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ON CONCRETE PITCH, OR SLIDE.
SIMPLE SLIDES OF THE VOICE.
HAVING thus explained the distinction between the two kinds of pitch used in speaking, we proceed now to explain each of them separately. And first, for the uses of concrete pitch, or slide, as an element of expression.
In the last chapter, it was stated that when we sing, the voice continues for some time on one note, and then passes, through a longer or shorter interval of discrete pitch, to another. There is, in learning to sing, no need of attending, at all, to concrete pitch, because no such movement of the voice is required to be used in it. But in speaking, as was shown in the examples given, this is not the case.
We may now go a little further than we went in the last chapter. Very careful observations, made by persons having what is called a very fine ear for music, have shown that the voice goes through some interval or other of concrete pitch, on every syllable which is uttered in speech. This may, perhaps, be thought strange at first by some, but it has been proved beyond a doubt, by those who have made experiments on the subject.
Take a sentence, I am coming to see you today,' for example, and let the whole sentence or any number of the words in it, be first sung, and then
spoken, taking care not to drawl them at all in trying to speak them. It will be seen that there is a great difference, between the sound of any one of the syllables when spoken, and that of the same syllable when sung. This difference is produced by the use of concrete pitch.
Now, let the same sentence be repeated, just as one naturally would in common conversation, but with a pause after the word 'see,' as if the speaker was interrupted; 'I am coming to see The word 'see' has, in such a case, a very peculiar intonation, one which no one can mistake. It makes any one who hears it, feel directly, that something more is to be said. The same intonation will be heard on any other of the words of the sentence, by making the sudden pause after it. ' I—,' ' I am com-,' 'I am coming to-, &c.'
This peculiar expression was found, by Dr. Rush, to depend on the use of concrete pitch. He discovered, by several experiments, that the voice rises, or slides upwards a certain small distance, (or 'interval,' as it is called,) in concrete pitch, between the beginning and the end of the syllable. This small interval is the same with what we call, in music,
a tone.' The slide he therefore named 'the upward slide of the tone.'
The upward slide of the tone is used on all the unemphatic syllables in speaking, which have other syllables to come directly after them. It may be made apparent, by stopping suddenly, as if interrupted, after any one of them. When the syllables follow one another without interruption, we do not
commonly notice it; but, as will soon be seen, it is of great consequence to make it rightly, in all those cases in which it ought to be given.
Let the same sentence be now repeated in the same manner, to the end. 'I am coming to see you to-day.' The last syllable, 'day,' has an intonation quite different from that which we have just shown the other syllables to have. We feel, as soon as it is uttered, that there is no other word to come after it, and that the sense of the passage is complete. The same intonation may be given to any other one of the syllables, if we make it the end of the sentence. 'I am come.' 'I am coming.' 'I am coming to see you.' &c. Where, as in the former case, we stopped short, as if interrupted, the intonation at once led us to expect the continuation of the sentence; but here, where the sentence is supposed to be ended, the intonation does not lead us to listen for any thing further. In this case, the slide made on the syllable, has been ascertained to be the downward slide of the tone;' or, in other words, the voice slides downward in concrete pitch, just as far as, in the former case, it was found to slide upwards.
The downward slide of the tone, then, is used on all unemphatic syllables, which come at the end of a clause, and require any pause after them. It may always be easily distinguished from the corresponding upward slide, by its expression.
Let us now take the simple question, 'was it you?" and repeat it without any more emphasis on the word 'you,' than is required to make the sentence sound
as a question.
There is, in this case, a peculiar in
tonation on the syllable 'you,' giving it the natural expression of a question. This may be proved in a moment by repeating the word 'you?' alone. It is quite as easy to make the single word sound like a question, as it is to make the sentence a question. This expression of the simple question, is made by the use of an upward slide of the voice, through a distance or interval about twice as long as the one before explained. This slide is called, from the musical name of the interval through which it passes, ❝ the upward slide of the third.'
Repeat the answer to this question, 'It was I;' giving to the word 'I' that moderate degree of emphasis, which will mark it out as the answer to a question; and it will be seen that its expression, even when it is repeated by itself, is different from that of any of the slides already mentioned. I.' The slide which gives it this expression, is the downward slide, corresponding to the preceding upward one. It is called the downward slide of the third.'
If, now, the question be repeated, with more of earnestness and surprise than before, was it you?' the slide upwards on the word 'you' will be readily perceived to be longer than before it is, in fact, nearly twice as long. It is ascertained to pass through the interval, called, in music, a fifth, and is therefore called 'the upward slide of the fifth.'
Let the answer to this second question be now repeated, of course with a greater degree of emphasis than before, 'It was I.' We have now
a downward slide on the word 'I,' equal in length to the upward slide made in the question. It is called the downward slide of the fifth.'
Suppose, however, that the person who had twice repeated the question, were to repeat it yet a third time, as if expressing the utmost possible doubt of the answer, and intending to contradict it; YOU?' The upward slide would, in this case, be much more piercing than before. It has been found to run up through what is called, in music, an octave. We call it, therefore, the upward slide of the octave.’ In the same manner, if we repeat the natural answer to this third question, 'I,' we shall have a slide, beginning on a high note in the scale, and running down to very low one. This slide is also found to pass through an octave, and is called 'the downward slide of the octave.'
These slides of the octave are hardly ever used, except in conversation, or in acting. They are too violent and passionate for common reading or speaking. Still, it is well to know them, and to acquire the power of sounding them correctly, whenever they may be required.
There remains still one other interval of concrete pitch, through which the voice sometimes passes. It is only about half the length of the tone, and is called in music, the semitone. To explain it, let the sentence' I will be a good boy,' be repeated in the tone of a crying child, but without giving emphasis to any of the words in it. If, as in the first example given in this chapter, the sentence be interrupted before the end (I will,'
I will be a-,' I will