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sweeter to us than any we shall hear until we listen to some warbling angel in the overture to that eternity of blissful harmonies we hope to enjoy....
“I wish you could hear my sister's voice," said the schoolmistress.
“If it is like yours, it must be a pleasant one,” said I. “I never thought mine was anything,” said the schoolmistress. “ How should
know ? ” said I.“ People never hear their own voices any more than they see their own faces. There is not even a looking-glass for the voice. Of course, there is something audible to us when we speak, but that something is not our own voice as it is known to all our acquaintances. I think, if an image spoke to us in our own tones, we should not know them in the least.”
Holmes : The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table.
(2) Strong and elevated feeling. When feeling is intense, or when the spirit is uplifted in contemplation of that which is noble, sublime, and awe-inspiring, the tone naturally becomes strong, full, round, and open. This tone of enlarged volume and resonance, as distinguished from the voice of ordinary speech, has been called “orotund.” But it differs from the usual voice of conversation merely in the strength and fullness of resonance. It is the same tone, produced in the same way, but intensified and enlarged in response to stronger and deeper feeling. Under the stimulus of intense emotions and with the inspiration of exalted thought, the breathing becomes more energetic, the chest expands, the throat opens, and the full resonant power of the voice is heard. The public speaker may begin his address in a conversational tone, but as his thought reaches higher levels, and as his feelings grow more intense and exalted, his voice becomes full, strong, and more resonant, and his style of speech is elevated above that of ordinary, everyday talk. But his expression is none the les natural. Under such conditions the usual colloquial style would be unnatural. Adequate expression of the fol.
lowing lines of intense excitement cannot be given in a conversational manner.
" Who dares ?” this was the patriot's cry,
Come out with me, in Freedom's name,
Read: The Rising. The alert reader will not speak these words in a break. fast-table, “Pass the butter, please," manner of utterance, but in the strong, firm, resonant tone consistent with their heroic spirit.
Imagine in your mind the scene described in the lines taken from Coleridge's Hymn to Mont Blanc, put yourself in the place of the author, and holding the vision be fore you, breathe deeply, open the throat and give voice to the feelings of admiration, wonder, awe, and worship which the scene awakens within you.
Thou too, hoar Mount! with thy sky-pointing peaks,
rising sun, Earth, with her thousand voices, praises God. (3) Somber and reflective moods. When the mind is oppressed with sorrow or gloom, or is “clouded with a
doubt,” the voice, while usually pure, has not the bright, clear, ringing tone of more usual states of feeling, - of cheerfulness, hope, or gayety,— but its tone is dull, covered, somber. Picture the conditions described in the first verses taken from Byron's poem Darkness, and in voicing the lines take time to realize vividly the meaning of every image.
I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
A fearful hope was all the world contain'd. (4) Genial emotions. Feelings of gladness, elation, exultation in healthful action, all genial and fanciful emotions, find their true expression in tones of clear, bright quality. Oh, our manhood's prime vigor! No spirit feels waste, Not a muscle is stopped in its playing nor sinew unbraced. Oh, the wild joys of living! the leaping from rock up to rock, The strong rending of boughs from the fir-tree, the cool silver
shock Of the plunge in a pool's living water, the hunt of the bear, And the sultriness showing the lion is couched in his lair. And the meal, the rich dates yellowed over with gold dust divine, And the locust-flesh steeped in the pitcher, the full draught of wine, And the sleep in the dried river-channel where bulrushes tell That the water was wont to go warbling so softly and well. How good is man’s life, the mere living! how fit to employ All the heart and the soul and the senses forever in joy!
2. Abnormal, or impure tone. By abnormal or impure tone we mean those qualities of voice resulting from unusual physical conditions, or from abnormal, excited states of mind and emotion. Thus weakness, alarm, anger, fear, hate, excessive joy or grief - all feeling, in fact, which passes beyond the bound of absolute control - disturb the conditions of tone-production and affect the voice in strange ways. Iu training the voice for ordinary speech these conditions need little emphasis. Pure, normal tone is the essential thing. But, since in literature we find recorded all experiences and emotions of men, the ability to recognize and adjust oneself to them and the education of the voice to express all kinds and shades of feeling are necessary for interpretative reading. The selfish, unyielding character and sinister motives of Shylock cannot be suggested by pure tone. His nature is harsh and his dark thoughts express themselves in harsh, guttural sounds. Try reading aloud the speech of Shylock quoted below in a clear, pleasant, affable voice. The inconsistency of thought and expression will be obvious. Read the lines again, letting the antagonistic and revengeful spirit of the character control the tone. In the latter reading the tone can hardly be called pure in quality.
Salarino. Why, I am sure, if he forfeit, thou wilt not take his flesh: what's that good for?
Shylock. To bait fish withal: if it will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge. He hath disgraced me, and hinder'd me half a million ; laugh’d at my losses, mock'd at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies; and what's his reason? I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes ? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions ? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, bealed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed ? if you tickle us, do we not laugh ? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? if we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility ? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.
Shakespeare: Merchant of Venice, III, i.
Moreover, alarm, fear, intense hatred, secrecy, and, in iact, almost all emotions when carried to an extreme and beyond the control and restraint of the will, tend to breathy, or aspirated, tone. An example of this is found in the apprehension, fear, and horror of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth after the murder of the sleeping Duncan.
Macbeth (within). Who's there? what, ho!
Lady Macbeth. Alack! I am afraid they have awak'd,
Enter Macbeth Macbeth. I have done the deed. Didst thou not hear a poise ?
Lady Macbeth. I heard the owl scream and the crickets cry. Did not you speak ? Macbeth.
When? Lady Macbeth.
As I descended ? Lady Macbeth. Ay.