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“ TRANSITION" IN PITCH. The paucity of terms in our language, for the various phenomena of voice, has laid writers on elocution under an imagined necessity of using some words, borrowed from other sciences or arts, in a manner not consistent with scientific accuracy of expression. Thus, the word “ modulation," which has an exact meaning in music, has been used in elocution, in an irregular manner, to designate the observance of the difference of pitch, in the utterance of emotions, as they occur successively in reading or speaking. Popular, and even reputable usage, has sanctioned this application of the term. But as it tends to create confusion of ideas, when it is used in certain relations to elocution which regard the “ melody" of the component parts of sentences, it would be better, perhaps, to regard the transitions of the voice from one strain to another, in consecutive reading, as merely the necessary assumption of a new “ pitch,” adapted to each successive emotion, and being nothing else, as a vocal accomplishment, than skill in instantly striking a given note of the scale.
A passage of composition, in prose or verse, used as an exercise in reading, may be marked to the ear by one prevalent tone of feeling, which allows or requires little or no variation of voice, and, consequently, as little transition from one note of the scale to another. We find one piece, as Milton's Allegro, for example, pervaded by the expressive tones, and “ high” notes, and consequent “high pitch,' of joy throughout, — another, as the same author's Penseroso, marked by the prevalence of the style of grave musing and poetic melancholy, with their appropriate expression in "low” notes, and, therefore, “ low pitch."
Other compositions are characterized by great and frequent transitions of feeling and of utterance, and consequently by corresponding high or low notes, and the frequent transition from one to the other. It is to these changes of voice that the term “ modulation ” has sometimes been arbitrarily applied ; and it is to the department of elocution sometimes designated by this term, that we now proceed in our analysis.
This branch of our subject is one of the utmost importance to the student. Without the power of easy and exact accommodation of voice to the natural “ pitch” of every successive emotion in a piece, there can be no such thing as natural or impressive reading. But variation of “ pitch” is a topic on which we need not dwell; as it is, practically, but the consecutive application of the same functions of voice to which we have just been attending in detached and separate instances. Let the student read in close sequence, and with perfect exactness of "pitch,” all the examples given under that head, and he will have necessarily executed, at the same time, an extensive practice in “ transition” from one portion of the scale to another, as he shifted the pitch of his voice in passing from one example to another.
A piece of varied topics and style, in prose writing, or what has been termed a Pindaric ode, in lyric poetry, will furnish, by its changing character of thought and expression, appropriate occasions
for frequent and great transitions on the scale, as the voice passes from the utterance of one strain of emotion to that of another.
1. From Joy to Grave and Pathetic Emotion.
(From "High" to " Low Pitch.”) THE VOICE OF SPRING.–Mrs. Hemans.
abroad in my green domains !
“But ye—ye are changed since ye met me last!
2. From Horror to Tranquillity.
“Middle Pitch.” “ How peaceful the grave! its quiet how deep: Its zephyrs breathe calmly; and soft is its sleep;
And flowrets perfume it with ether.”
3. From Rapture to Grief.
Alas! the forsaken hall !”
4. From Triumph and Exultation, to Grave, Pathetic, and
Solemn feeling, and thence returning to Triumph and
And the spears that light the deep?
Where the lords of battle sweep !
Maid, greet thy lover home!
Io! thy son is come!”
6. Who murmured of the dead ? Hush! boding voice. We know
That many a shining head
Lies in its glory low.
“ Breathe not those names to-day :
They shall have their praise ere long
In ever-burning song."
To hail the conquerors home!
Io! they come, they come!”
5. From Tranquillity to Joy and Triumph, Awe, Scorn, Awe,
Horror, Exultation, Defiance, Awe,- successively.
[ISRAEL'S TRIUMPH OVER THE KING OF BABYLON.] —Isaiah. [Tranquillity: "Middle Pitch :'] “The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet:—[Joy and Triumph : “High Pitch :"] they break forth into singing: Yea, the fir-trees rejoice at thee, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying, “Since thou art laid down, no feller is come up against us.'— [Awe: “Low Pitch :"] Hell from beneath is moved for thee, to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth : it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. —[Narrative : “Middle Pitch :"] All they shall speak, and say unto thee,– [Scorn: “High Pitch :'] · Art thou also become weak as we? Art thou become like unto us?'— [Awe : “Low Pitch :']
Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols:'[Horror : “Very Low Pitch :"] the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee.'-[Exultation : “Middle Pitch:"] How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations !'— [Defiance : “ High Pitch :"] · For thou hast said in thy heart, “ I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God. I will ascend
above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.”—[Awe : "Low Pitch :"] · Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.'”
The same “ transitions” of “pitch” which occur in passing from one paragraph or stanza to another, may also take place within the limits of a single sentence, if the feeling obviously changes from clause to clause, – as in the following extract.
Reverence and Awe.
(“ Low pitch :" rising gradually to “middle,” in the fourth line.)
ADORATION. — Porteous.
Deepest Reverence and Awe.
(“. Very low pitch.")
Reverence and Adoration.
(Pitch still lower.) “May sea and land, and earth and heaven be joined, To bring the eternal Author to my mind !”
(“Very low pitch.") “ When oceans roar, or thunders roll, May thoughts of Thy dread vengeance shake my soul!”
If we bring our analysis of a sentence into still closer distinctions of melody and pitch, we pass from clauses to phrases. The“ melody