« PreviousContinue »
Follow'd with acclamation, and the sound
Dividing and gliding and sliding,
Retreating and beating and meeting and sheeting,
And so never ending, but always descending,
The Cataract of Lodore : Southey.
ELOCUTIONARY AND POETIC PITCH-TUNES OF VERSE.
Elements entering into the Tunes of Verse : Pitch and Quality-Pitch repre
senting Reflective Tendency or Intellectual Motive--On its Instinctive
We are to take up, now, the elements of clocutionary
, expression which enter into the effects of what are termed the tunes of verse. The first of these elements is pitch.
This word means the same in elocution as in music, and indicates that the consecutive sounds of speech are related to one another in a way analogous to that in which, in singing, they move up and down the musical scale. A whole passage may be delivered on what is termed a high pitch or key, as when one is shouting to a person at a distance ; or it may be delivered on a low one, as when one is groaning. Besides this, in uttering a whole passage, or a single syllable with what is termed an inflection, it is possible for the voice to rise, as is said, from a low to a high pitch, or to fall from a high to a low one.
It is important to notice, also, that, in giving different degrees of pitch, it is not essential to manifest much either of physical energy or of those instinctive modes of psychical emotive expression most allied to it. A hand-organ, in which every note is sounded with the same force and quality, can nevertheless illustrate degrees of pitch so far as concerns this alone. But though neither physical energy nor psychical emotion is represented by pitch, we find that every man, in talking, directs his voice first to one key and then to another; and that, by so doing, he represents to us the general tenor of his reflections. Intelligence of these, therefore, is communicated by pitch; and, usually, too, very definite intelligence of them. What a man wishes to have his tones commumunicate, we can often infer by overhearing them, even amid circumstances rendering it impossible for us to distinguish clearly his words. Often, indeed, his words may mean one thing, and his intonations another, as when a teacher tells the parents of a boy in his school that their son is “doing very well,” at the same time using a very decided rising inflection on the word "well.”
It seems proper to say, therefore, that, in the main, pitch is that part of the generally emotive language of the intonations which is most reflective, representing what may be termed, distinctively, the mental movements, orwhat underlie these—the mental motives or aims. Thus the rising pitch on the word “well," as just quoted, indicates the speaker's motive in what he says. As affected by instinctive or physical tendencies, in the degree in which the predominance of reflective influences is least, the tones are kept on a high level of pitch, or on a "high key"; but as reflective influences become stronger, the tones are kept on a lower level of pitch, or on a "low key." In their
strictly reflective or intellectual phases, the motives cause the pitch to “rise” or “fall” in accordance with the tendency or direction of the ideas, and this mainly in the inflections. The balance maintained between the instinctive and the reflective tendencies—that is, between the different kinds of keys and of the “rising" and “ falling" movements, determines the melody, and represents, of course, the tendency in one or the other direction of the psychic nature.
Considering pitch, first, as influenced by the instinctive nature, it has been noticed that when a man is lighthearted, carrying the least amount of thought, either in quantity or quality,-in other words, when there is nothing to weigh him down, and that which is moving him is light, gay, and lively in its character, he uses high pitch, as in uttering this: O, then I see Queen Mab has been with you.
-Romeo and Juliet, i., 4: Shakespear. But if, on the contrary, his reflective nature is in operation to such an extent and with such subjects that he does feel weighed down, as is the case when that which is moving him is serious, grave, and dignified in its character, calling for more or less expression of soul from him, he uses low pitch, and keeps his voice on it, as in this: Roll on, thou deep and dark blue ocean, roll.
-Childe Harold : Byron. It is hardly necessary to add that, as related to these two extremes, words conveying intelligence of merely ordinary matters, would be uttered at a medium pitch, somewhere between the two. It is equally evident that in dramatic elocution a high key imitates sounds that are high, as in the cry, “ Yell! yell! why don't you!”; and a
low key imitates sounds that are low, as in saying, “Who's there? he growled."
In discoursive elocution, again, the rising and falling movements of the voice, whether used in continuous passages or in the inflections given to single words, represent, as has been said, the direction or tendency of the current of ideas in the mind of the speaker. To extend and explain this, they represent the flowing or checking of his motives as influenced by the instinctive or reflective operations of his mind. The rising movement opens, and, if an inflection, emphatically opens, the channel of thought, as if to speed its current forward. Those listening to it feel, therefore, that the speaker has not yet arrived at a word, or completed an idea, upon which he wishes them very particularly to reflect. This movement produces, therefore, an anticipative or indecisive effect, and indicates what, as compared with the falling movement, is subordinate, negative, or questionable. The downward movement closes, and, if an inflection, emphatically checks, the current of thought, points out to the audience that which has been said, leads them to reflect upon it, and so produces a conclusive, decisive effect, and indicates what is comparatively important, positive, or affirmative. Besides this, there is often, on the same passage or syllable, a movement both upward and downward, or what, if on a single word, is termed a circumflex inflection. This, of course, imparts something of the effects of both the rising and falling movements, though often, especially in the inflections, in accordance with the principle of contrast, it is chiefly employed to give increased effect to the rising or falling movement of the voice with which the circumflex ends, the end of this inflection being that which indicates its main significance.