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THE VOICE IN ELOCUTION.
BY ROBERT R. RAYMOND.*
Voice, in the generic sense, is a property of all living animals which are structurally endowed with a capacity to procure certain sounds uttered from the mouth: articulate voice, the organ of language-which, as the vehicle of thought and feeling, is the divinely ordered means of social intercourse and intellectual progressbelongs to man alone. The methods by which the intellectual attainments of any one member of the human family may thus become the possession of all are twoviz., speaking and singing.
These must have been almost coeval in their origin; for, as the deductions of reason assure us that the social necessities of the race must have very early given rise to spoken language, so a universal experience unites with remotest tradition in ascribing to every human being a religious impulse which finds its most adequate expression in song. The least civilized tribes have always celebrated their festivals of worship with rude rhythmic chants, while the cultivated nations of all time have cherished music as the ethereal medium of poetry and a potent agent in the culture of the soul. For the musical side of vocal art science has already done much by defining its forms and improving its processes. Mathematics and physics have expounded the laws of sound; philosophers have discovered the immutable principles upon which melody, harmony, and rhythm depend; and the definite nature of the work to be accomplished in giving force and expression to the singing voice has made it possible to conduct that work on a well-ascertained scientific basis. But to the cultivation of speech, a faculty normally universal, and hence much more intimate and important in its relations to man-the minister of his highest social welfare and the agent of his noblest progress-its more complicated mechanical processes and the indefinable character of its melodic scale have hitherto presented the most formidable obstacles.
* Editor's NOTE.—This essay, written by my father in 1877, for “Johnson's Cyclopædia,” still possesses value for those who follow his method in teaching. In “The Universal Cyclopædia,” published by D. Appleton & Co., and the A. J. Johnson Co., New York City, a large part of it has been incorporated, without my father's name, in a general article on “Voice,” with the subscription, “Revised by Alexander Melville Bell.” Prof. Bell was a friend of my father, and the essay here reprinted contains a recog. nition of his distinguished merits as an instructor, and also as the inventor of “visible speech,” which has been retained in the revised article. It need not be said that revision and additions by such an authority must be valuable, But I have not incorporated Prof. Bell's improvements in this republication, preferring that my father's name should be attached to his own work.
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In many respects, however, what has been accomplished for one of these arts enures also to the benefit of the other. In both, the instrument, at least, is the same, though put to somewhat different uses. The important results of recent investigation in the domain of acoustics, though less obviously practical in their application to speaking than to singing, cannot but be, in the end, of great advantage to both, and that æsthetic culture by which all forms of art are inspired to their lofty purpose is essential alike to music and to elocution.
The limitations of this article require that these con
tributions of science and experience to the culture of the human voice shall be treated with exclusive reference to elocution. This may be done from a physiological, a physical, and a psychological point of view; in other words, we may consider the instrument, its mechanical uses and processes, and those intellectual laws by which it is made to convey thought and emotion to the human soul.
I. Of the physical apparatus employed in the production of voice the merest outline of description must suffice. Any good manual of anatomy will furnish the inquirer with the detailed discussion he may desire. If we begin to construct the mechanism of the voice as we would build an organ (to which it bears some analogy), we find at the base, in the human chest, the lungs, which perform the office of a bellows to furnish air for the instrument above. This air is forced by their action through bronchial tubes, which, extending upward through either lung, gradually converge until they meet in a single tube, called the trachea, or wind-pipe, consisting of incomplete cartilaginous rings lying horizontally one above the other. At the upper end of the trachea is a funnel-shaped piece of mechanism, enlarging upward and composed of various cartilages connected by ligaments, and moved by muscles. This is called the larynx. Through its centre, in continuation of the air-tube, runs a hollow passage, which terminates in a wide triangular opening. Across this are stretched two pairs of tense elastic membranes—the chordæ vocales —which have the power both of moving together and of playing into each other. Of these, however, only one pair is immediately concerned in the production of tone. These are called, therefore, the true vocal cords. Between their fine edges there is a narrow opening or chink, called the glottis; and as these cords are at will made more or less tense, the wind that is forced through the opening causes them to vibrate audibly with various degrees of force and pitch.
This is the genesis of voice: from this point the tone here generated undergoes only modifications of fulness and quality and such as combine to effect articulation. It now passes the pharynx, a membranous bag which leads both into the mouth and into the nose, being separated from the former by the curtain of the palate, and from the latter by a very thin osseous partition. This, together with the two false vocal cords and the anterior cavity of the mouth, together with the frontal cavities over the eyes and in the cheek-bones, constitutes a resonance-apparatus, a species of sounding-board, by which the voice is modified in respect to fulness and quality. How it is further affected by the teeth, the tongue, the palate, and the other organs of articulation we are yet to consider.
II. Sound comes to our ears in two forms—as tone and as noise. Tone is sound caused by the regular periodic vibrations of the sounding body, such as is given out by musical instruments.
Noise proceeds from irregular movements of the sounding body. The crash of thunder, the rattling of the streets, the discord which results from striking all the keys of a piano at once-these are noises. The sounds which we make in speaking consist of both tones and noises.
Prof. Helmholtz, of Heidelberg, in his Lehre von den Tonempfindungen, has shown that for the production of every vowel-sound the cavity of the mouth is definitely tuned by the disposition of its various parts--the teeth, the tongue, the lips, the soft palate, the pharynx, etc. The air confined in the cavity of the mouth has, like