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free and easy passage. The sound thus resisted is tortured by overcoming the obstacles by which it is impeded. These modifications have a similar action upon the vocal organs to the pressure of the lips upon the mouth-piece of a wind instrument; but in addition to this, the muscles possess the singular power of lengthening or shortening the windpipe, by depressing the chin, which in effect widens it for the lower tones, while poking it out narrows it for the upper. * Hence it will appear that the whole of these operations are mechanical, and that the muscles engaged will require constant practice to bring them into activity and perfect obedience.
A full and retentive breath is the only basis upon which a pure and firm tone can be formed. I For this, the shoulders should be thrown a little backward, standing in an easy posture, and opening the
* Signor Ferlendi, when in England, performed upon an oboe in the Opera-house, one of the joints of wbich was formed of leather, which he twisted or contracted in a way so like the windpipe, that he produced a talking tone much resembling the human voice
† Description of the voice-Haydn and Mozart.
# There is an art in taking the breath. In rapid music it should be drawn as quick as possible, and without the least noise. It should never be replenished in the middle of a word or division, so as to break a regular succession of notes. By practice, the retention of the breath can be carried to a great extent. Farinelli could sing three hundred notes in a breath, while many of our public singers are ready to drop with exhaustion in getting through the division of twelve bars in the last song of the Messiah. Though the noise of drawing the breath has been condemned, yet in the theatre, in scenes of agitation, the noise adds much to the dramatic effect.
chest, by which a deep inspiration can only be taken. From these directions it will be discovered that the point of action in the voice is seated in the throat, near where the hair terminates at the back of the neck. This place may be considered as the antechamber to the mouth, in which compartment all the beauties of execution must be prepared, never advancing into the mouth, or sinking into the throat, as the least deviation either one way or the other will render the tone harsh and hard, thick, throaty, and guttural.* In the ascending scale the tones should diminish in volume and increase in brilliancy as they rise upward: to produce this, we gradually lessen the aperture of the throat, increasing the velocity of the breath; and if we were to compare the lowest note in the voice to the figure and size of a billiard ball, we should say that the sounds should so diminish, that the highest should not be larger than a pea. The lower notes of most voices are formed in the chest, which may be felt by laying the hand upon the breast, as the sound produces a very perceptible vibration. This portion of the voice is called by the Italians the voce de petto, or voice of the breast. Upon this stands the common voice, and immediately above it comes the voce de testa, or the voice of the head, the notes of which are formed at the highest point of the
* Madame Camporese's performance was truly excellent, except that some of her notes partook of the throaty tone, highly sickening and disgusting to the ear.
vocal organs. The tones of the voce de petto are of an instinctive nature, and are the most passionate that we utter; they express our inmost feelings, and are termed the language of the heart, as it is from the region of the heart that they spring.
The tones of the voce de testa are of a very opposite kind to that deep and inward feeling of the lower voice. Its high and piercing cry is rather the language of imposture than sincerity.* In the voices of men the voce de testa is sometimes termed a falsetto, or feigned voice, the tone of which is similar to the constrained effect of over-blowing an organ-pipe or a fute. This fictitious voice is now abandoned by composers of the present day, as being devoid of strength and expression. The effect of these voices is strikingly shown in contrast by those persons who are called ventriloquists. The celebrated Alexander imitates the conversation of three persons so completely, as to deceive the most experienced ear. By depressing the windpipe into the chest, though a slender man, he utters tones of that breadth and gravity which might be supposed to come from a gruff, domineering person of gigantic stature; this is nothing more than employing the voce de petto ;t and then, by contracting the upper part of the throat, he diminishes these tones into the acute and feeble voice of a child. With these contrary voices, interposing his own natural voice occasionally, he carries on a conversation between a lad and his surly master with such admirable effect, that besides himself you are led to believe there are two other persons in an adjacent room. This exhibition takes place on the stage, and as a climax to his performance, you hear, while he opens and shuts a door, the cries of children, dogs, and cats so well imitated by the skilful manner he diminishes and swells his voice, that you are compelled to believe the sounds come from persons at a distance, though the whole proceeds only from himself.
* On hearing a criminal whipt in a public market-place, I was persuaded the cry was not that of pain or anguish ; and, upon inquiry, I learnt from the jailer that the culprit was so little hurt, that he said he would undergo the punishment again for half-a-crown.
f The howl of wild beasts is of this description ;-the roar of tigers and lions fills us with horror, from the magnitude of chest required to
The natural qualities of the voice are as various as they are innumerable. We seldom meet with two alike. The key or pitch of voices is also very dissimilar; they are generally classed in the following order :-Among females the soprano is the highest, mezzo soprano the middle, and contralto the lowest. Those of men are alto, tenor, and bass, and they are an octave lower in tone than those of females. The voices of women are more active, and better adapted for execution than those of men, while the latter have more passion and pathos. In excellence they are infinitely more rare, for of the highest order there appears scarcely more than one first-rate man singer in a generation. To acquire à good and pleasing tone, every experiment for modifying the voice should be tried; whenever success is obtained to the satisfaction of the ear, we should accurately notice the position of the organs, so that we may be enabled to repeat a tone of the same quality at pleasure. Considerable assistance may be obtained, as regards the opening of the mouth, by practising before a mirror. In the early schools of Rome, it was the custom daily to take the pupils beyond the walls, to a stone celebrated for its echo, which repeated the same sound several times. Here the scholars were exercised by making them sing opposite the stone, which, by distinctly repeating the sounds, warned them of their defects, and they were enabled to correct their errors with greater ease.
produce tones so hollow and deep. Depth of voice fills the mind with an idea of an enormous being; and children in their frolics frighten each other by imitating these voices,