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Melody of Beginning of “Speech on Forefathers' Dav":
FIG. 55. Some speech waves. From E. W. Scripture's Experimental Phonetics, published by the Carnegie Institution,
Prof. Scripture in describing the speech melody represented in Fig. 55 says:
“We note that in the first phrase the melody rises somewhat suddenly at the start according to the typical convex form of the American sentence. Instead, however, of completing the convexity it suddenly rises at the end. The average tone is rather low. . . . The evenness of the melody gives it solemnity, the steady rise through the phrase gives it pomposity, the sudden rise at the end makes it somewhat brusque and challenging. . . .
“In the fifth phrase the melody is of a different kind. There is more flexibility and the convexity is completed by a low fall. In the sixth phrase there are four strong subordinate convexities for the four emphatic units, “married, ‘old,’ ‘fashioned, ‘way.” These are fused to a phrase with very flexible melody. The phrase ends with a fall in melody and a pause, although it needs the words “without regard to race or creed” to complete it. These last two phrases are in contrast to the first four. The evenness is replaced by great flexibility, the rise at the end is replaced by an exaggerated fall.
“The entire effect of such a melody is distinctly humorous — an effect that is increased by the very low tones employed, especially at the end (going as low as nearly 50 vibrations a second). It is a common device of humor to imitate solemnity in its chief traits and to change one of them into an inconsistency. Here the effect is that of a staid humor of a mild degree. . . . Throughout the record the melody is one that is appropriate to the ceremonial oration, with a constant humorous twist to it. The unusually long pauses between the phrases, with the low and monotonous pitch, aid in the ceremonious expression.”
FAULTS IN SPEECH MELODY
As the skillful opera singer excels the unpracticed vocalist in his execution of melody, so the person that has had training in speech melody will excel the one who has not, and for the benefit of the student a few of the common faults in speech melody are set down below.
Before giving these, however, it may be well to state the general truth, that every speech note is a slide, that it passes from one degree of pitch to another without being held appreciably at any point. This does not at all conflict with what has been said about steps, for, in taking steps, the voice simply stops one note (which is a slide, of course) and starts in at a new place to make another note (which is also a slide). The slides mentioned in previous lessons are merely the important slides, and it must be understood that every speech note is in reality a slide.
Do not confuse song notes and speech notes. – With the foregoing truth in mind, the student is now cautioned against the use of song notes in speech. In a large room, or sometimes in a small one, there is a tendency to prolong a word or syllable on one plane of pitch, giving a sort of calling effect. This turns the speech note into a song note, for this is just the difference between song and speech : Song stays on one degree of pitch, on one note, while speech must be going either up or down, and does not stay in one place. The best way to avoid song notes in speech is to talk to one of the front seats just as you would talk to a friend ; then, keeping the same slides, talk to the back seats. “Tell it to the audience.” Don't say words, but TELL them what you have to say; GET THE THOUGHT to them.
Do not use too narrow a range of melody. — One of the most common faults among young speakers, and yet one which can be easily remedied, is that of using too narrow a range of melody. Some students rarely use over three or four notes. Enlarge the range of melody. Remember that a speech to a thousand people is a speech to a few, greatly magnified. Just as you write a small hand on a sheet of writing paper, but write a large hand on the blackboard, so you can use a small range in talking to a small audience, but you must use a wide range in talking to a large audience. Go high and low in placing your words. Place your emphatic words higher up and make your slides longer.
Do not use the semitone, except for sadness, pity, etc. —Every student knows that on the piano, and in singing, we have whole tones, or steps, and half tones. For instance, it is a full step from c to d, and only a half step from c to c-sharp. These same half tones exist in speech. Their use, however, should be confined to things pathetic, sad, plaintive, etc. They are used in complaining, crying, etc., but should not be introduced in ordinary speech. Often, however, especially in the lower grades of the high school, whole passages, even of the most positive utterance, will be given with this semitone. The student can easily get the semitone by giving the sentence, “Are you sick, peor fellow 2" with a voice full of pity. On the word sick will occur a good example of the semitone. Now give the same sentence without any feeling at all. At once the difference will be apparent. The way to avoid the semitone is to be more positive, to come clear down on your slides, to settle the thing.
Do not drop the last note, or the last few notes, too abruptly at the end of the sentence. — This is quite a common fault, especially with those who have a tendency to spasmodic emphasis. For instance, in the sentence “I will not speak to him,” the last two words might be dropped so suddenly that the audience would be unable to catch them. A few sentences to illustrate this fault are given below.
This explained all. The Emperor had demonstrated his right to be called the Royal Bowman of the world.
Do not run out of the compass of your voice. —When a long word comes at the end of a sentence there is often a tendency not to start high enough, thus throwing the last syllable too low for a good tone, so that instead of being a tone at all, it is a mere whisper. If the dotted line given below were to represent the lower limit of your compass, you can at once see that it would be very easy to throw the last syllable of artistically out of pitch.
She sang very artistically.