accident, with reference to English syllables, and to their uses in utterance.
I employ the term Abruptness to signify the sudden and full discharge of sound, as contradistinguished from its more gradual emission. This abruptness is well represented by the explosive notes which may be executed on the bassoon, and some other wind instruments. I have given this mode of sound a distinct title, because its characteristic is peculiar; and because it is an expressive agent in speech.
The variations of Pitch are denoted by the words rise and fall, high and low. In our introduction I gave an opinion on the vague import and the insufficiency of this division: and as the following history of the voice makes especial reference to this accident, and gives a minute detail of its varieties, it is necessary to adopt a full and more definite nomenclature of its degrees.
It happened well, for our assistance in developing the functions of speech, that the phenomena of pitch were long ago observed, analyzed and named in the proper science of music. I shall endeavour to show that some of the varieties of pitch, employed by the speaking voice, are not technically known in that science. For these I have made a language. But most of the movements of the musical system are also found in speech. It is advisable therefore to adopt the musical terms for these identical functions ; not only because they are already known to many, and may, through elementary treatises, be easily learned by all; but because the application of a different nomenclature to the same thing, would counteract the great object of philosophy; which is--to include all similar facts under the same nominal classes: notwithstanding their different positions in the regions of nature and art, might, through the narrow logic of words and opinions, seem to call in question their identity. I shall therefore give a concise account of the terms by which the phenomena of pitch are distinguished in music.
In entering upon this elementary and important explanation, wherein a recognition by the ear, of sounds merely described, is absolutely necessary for comprehending the subsequent parts of this work, I must beg the reader not to be discouraged by temporary difficulty. He who has been taught the principles of instrumental or vocal music, and is able to execute accurately with his voice, what is called the Gammut, will understand the following descriptions and definitions without much hesitation. He who knows nothing of the relations of musical sounds, nor of the regular scale on which they have been arranged, must on this, as on so many other subjects of the school which need perceptible illustration, have recourse to a living instructor. He can generally find at hand instrumental performers, or singing masters, or the precentor of some neighbouring church, who will exemplify to his satisfaction all that is merely descriptive here.
I do not refer the reader to musicians and singers, for any assistance in his application of the principles of music to the analysis of speech. The mechanical formality to which they have at last brought their science, together with the wasteful industry of their perpetual practice upon difficulties, has, generally speaking, so limited their perceptive faculty, that they are often the last to see, in the relations of other things, even the most striking analogies to the principles of their art. But their own art, merely as an art, they know well: to them
therefore I refer the reader for the exemplification of that technical nomenclature, which I have here no other means than that of words and diagram to explain.
The different degrees of Pitch in music are marked on what is called the Scale: the formation of which may be thus illustrated :
When the bow is drawn across any one of the strings of a Violin, and the finger at the same time gradually moved, with continued pressure on the string, from its lower attachment, to any distance upwards, a mewing sound, if I may so call it, will be heard. This mewing is caused by the gradual change from gravity to acuteness, through the successive shortening of the string: and as the sound thus rises in acute uninterrupted line of momentary changes, it is called a continuous or Concrete sound. This movement of pitch, on the violin, is termed a Slide.
The reader may himself exemplify this concrete mode of sound, by uttering the single syllable "hay,' as if he were asking a question with the expression of earnest surprise, yet rather deliberately; beginning at the gravest and ending at the most acute point of his colloquial voice. The gradual course of sound in this case is concrete.
Now the sounds of what is called the scale in music, are not continuous or concrete, but are made-by drawing the bow whilst the finger is held stationary at certain places on the string: thus showing an interruption of the continuous upward slide. These places are seven in number, and their distances from each other are determined by a scientific rule for subdividing the string, which we need not consider here. Other sounds still ascending on the string may be made, by a similar interrupted progression. But since the second series of seven, though of higher pitch, yet adjusted by the same rule, do so accord respectively with the first seven, that they may be considered as a kind of repetition of them,--and as the same is true of other classes of seven, that may be formed between the lowest and the highest limit of sound,- the whole extent of variation in acuteness and gravity, is regarded as consisting of but the simple scale of seven sounds, in different ranges of pitch.