Imagens das páginas
[ocr errors]

tances by supposing that, in ascending from the note C to D, the interval is equal to an inch; and from D to E the same: but from E to F, only half an inch. Then from F to G, G to A, and A to B, each an inch; but from B to C only half an inch, thus : C D E F


On turning to the keys of a piano-forte, we observe that the inch intervals are divided by black keys, which strike the intermediate half tones, which keys take the name as the sharp of the note immediately below, or as the flat of the note immediately above, The scale thus divided consists of twelve semitones. The art of finding the right sound upon the voice depends upon well recollecting the harmonics of the key; that is, the key note, the third, the fifth, and the octave. Formerly, when pitch pipes were the only instruments known in choirs, it was a common practice with the leader to run the following notable flourish upon his voice before they struck up the tune.

These notes, being steadily kept in the recollection, form rallying points, or stepping stones, by which any of the other intervals may be readily approached. Perhaps the greatest difficulty lies in hitting the seventh, or half note below the octave. One way is to glance first upon the octave, and in a whining tone (lest it should be too flat) descend upon it.* The alto and tenor clefs often prove a source of embarrassment to those who are only acquainted with the G clef; but the difficulty may be removed by the following expedient :


We have only to imagine the G clef placed before it, thus :

and we are enabled to sing it, as if it were in the key of B, though it is written and sung in C. The tenor,

in a similar way, may be imagined to be in the key of D, thus :

• It greatly contributes to the truth of good singing to make this interval of a keen and biting quality of tone. Composers often give this note in a change of harmony to the oboe or trumpet for this effect.

By pursuing this method, the difficulty of performing in these clefs is instantly removed. Authors have endeavored to get rid of them. Clementi has substituted the bass for the tenor in his edition of the Creation; and Dr. Clarke, in his edition of the Messiah, discarded them both, by which he has committed the fault of writing the alto and tenor an octave too high. A more correct plan is that which the author has adopted in the Sacred Melodies, namely, to consider the soprano and alto parts the same as the first and second violin in the G clef, and the vocal tenor as the viola ; the advantage of which is, that we have but one language for the instruments and the voices. To sing expertly at sight requires a thorough knowledge of harmony, which can only be learnt upon the piano-forte, and the constant practice of singing the interior parts of concerted pieces. This will teach the eye to read, and the voice to maintain itself, without the aid of an instrument.



In the whole hemisphere of sounds, there is no circumstance more strikingly curious than that of an


echo. To hear one's own voice returned, as if it were the voice of another, is perhaps more surprising than the reflection of one's self in a glass. Indeed there is so close a resemblance between the effects of light and sound, that we might almost suppose them governed by the same laws. Sound is not only reflected in the same way, but it may also be converged into a point like light. An imperfect experiment of this kind may be tried upon Westminster-bridge in the night-time. If a person whisper in one of the alcoves (the form of which produces the effect), he will be distinctly heard in the opposite one, though at so great a distance; but a still more striking instance, of a similar kind, takes place in the whispering gallery that encircles the inside of the dome of St. Paul's.*

Echoes are produced by the voice falling upon a reflecting body—as a house, a hill, or a wood. These objects, at seventy feet distance from the speaker, will distinctly return a monosyllable; and, for every forty feet farther from the reflecting body, a syllable more. In Italy, where the atmosphere and the country are so favorable to echoes, you meet with many of extraordinary duration. Some repeat whole strains of music, which have given rise to those puerile repetitions, or symphonies, to be met with in early writers of that country. So perfect is the echo, that the ear is often deceived in not distinguishing the reflected sounds from those which are direct. In listening to the ringing of bells, when an object so intervenes as to cut off the direct rays, we hear the sounds as if they came from the other side of the street, and imagine the church to be in an opposite quarter. In whistling, or calling to a dog, you find him so deceived by this circumstance, as sometimes to run away from you. It is this reflex of sound that contributes so much to the musical excellence of a well-constructed room; and it is a mistaken notion, that curvatures, circular walls, or arched roofs, add to its perfection. On the contrary, they injure the general effect, by converging the rays of sound into large portions, and throwing them into particular parts of the room. The best figure for a concert-room is a parallelogram, or long square, in which the sounds are equally diffused.* Our cathedrals partake of this form, and are the finest buildings in the country for the display of musical effects.f

* From the figure of the cupola the sounds are so concentrated, that you hear a constant boiling noise, similar to that of a sea-shell when applied to the ear.

* Two cubes placed together are considered a good proportion. Drapery should never form part of the furniture ; it utterly destroys the reverberation of sound by absorbing it. The writer sensibly felt a damp cast upon the voice of a singer in a small room upon the entrance of a tall lady, habited in a long woollen cloak. In the American war, the army was separated from the out-posts by a river, not so distant, but a centinel could observe a drummer actively employed with his arms in beating a drum; yet not a note reached the ear, in consequence of a coating of new-fallen snow, which produced the phenomenon of a muffled drum.—Quarterly Review, No. 88. † The writer was admitted to the rehearsal of the first grand per- •


« AnteriorContinuar »