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Then unemotional lines expressive of everyday, matterof-fact things may well be used as illustrative of the medium between these two extremes, as :
Two days afterward I went to visit a friend in the country, a modest man, with a quiet country home. It was just a simple, unpretentious house, set about with big trees, encircled in meadow and field rich with the promise of harvest. - HENRY W. GRADY, "Homes of the People ”
A third exercise that may be used is to utter clearly and distinctly the sounds of a, e, i, o, u and to count from 1 to 1o, lifting the voice to a high plane of pitch. Repeat the exercise, dropping the voice to a low plane. Repeat again, letting the voice follow a middle plane, and so on until the ear becomes accustomed to the change, and the voice keys itself readily to one plane or another without effort.
The second consideration, that of gaining vocal flexibility, is one that usually requires much more attention than the establishing of a normal key. It is probable that the voices which are improperly keyed are the exception rather than the rule, but the percentage of untrained speakers who have even passably flexible voices is comparatively small. Here it is the voice that travels in an almost expressionless monotone that is the rule rather than the exception, and it is the problem of nearly every beginner to get away from the hopelessly dead level along which the voice tends to travel. Clearly this line of monotony must be broken in some way if the speaker is to have an adequate means of expressing himself through pitch. The line of monotony may be illustrated by such an expression as the following:
Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind.
Whatever may be in the mind of the speaker as he utters these words, surely very little is conveyed to the hearer so long as the voice travels without variation from this horizontal line. But let his thought be stimulated so that this line of monotony will be broken, and note the result : Rich poor
As soon as the speaker comes really to think intently upon what he is trying to express, each important part will tend to be set higher in pitch than the lesser parts of the sentence, so that a meaning that is both clear and emphatic is conveyed; while no such impression is gained when the voice continues on a single level. In the study of pitch the student should learn to step from point to point upon the speaking scale, setting important ideas high, subordinating the less important ones to a lower plane, and by constant discriminations of this kind giving the same shade and color to his thought that the musician is giving constantly upon his instrument.
The influence of song in speech. But expression through pitch consists of something more than setting words upon different levels. If each word were placed upon a given level and sustained there during its utterance, then all speech would be song. This is what happens in the utterance of a note of song. A given plane is attacked, the note held on that exact plane until it has been given its full value, then released and another like attack made with the voice. In speech the mode of utterance is very different. A given plane is attacked, but the voice is not sustained and made to vibrate at a given point as it is in song. Every tone of speech travels either up or down the scale, and this upward or downward movement is commonly called inflection. The following diagram will make clear the difference in the action of the voice in song and in speech :
By uttering the vowels a, e, and i as notes of song, as above indicated, it will be seen that the first song note, uttered as a, travels upon a horizontal plane of pitch until the note is given its proper value. It is then dropped and a new attack made for the vowel e; then this is dropped in like manner and another attack made for the vowel i. A comparison of this action of the voice with the same three vowels uttered as inflections of speech will make clear that in the utterance of a as the first speech inflection the voice does not travel on a horizontal line, as in the notes of song, but strikes upward, taking a somewhat vertical course, and we have a rising inflection of the voice. E uttered as the second inflection also strikes upward, and i uttered as the third inflection strikes downward and is a falling inflection. A comparison of these two movements of the voice shows that speech, like song, makes constant new attacks in pitch, but, unlike song, takes a definite vertical course instead of a horizontal
one. This is very important for the speaker to understand, since it is one of the common faults of public speaking.
Some speakers who think themselves effective are quite unaware that their speaking is almost pure song. It is not uncommon to hear whole sermons given in notes of song, with few, if any, inflections of speech. Liturgical reading or the saying of the mass is very properly rendered in notes of song, but this mode of delivery has no place in the sermon proper or upon the public platform. It is known as the "singing tone," and is by no means uncommon with supposedly skilled speakers.
Another habit, which is perhaps more common, is that of the speaker who does not employ song altogether, but who seasons his speaking with occasional song notes that give a peculiarly monotonous, "singsong” effect to his entire method. These usually occur upon individual words ending in euphonious vowel sounds that lend themselves very readily to the singing tone. They are frequently heard on the final syllable of such words as “nation, "union,” “liberty," "humanity,” pronounced " nation-n-n,” "union-n-n," "libert-e-e," "humanit-e-e.” This element of song is due chiefly to poor enunciation. The organs of articulation, instead of releasing the sound at the proper time, prolong it unduly, and a distinct note of song is the result. Speakers who employ it are invariably tiresome. It has its place in liturgical reading and in certain forms of emotional poetry, but no proper place in ordinary speaking and should never be used.
Along with this singing of individual words is a similar incorrect form of vocal melody which occurs upon consecutive words that are of about equal value and should
be given equal prominence by the voice. The following will illustrate : I
should have his maintain
Here the speaker arbitrarily sets one word high and the next word low with almost entire disregard of the thought that should govern the expression. By setting the words “I,” "every," and "own" high in pitch they are given a prominence which the context does not warrant, while the words "maintain," "man," and "ideals,” which clearly carry the thought of the sentence and should be made prominent, are given subordinate place. The “I” has no special importance in the sentence that should make it take rank above "maintain," but is inseparably linked with it and tends to stand on the same pitch level. So, likewise, with the other pairs of words of the sentence. This mode of dropping the voice arbitrarily, without regard to the meaning, is usually more monotonous than the use of a singing tone on individual words. It generally occurs in almost every sentence, with a regularity that shows a decided lack of mental discrimination and reduces the speaker's delivery to a rhythmical swing that is mechanical in the extreme.
This fault serves to reëmphasize the importance of plain conversation as the basis for all good speaking. When the voice is guided by the mind it generally attacks a higher level of pitch in the expression of ideas that are important, and a lower level for those that are subordinate. Thus there is the natural flexibility of the voice that is heard in all animated conversation. But