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“The portamento, or carriage of the voice, as the Italians term it, is an easy mode of sliding from one tone to another. Hence second-rate singers find it a convenient method of encountering those notes which lie at remote and awkward distances. In some voices it is so fixed, by habit, that two bars cannot be sung without it. When so used, it utterly destroys every pretence to good sing, ing, by interposing an effect of the most sickening kind; when used with discretion, it adds much to the force of expression; and, in Madame Caradori,
it was a grace both tender and agreeable. “ The violinist, Paganini, the present wonder of the world, plays an entire cantabile* upon one string, sliding through all the intervals with a single finger – the effect of which is so plaintive, and desolate, as to move his audience to tears. Vellati, the first singingmaster of the age, uses this grace with incomparable beauty; in his voice it imparts a tenderness not to be described.”+
The sliding notes above described are analagous to drawling potes of speech. Speech, to be natural, requires each syllable to be uttered with a certain degree of force. This force is always in proportion to the length of the syllable. A syllable is drawled when it is pronounced with inadequate force — in other words, with force less than that which constitutes the minimum degree of natural speech.
The extent of the concrete intervals of the notes of speech, is various under various circumstances. A rising inflection may be carried through the whole compass of the voice. But, in the most energetic interrogation, the voice seldom rises higher than an octave; though sometimes it extends to a tenth, or a twelfth. The smallest concrete interval does not, perhaps, exceed a quarter tone.
The concrete intervals of rising inflections are greater than those of their corresponding falling inflections. This may be illustrated by pronouncing the letter a interrogatively and affirmatively, several times, with increasing energy, making the intervals of each succeeding pair greater than those of the preceding, as shown by the following diagram :
* CANTABILE, a term applied to movements intended formed in a graceful, elegant, and melodious style. - Busby's Dictionary of Music. + GARDINER'S MUSIC OF NATURE, p. 164-5, London edition.
AND FALLING INFLECTIONS, THROUGH VARIOUS
INTERVALS OF PITCH. (Diag. 11.)
a ? a.
a ? a. In the above diagram, each falling inflection commences in a lower degree of pitch than that in which its corresponding rising inflection terminates. Should a falling inflection be made to extend through the same interval as its corresponding rising inflection, it would be a drawling note, and not a pure note of speech.
Falling inflections may be uttered with greater force than rising inflections. This is shown, in Diag. 11, by the relative widths of the notes.
Rising inflections are far more numerous than falling inflections: the former constitute the main body of oral language, while the latter are employed for the purposes of emphasis, and in the formation of cadences. Rising inflections are often emphatic; but their emphasis is weaker than that of falling inflections.
The circumflexes are used for the purposes of emphasis. The acuto-grave circumflex, when carried through a wide interval, is employed for the expression of irony and scorn.* When the circumflexes are properly introduced, they are very expressive. These movements of the voice, however, are seldom required; when improperly employed, they affect the ear of a good reader as unpleasantly as the too frequent use of the portamento does that of a good musician.
* “ The circumflexes, acuto-grave,” says Mr. Steele, "are characteristic of the Irish tone; and the circumflexes, gravo-acute, are characteristic of the Scottish tone." — (See Steele's Prosodia Rationalis.)
Writers on Elocution have given numerous rules for the regulation of inflections; but most of these rules are better calculated to make bad readers than good ones. Those founded on the construction of sentences might, perhaps, do credit to a mechanic, but they certainly do none to an elocutionist.
The subject is of such a nature that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to give rules for the regulation of all the inflections of the voice, in reading and speaking; and, as any rule on this part of elocution must necessarily be limited in its application, I have thought proper to dispense with them altogether. This work, however, does not leave the reader without a guide: in the practical part of it, numerous examples are given, which, I trust, will have a tendency to form a correct taste. When the student shall have acquired a knowledge of the principles of elocution, he will have no occasion for rules.
The reader should bear in mind that a falling inflection gives more importance to a word than a rising inflection. Hence it should never be employed merely for the sake of variety ; but for emphasis and cadences. Neither should a rising inflection be used for the sake of mere “harmony," where a falling inflection would better express the meaning of the author.
The sense should, in all cases, determine the direction of inflections. Hence the absurdity of the term " harmonic inflection,” as employed by Walker and his disciples-an inflection which, for the sake of harmony, takes a direction contrary to that required by the sense! If a sentence is pronounced so as to bring out the sense in the most forcible manner, all the inflections must necessarily be harmonic, or, more correctly speaking, melodic.* Every modification of the voice, which is not compatible with the sentiment, weakens the force of the elocution by drawing off the attention of the hearer from the sense to the sound.
* See the note at the bottom of page 52.
ELODY is a series of simple sounds, emanating from the voice, or an instrument, so varied in pitch as to produce a pleasing effect upon the ear. The series of graphic notes by which these sounds are repre
sented, is also called melody. Melody is distinguished from harmony by not necessarily including a combination of parts. The term harmony, as employed in the science of music, signifies a union of melodies, a succession of combined sounds, moving at consonant intervals, according to the laws of modulation.*
NOTATION is the graphic representation of a melody, in other words, the expression of a melody by written characters.
INTONATION is the act of sounding the notes of a melody, either with the voice, or an instrument. When each note is produced in its proper degree of pitch, the intonation is true; when the intervals are not observed with exactness, the intonation is false. Correct intonation, in speech, is highly important; in song, and instrumental music, it is indispensable; for, if the intonation is false, melody loses its charms, and harmony becomes discord.
The melody of speech is founded on sense ; that of song, generally, on sound. Words containing opposite
* The term harmonious is correctly employed when applied to two or more sounds whose union is consonant, or agreeable; it is incorrectly employed when applied to the notes of a single melody, as is done by some authors, who confound it with the word melodious.
sung to the same air, with effects equally good, if the force and time be properly varied. Thus, if the two songs, March to the Batile Field, and Oft in the Stilly Night, be sung to the same air — the former with great force, and in quick time — the latter with diminished force, and in slow time, there will be as much difference of expression between them as there is between that of joy and sorrow.* But speech is not so accommodating. Here every sentence must not only have its appropriate tune, but the tune must be properly pitched.
The melody of song is graduated on a scale whose degrees are as definite as those of the scale of Gunter. But the melody of speech is not formed with such mathematical exactness it has no scale of determinate degrees. Hence it is difficult to represent it graphically — to give to each note
" A local habitation and a name." But even if an exact notation of the melody of speech should be given, it is doubtful whether it would be of much practical importance to the generality of mankind, as none but a Paganini would be able to read it. Such a notation, however, is a desideratum - it would be highly interesting to the philosopher; and I would
dvise all elocutionists who have a good ear for music, and can perform on stringed instruments of the violin species, to direct their attention to the subject.t
For practical purposes, however, it is not essential to present every syllable in speech under its proper note, as is done in song: it is only necessary to give a notation of the relative pitch of the emphatic syllables.
* The reader must not infer that I entertain the opinion that in song melody cannot be adapted to sentiment. I believe that if the composers of music were eloculionists, they would always construct their melodies with reference to the sentiments to be expressed.
† Any essays on this subject by one who cannot perform on a musical instrument, must prove entirely abortive.