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41. Faults in the melody of speech I. “Sing-song." A fault of frequent occurrence among untrained readers is known as “sing-song.” This fault consists of the rise and fall of the voice at regular intervals in sequent lines, or phrases, with the recurrence of undue emphasis on a certain metrical beat near the end of each line, usually in the next to the last foot. Thus:
thy This fault seems to be due to an abnormal consciousness and sense of the rhythmic regularity of lines, to which the meaning is sacrificed. It may be corrected by calling attention to the thought of the line and to the words which, if emphasized, will reveal the meaning accurately. In the above stanza, if the central words“ bower,” “green,” “sky,” s clear,” “sorrow," “ song,” “winter,” “year,” are given prominence, the “sing-song” melody will disappear. Correct the meaningless “sing-song” of the next familiar stanza from Gray's Elegy by a truthful rendering of the sense and music of the lines.
The ploughman homeward plods his
and And leaves the world to darkness
2. Intonation. Closely akin to "sing-song” is the fault known as “ intonation.” This consists either of an unnatural circumflex inflection, or a change in pitch of the voice between words, unwarranted by the sense of the passage, in place of a direct, natural rising or falling inflection. It is occasionally heard in the grandiloquent style of some orators when they “soar.” Instead of saying
lamp While in liturgical reading intonation is sometimes taught and may be justifiable, its use in general reading and speaking should be avoided. It destroys the directness of speech, and leads the listener to feel that the speaker is seeking to produce effects by incantation instead of by earnest, clear thought. This mannerism may be overcome if the speaker will ask, whenever he finds himself indulging in such meaningless intonations, “ What is it that I want to say ?” and then answer in a direct, conversational way, using the words he has previously mistreated. In such an answer he would be pretty apt to discover that his feet are guided by a “lamp” rather than by the numeral
one.” Clear thinking and common sense are the best means of overcoming this fault.
3. Minor cadence. In the conversation of everyday life the voice in its rise or fall, passes through whole tones on the musical scale, but when it is allowed to fall short of the major note by half a tone, as in the whine o the petulant child, the cadence is said to be in the minor. Rarely in controlled thought and emotion and in normal states of the individual is the minor heard. It indicates physical weakness or lack of control of the feelings, or an attempt on the part of the speaker to produce effect and arouse sympathy by artificial means. Instead of practice to acquire this minor slide of the voice, effort should rather be made to guard against the use of it, except in those rare instances where the dramatic representation of abnormal characters may require it. The rendering of poems like Tennyson's Crossing the Bar in the minor key degrades such fine lyrical expressions of sentiment to sentimental self-pitying, whining complaints. Read this poem with the firm, normal voice which its dignity, strength and beauty demand.1
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
When I put out to sea,
Too full for sound and foam,
Turns again home.
And after that the dark !
When I embark ;
For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
Tennyson : Crossing the Bar. 1 It is hoped that the above chapter may serve to make clear something of the relation existing between speech and song, and the reason of this kinship, and that it may offer some suggestions which shall prove helpful in over coming faults of speech-melody and in acquiring the ability to express truth, fully the spirit of literature. No two individuals will read a given piece ui literature alike, though each may read it well. Each will set the words to the music of his own mind, -- a melody more or less improvised in response to the play of imagination and feeling. When the reader has
“ heard in his soul the music
Of wonderful melodies" others will hear them in the voice. But without imagination and feeling there can be no music. Nor should melody of utterance be sought as a thing in itself. It comes only as a result of fine sensitiveness to the beauty, imagery, and spirit of thought.
PROBLEMS IN THE MUSIC OF SPEECH 1
1. Unemotional and emotional 1. Francis Bonivard was born in 1496. He was the son of
Louis Bonivard, Lord of Lune, and at the age of sixteen inherited from his uncle the rich priory of St. Victor, close to the walls of Geneva. The Duke of Savoy having attacked the republic of Geneva, Bonivard warmly espoused its cause, and thereby incurred the relentless hostility of the Duke, who caused him to be seized and imprisoned in the castle of Grolée, where he remained two years. On regaining his liberty he returned to his priory, but in 1528 he was again in arms against those who had seized his ecclesiastical revenues. The city of Geneva supplied him with munitions of war, in return for which Bonivard parted with his birthright, the revenues of which were applied by the Genevese to the support of the city hospital. He was afterwards employed in the service of the republic, but in 1530 fell into the power of his old enemy, the Duke of Savoy, who confined him in the castle of Chillon. In 1536 he was liberated by the Bernese and Genevese forces under Nögelin, and he died in 1570 at the age of seventy-four years. (The Castle of Chillon, with its massive walls and towers, stands on an isolated rock twenty-two yards from the bank, with which it is connected by a bridge.)
Baedeker's Switzerland. Eternal Spirit of the chainless Mind !
Brightest in dungeons, Liberty! thou art,
For there thy habitation is the heart
To fetters, and the damp vault's dayless gloom,
Their country conquers with their martyrdom,
And thy sad floor an altar – for ’t was trod, 1 In the first three problems note the difference in the melody of speech in reading the statements of fact and the imaginative and emotional expression of the same ideas.