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sound leaves us entirely without a basis upon which to construct a system of pronunciation which would be orderly and satisfactory.
The eye and ear need the same training. They must be taught in harmony, else the results will be imperfect. If the letter a always stood for a simple sound, having once learned it, the eye would recognize it, and the voice know at once what sound to make. Now it must have some person's authority, who has several other backers of equal authority; and if these are not at hand, it must venture a guess of one sound out of four, and run the gauntlet of ridicule if the guess do not hit upon the sanctioned sound. Perhaps no one realizes the painful vexations which result from this more than the teacher of elocution. However, we can only enter our protest, and then do our best with the material we have.
We will now return to the letters, and divide them into three distinct classes.
0. A has four regular sounds.
O has three regular sounds. Name sound, as in. ale Long sound, as in .
old Grave sound,
Close sound, Broad sound,
U has three regular sounds.
.mute E has two regular sounds.
Long sound, as in .
ир Long sound, as in .
full Short sound,
Y has three sounds.
isle Y duplicate of I long," rhyme Short sound,
ill Y duplicate of I short, hymn
Oi, as in
oil | Ou, as in .
THE VOWELS—THE ENGLISH ALPHABET-VOWELS AND ASPIRATES-VIBRA
TIONS OF ATMOSPHERE IN SPEAKING AND SINGING-VOWEL-SOUNDS THE MOTIVE POWER OF SPEECH.
The letters a, e, i, o, u, y, are called vowels. These vowels we will call vocalized breath-sound. They are the only pure voicesounds which we have, and constitute the musical material of both speech and song, and are embodied in all passional and emotional expressions of voice. They are free, open sounds, the simplest ones we make, and are capable of great prolongation.
They are produced in the larynx, and derive their character of sound by the position and shape of the mouth, tongue, and lips while uttering them.
To render these sounds full, clear, and pure in tone, free from nasal adulterations, and without running into a different vowel-sound, is an important object to attain, * one that requires persistent care and practice, and without which there can not be such a thing as a sweet and musical voice.
This practice should be instituted as a daily exercise until the abdominal and respiratory muscles work in perfect harmony with the vocal chords, and all have gained sufficient strength and unity of action to enable the pupil to prolong the sound in pure and even tone; also to increase it in great volume, and diminish again to an almost imperceptible tone, yet preserving the evenness and uniformity of the vibrations.
In our table of twenty-six letters, or English alphabet, we have all the characters used in the broad and almost boundless field of English literature. They also stand as representatives of all the sounds we use in speech. It seems hardly possible, when we think of the many words spoken and the hundreds of thousands of volumes written, that these twenty-six letters should comprise all the material used in this great work. Imperfect as they are, we may congratulate ourselves that they have served so good and grand a purpose, and that they have enabled us to accomplish so much.
* I is a combination of ah-e. In making and prolonging it the voice must glide into one or the other of these sounds. It ought to be placed with the diphthongs.
They tell us, either in written or spoken words, all we know of the history of the earth on which we live and of the human family; all we have learned of the progress of science and art. They give us the ideal creations of the novelist and the poet. They are the medium through which we have had transmitted to us the inspirations of prophets and seers. And yet in our spoken language we have not treated them well, and we continue every day to treat them not only disrespectfully, but meanly; for we deprive them of the proper display of their great beauty by not articulating them clearly.
Now it is important that all should become acquainted with these little symbols; study their forms and proportions as expressed in sounds, and learn what are their specific uses.
The vowels have a mission specifically their own. The subvowels and aspirates have quite another.
The vowels convey the full voice. All the vowels, when clearly and fully uttered, vibrate nothing but voice-sound. They are used as motive power to convey words from the speaker to the listener. We might almost say we shoot words on these sounds. We will take for illustration the word hope. Let us sound the long vowel o alone; then the apirates h and p by themselves; then unite them, and we find the importance which is attached to voice vibrations. If we articulate the aspirates by themselves, they can be heard but a few yards from us; but when uttered in connection with vowels they are easily distinguished at a comparatively great distance.
“Wonderful truths, and manifold as wondrous,
God hath written in the stars above;
Stands the revelation of his love.
Gorgeous flowers in the sunlight shining,
Blossoms flaunting in the eye of day,
Buds that open only to decay.
Brilliant hopes, all woven in gorgeous tissues,
Flaunting gaily in the golden light;
Tender wishes blossoming at night.
These in flowers and men are more than seeming,
Workings are they of the self-same powers
Seeth in himself and in the flowers."
A given number of vibrations make a particular note or tone, but a forcible continuance of the tone makes prolongation. Singing can be heard farther than speaking, for the reason that there is a greater prolongation of vowel-sounds in song than in speech. This is philosophical. The atmosphere surrounding the earth, by a beautiful and wise provision of our Creator, is made of vibratory and elastic quality, which renders it the general receptacle and medium of sound. Voice-sound being a sensation produced by tremulous motion, the waves of air thus continuously agitated convey the pulsations to the ear. Therefore the more forcible and continuous these pulsations the farther the sound is conveyed. It is the rapid and continuous vibration of the vocal muscles that produce the prolongation of sound; and the more even the pulsation the smoother and more musical the tones.
If we speak, in an ordinary conversational pitch of voice, the words hope or home, we find the vibrations of the vowels are stopped in the mouth for the articulating organs to form the letters p and m; but if we sing the words, the vibrations are continued as long as we dwell upon that particular note. In singing the articulatory sounds are secondary to the vowel or emotional sounds; while in speaking the expression of thought and ideas requires the clearly-defined expression of the constrained aspirate and sub vowel sounds. Therefore, if we wish our voices to penetrate to great distances, we must use force that will produce continuous vibrations, sufficient to carry the sound to the desired point. If we have not power to do this, the sound of course must stop exactly where the vibration or air-wave ceases. Let this fact be distinctly impressed upon the minds of all who desire to become public speakers.
Another fact must be remembered, which is, that it is one thing to be heard and quite another thing to be understood. A speaker may have great power in rolling out sounds, yet the aspirates and subvowels may be so feebly given, or mouthed in such a slovenly way, as to make the speech all sound and no sense. It is plain that the vowels must receive great practice in regard to loudness, to length of tone, to clearness of tone, to evenness in swelling and diminishing the same sound, either for speaking or singing.
The vowel-sounds are the basis of spoken language, and subserve a double purpose. They are not only the motive power of speech, but express the musical tones, and to a great degree the affectional and passional elements. This will be readily seen if we notice the utterances of animals and birds, also of children before they learn to express their wants and desires by articulated words.
VOCAL GYMNASTICS — EXERCISES IN ACCENT AND EMPHASIS — SOUNDS OF
THE LETTER A.
Every pupil should be required to notice distinctly not only all the specific sounds of our language, simple and compound, but also the different and exact positions of the vocal organs necessary to produce them. The teacher should unyieldingly insist upon having these two things faithfully attended to; for success in elocution and music absolutely demands it. No one therefore should wish to be excused from a full and hearty compliance. Master these elementary principles, and you will have command of all the mediums for communicating your thoughts and feelings.
In practicing the following vocal-sounds the mouth must be as wide open and the lips as free and expanded as the nature of the sound will allow. The sounds must be made pure and strong, free from any nasal taint; the position of the body elevated enough to permit the perfect and harmonious action of the dorsal and abdominal muscles.
When the sound is entirely emitted the mouth must be closed, and the replenishing breath received slowly and moderately through the nose. There must be no raising of the shoulders, nor any kind of heaving or motion of the upper portions of the lungs; but an even inhalation, that will contract the diaphragm and put in motion the abdominal muscles.
The pupil in elocution and music is strongly urged to attend to the right and the wrong method of producing the sounds of our letters, as well as in enunciating words. By all means make the effort entirely below the diaphragm, while the chest is comparatively at rest; and as you value health and life, and good natural speaking, avoid the cruel practice of exploding the sounds, by whomsoever taught or recommended. The author's long experience and practice, with his sense of duty, justify this protest against that unnatural manner of coughing out the sounds, as it is called. Nine tenths of his hundreds of pupils whom he has cured of the bronchitis have induced the disease by this exploding process, which ought itself to be exploded.