In March, 1906, the editor of Harper'sBazar began a crusade in the interest of theAmerican voice and speech. Through theissues of more than a year the magazine pub[Pg 9]lishedarraignment, admonition, and adviceon this subject. It was the privilege of theauthor of this volume to contribute the lastfour articles in that series. In response toa definite demand from the readers of theBazar these articles were later embodied ina little book called The Speaking Voice. In apreface to this book the author confesses her\"deliberate effort to simplify and condensethe principles fundamental to all recognizedsystems of vocal instruction,\" making themavailable for those too occupied to enter uponthe more exhaustive study set forth in moreelaborate treatises. The book was not intendedfor hours of class-room work in schoolsor colleges, but for the spare moments of abusiness or social life, and its reception inthat world was gratifying. But, to theauthor's delight, the interest aroused createda demand in the schools and colleges for areal text-book, a book which could be putinto the hands of students in the departmentsof English and expression in public andprivate institutions and colleges, and especiallyin normal schools. It is in response to[Pg 10]that appeal that this class-book in Vocal Expressionis issued; and it is to the teacherswhose impelling interest and enthusiasm inthe subject justify the publication of thisvolume that the author desires first to expressher grateful appreciation.
And now, as a final step in this preliminarystudy, a step which shall again give practice[Pg 55]in both forms of expression, you are to choosefrom your vital interests one concerningwhich you hold intense convictions. Firstyou are to set forth these convictions in thestrongest piece of persuasive prose you cancommand: this is work for your study.Second, you are to summon all your vocalresources, and, with the one idea of persuadingus of the truth of your convictions,make to us for them a direct appeal: thiswork is for the class-room. So shall we havecombined the preliminary study in vocalexpression of direct appeal with the preliminarystudy in verbal expression ofpersuasion.
Before leaving the illustration of a theme onthe influence of college life we may glance amoment more at the difficulty, even with sosimple a subject, of attaining perfect clarity ofthinking. One of the first things which must bedetermined is the essential difference of life ina college from ordinary existence. If the subjectbe given out to a class of students half thethemes handed in will begin with a remark uponthe great change which comes to a boy whofinds himself for the first time freed from therestraints of home. The moment this idea ispresented to the mind it is to be looked at,not as something with which to fill so muchpaper, but as a stepping-stone toward ideasbeyond. It is necessary, for instance, to determinethe distinctions between freedom atcollege and freedom elsewhere; to decide[Pg 77]wherein lie the differences in the conditionswhich surround a boy in a university and onewho escapes from the restrictions of home bygoing away to live in a city or in a countryvillage, on shipboard or in the army. To beof value, every thought in an exposition musthave been tested by a comparison with alliedideas as wide and as exhaustive as the thinkeris equal to making.
Alice was not a bit hurt, and she jumped upon her feet in a moment. She looked up, butit was all dark overhead; before her was anotherlong passage, and the White Rabbit wasstill in sight, hurrying down it. There was nota moment to be lost; away went Alice like thewind, and was just in time to hear it say, as itturned a corner, \"Oh my ears and whiskers, howlate it's getting!\" She was close behind itwhen she turned the corner, but the Rabbit wasno longer to be seen; she found herself in along, low hall, which was lit up by a row oflamps hanging from the roof.
To such stimulating exercise in the vocalinterpretation of these poems of action, Ileave you and your imagination. I shallhope to find difficulty in recognizing eitherof you at our next meeting. Like Mr.Rhoades's pupil when he emerged from theNinth book of Paradise Lost, you ought tohave \"outgrown all your present intellectualclothes\" in the study of these stories inverse.
Our last form for interpretative vocal studyis the play. We shall discover that the presentationof the play makes the same demandsupon the interpreter as the monologuewith the new element of transition. We arestill studying the monologue, because we areto read, not act, the play. It is still suggestive,not actualized impersonation. Butinstead of one character to suggestively setforth we have two, three, a dozen to present.The transition from character to characterbecomes our one new problem. As we havesaid before, in making the transition fromcharacter to character, voice, mind, and bodymust be so volatile that the action of theplay shall not be interrupted. I know of no[Pg 237]better way to enter upon the study of a playfor reading (or acting) than to treat eachcharacter as the speaker in a monologue ofthe Browning type. The danger in transitionfrom character to character centers inthe instant's pause when one speaker yieldsto another. The unskilful reader loses bothcharacters at this point and becomes consciousof himself; the action of the play stops;and the illusion of scene and situation is lost.The great reader of the play (in that instant'spause), as he utters the last word ofone character, becomes the interlocutor listeningto the words which he as the othercharacter has just uttered. In that instanthe must show the effect of the speech he hasjust uttered upon the character he has justbecome. Which is the greater art: to reada play, or to act in it
Some one has called inflection a runningcommentary of the emotions upon thethought. Emphasis might well be definedin the same way. The definition would needto be a bit more inclusive, since emphasisincludes inflection. Emphasis then may bedefined as a running commentary of thethought and emotion of the reader upon thethought of the text he interprets. The[Pg 259]words reveal the thought; your valuationof that thought, as you interpret it, is revealedthrough your vocal vocabulary invoicing it. We, your auditors, can onlygather from your emphasis your valuationof the truth or importance of what you areuttering. You may use one or all of the elementsof your vocal vocabulary to bring outthe thought of a single phrase. The elements ofthe vocal vocabulary are all forms of emphasis.
All between, beginning with the second line,\"Bidding my organ obey,\" and including thelast words of the eighth line, \"the princess[Pg 265]he loved,\" is a branch channel, leading awayfrom and coming back to the main river'sbed. But this branch channel is interruptedin turn by its own branch leading away fromit and returning with it to join the main bedwith the last line we quote. This secondbranch begins in the middle of the third linewith the words, \"As when Solomon willed,\"wanders in this course for five lines, and,rejoining the first offshoot, returns to themain channel with the last line. Now turnon the stream, the Voice, and watch it flowinto the course as traced. Analyze the readingas to the use of pause and change ofpitch.
Let us first examine this change of pitchwithin a word which we call inflection. Howdoes the pitch change, and why, and whatdoes the change indicate We have dis[Pg 269]coveredthat a change of thought resultsin a broad change of pitch from word toword, phrase to phrase, sentence to sentence,and we shall discover that a change in emotionresults in a change in the color of thetone we are using; but this element of ourvocal vocabulary, inflection, is subtler thaneither of the other two. While change ofpitch is an intellectual modulation, and variationin tone-color is an emotional modulation,inflection, in a degree, combines both. Itis a change in both color and key within theword. It is primarily of intellectual significance,but it also reveals certain temperamentalcharacteristics which cannot be disassociatedwith emotion. For instance, thestaccato utterance of Mrs. Fiske is technicallythe result of her use of straight, swift-fallinginflections, but it is temperamentallythe result of thinking and feeling in termsof Becky Sharp.
And so the seeming inquisition proceeds.To each relentlessly searching interrogationfrom Gianello comes Vanna's unfaltering reply,in a single, swift monosyllable, \"Yes\"or \"No.\" The same word, but, oh, the revelationwhich may lie in the inflection of thatword! Let us try it. Let us read the scenealoud, first giving as nearly as possible thesame inflection to each of Vanna's answers,then let us voice it again, putting into thecurve of the tone within the narrow space ofthe two or three lettered monosyllables allthe concentrated mental passion of Vanna'ssoul in its attitude toward the terrible situationand toward the man whom she believesto be her enemy. This is a most difficult[Pg 275]exercise, but if \"a man's reach should exceedhis grasp,\" it will not retard our progresstoward the goal of a vocal vocabulary toattempt it now. Apart from all aim in itspursuit, there is no more fascinating studythan this study of inflection. In this day ofartistic photography there is an endless interestfor the artist of the camera in playingwith a subject's expression by varying thelight and shade thrown upon the face. Sofor the student of vocal expression there isendless interest in this play with the thoughtbehind a group of words by varying the inflectionof those words. Lady Macbeth's,\"We fail!\" or Macbeth's, \"If it were donewhen 'tis done, then 'twere well it were donequickly,\" occurs to us, of course, as richmaterial for this exercise.
The importance of a right use of tone-colorin vocal interpretation was impressed upona Browning class last winter. We were readingthe Dramatic Lyrics. The poem for thehour was Meeting at Night. The tone withwhich the first student attacked this exquisitelove-lyric was so businesslike, so matterof fact, so utterly out of key, that we wholistened saw not the lover hastening to his[Pg 288]beloved, but a real-estate agent \"out to buy\"a farm. The \"gray sea, the long black land,the yellow half-moon large and low, the startledlittle waves that creep in fiery ringletsfrom their sleep, the pushing prow of theboat quenched in the slushy sand, the warm,sea-scented beach, and the three fields\" allassumed a merely commercial value. Theywere interesting exactly as would be a catalogueof properties in a deed of real estate.If you are not a very intense member ofa Browning society you will, I think, enjoythe test of tone-color involved in reading thispoem from the contrasted standpoints of thebusiness man and the lover. Of course, in thefirst instance you must stop where I, in desperation,stopped the student on the words,\"a farm appears.\" For I defy any one toread the last two lines in a gray, matter-of-facttone. 59ce067264