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To fashion and control these forms and animate them with a soul, is the task of art.
Music has of all arts, the most subtle and ethereal form. It consists in tones which must be heautiful and sonorous, in order to be fitted for the expression of every variation of feeling. To set forth the natural laws by which such tones are produced is the business of science, and thus science is an indispensable aid to the art of music,
If a singer, inspired by the most delicate and ideal emotion, endewors to give expression to it by disagreeable tones, i. e., in a bad form, he will surely fail to produce an artistic effect, as he would by singing without expression and animation, with tones of the greatest beauty and cultivation.
What science has done of late for the knowledge of the human voice, and its management and development, it is my object here 10 explain as fully as time will permit.
Through the laryngoscope it became possible to observe and determine the mechanism of the human voice and the natural limits of the registers or tone groups into which the voice is divided. With every one of these registers the modus operandi of the vocal organs undergoes a change, which change the singer can easily feel, and an educated ear can detect by the difference in the timbre or quality of sound, which is most striking in the transition from chest to falsetto in the male voice.
In the female voice there have been found five such registers and in the male voice four, of which only the two or three lower ones are used in singing. In consequence of the male larynx being one-third larger than the female larynx, its registers have a larger extent,
Observation proves moreover, that a visible and sensible strain shows itself in the vocal organs as soon as a singer attempts to transgress the upper limits of a register in ascending the scale. The fact that, in the writings of the old celebrated singing masters, the limit of the chest register is placed much higher in the scale, and that our present singers can only with the greatest effort and with much harm to their voices reach those limits, have led to closer investigation of a fact which had up to a recent time almost entirely escaped notice. This fact is, that because of the better sound of the stringed instruments when tuned higher, the orchestra pitch has gradually risen, until at present the a which is taken as a standard, has between 454 and 459 vibrations, while at the time when vocal art was at its height it had only 400 vibrations per second. It is therefore some 50 vibrations higher now.
But the human voice is still expected to sing this a with the chest register as it was when the pitch was more than a whole tone lower. And people are astonished when it succumbs in consequence of the continued strain.
The mechanism of the first four registers had been known a long time before that of the head tones, the highest register in the female voice, was discovered. This discovery, over which the scientists had studied in vain for the last century, was made in 1860, and finished the complete knowledge of the physiology of the human voice.
I may further remark that the knowledge of the mechanism of the head tones led to the discovery of a pair of cartileges and small muscles, which had formerly not been noticed by anatomists. It is strange that this discovery, which is of no direct advantage to the voice, created a greater sensation among scientists than others of much more importance. The eason may be that this discovery in anatomy was made in a more familiar field.
When we hear the remark made that our best vocal artists, as well as the old singing masters, knew nothing about the physiology of the voice and, nevertheless, could
develop and manage it so beautifully, we must bear in mind that whatever is strictly natural will also be the best and most beautiful, and that a forced tone can never sound well. Our greatest artists were guided by their genius to give to their voices the most beautiful sounds. The development of a beautiful tone in the voices of their pupils, was the highest aim of the old singing-masters, and as the beautiful always leads to the truth and right, thus they taught how to use the voice rightly and naturally. Mansfeld, one of our best musical writers, says in opposition to this that, in our time, in the effort to obtain strong and full tones, the appreciation of a beautiful tone in singing has been utterly lost and that “now-a-days one mostly hears screaming instead of singing.”
A thorough knowledge of the physiology of the vocal organs is undoubtedly of great value, not only because it enables us to recognize what is right and what is wrong in singing and speaking, but also because we may, without this knowledge, as is frequently the case, have been injured by a disregard of natural laws. Almost more important than the late discoveries in the physiology of the voice are those in acoustics.
In all the old conservatories, one of the most important branches taught was acoustics, but the great progress which has been made in this department of science, within the last few years, seems to me the means by which the art of singing may again be made to flourish.
We know that a pitch of a tone depends on the number of its vibrations, its strength on their amplitude, and its timbre or quality, on their form. We know now, that every tone consists of a fundamental tone and several overtones or harmonics, and that we very rarely meet with purely simple tones. We also know the number and order of these overtones, which produce together with the fundamantal tone, the most musical sound.
And further, we know that the number and order of these overtones depend on a certain form of the sound wave, which can be given only by a skillful management of the exhaled air.
Another important achievement of science is, that speech, which has always been looked upon as a single act of the vocal organs, has been found to consist of a combination of two distinct phenomena; one of these is the vocal tones without words, and the other the speaking sounds, as in whispering. In ordinary speech as well as in singing with words, both these factors act in harmony.
It has further been discovered that the elements of speech, which we designate as consonants and vowels, have always a definite pitch, whether pronounced by an adult or child, or in different languages or countries. It is impossible to enunciate the f's for instance, higher or lower than their definite pitch, for which the cavity of the mouth tunes itself. The chief constituents of the sounds of speech, however, are the noises produced by the irregular vibrations of different parts within the cavity of the mouth.
The fact that there is such a very great difference between singing with words and speaking with vocal sounds, consists also in the different direction and use of the breath. In fine, we have to thank science for the perfect knowledge and light which it has brought into this hitherto obscure field.
I regret that I am not able within this limited space to give more than a brief glance at what has been doue by science for the benefit of the voice. Whoever is interested in pursuing the subject further, will find it in my books, " The Voice in Singing," and The Voice in Speaking.”
It seems to me, however, that the greatest advantage of all these discoveries consists in the fact that we have succeeded in making practical use of the discoveries of science, and that we can give now to every normal voice beauty and considerable richness by proper management.
I wish particularly to interest you in this branch of study, as ladies should be teachers of singing for the female voice, on account of the physiological difference of the male and female vocal organs.
Every one will understand that as valuable as scientific knowledge is to the teacher, it would be absurd to puzzle the pupil with scientific explanations. The best way is to awaken in them the appreciation of a beautiful tone, as the old masters did.
What Jenny Lind asserted was also the maxim of the old singing masters ; namely, that every person gifted with normal vocal organs can be educated to be a vocal artist.
For this, however, as for every other branch of art and scienee, time, perseverance, and faithful application are necessary. The old masters required six years of hard study in order to train a singer. And even at the present day, no person is received at the Conservatory of Milan who does not pledge himself to remain in the institution seven years.
In Paris the course is six years. But in America it is expected of a teacher to train a prima donna in a few months. A young lady has hardly taken a few lessons, when her friends and relatives urge her to sing in society. Persons who would laugh at any one who, after a few months of instruction in painting, should exhibit, as a work of art, one of his pictures, or who should boast of having mastered a language in the same space of time, or one who should attempt to play in public upon an instrument of which he knew nothing a few months before; such persons become impatient when they find they cannot sing beautifully in a few weeks after they have begun to take lessons.
Although Americans have much greater quickness in acquiring knowledge than Europeans, the difference is not so great as to insure this result. There is so
something so wonderful and elevating in beautiful artistic singing, that it seems to me well worth the while for such an achievement to devote a few years to the hard study, which is necessary also for a thorough study of every other art or science,
We should consider that everything we study in earnest rewards us not only in its own practical results, but in the beneficial influence exerted over our whole character.
There is no want of talent for music, and of naturally beautiful voices here, and I have no doubt that America in future will be able to claim for herself the first place in regard to music, as she does in so many other things; but not before her people cease to treat this glorious art in general, and singing in particular, so superficially and with so little regard for its beauties. Much of this contempt, (if I may use so harsh an expression,) is owing to the manner in which singing is at the present time taught all over the world.
What has been found in the writings of the old masters in regard to this branch of the art has been mostly misinterpreted and misapplied. Every teacher has his own method of teaching, and condemns every other. The instructions of the most celebrated teachers, consisting, up to this time, in making the pupils swell the tones with as much breath as their lungs would hold, and then in teaching them to sing ballads and arias in all the different styles of dramatic effect, but without regard to the beauty of the tone.
I myself thought, when I was young, the louder I screamed, the more beautiful was my singing; and at parties tortured my audience with productions which now
certainly drive them and myself also mad. In fact, the spirit of the age is not favorable to Vocal Art.
We know that the beginning of music was singing; that formerly every musician was a singer and gave singing lessons, just as now he is a pianist and.gives instructions on this instrument. From vocal music and through it, instrumental music has been developed, and always found its best nourishment in the former. But the more it has been developed the more it has crowded vocal music into the background and concentrated the interests of the musical world almost exclusively upon itself, after Hayden, Mozart and Beethoven had by their works given it such great importance.
We find in the earlier compositions the vocal part always as the sole support of the expression and spirit of the piece, and to such an extent that, even if the accompaniment is omitted, the composition loses little or nothing of its value.
Now-a-days, however, as in some of the songs by Schumann, Franz and others, the vocal part may often be omitted, and there still remains a brilliant piano piece, from which nothing is missed. The composers of the present time do not look npon the voice any more as the chief part, to which all the others must be subservient.
This is especially noticeable in the later German Operas, which already begin to avenge this wrong by their tediousness. But improvement will certainly come as soon as we again have more and better singers; and we shall have better singers as soon as the results of science in the interest of vocal art are more fully applied and appreciated.
Nothing entirely new is ever accepted without hard contests, and frequently its first supporters suffer more or less martyrdom. This has been and always will be the case; we cannot expect the public to part easily with long cherished opinions and what has become their fixed belief and habit, and to accept in place thereof something they do not know and understand well enough to value.
Here is also the reason why progress in any of the branches of art or science is often most severely criticized and combated by those who have made this art or science a study.
My confidence in the power of the good and true, however, knows no bounds, and so I hope, that in the position which I have attained through the help and kindness of unprejudiced friends, I may be enabled to do something toward the general acceptance of these acquisitions of science in regard to the cultivation of the voice, and thus sow the first seed of a new and better growth and development of vocal art.
COMPARATIVE MENTAL POWER OF THE SEXES PHY
BY ANTOINETTE BROWN BLACKWELL.
The question, what is mind? has not yet been answered to the satisfaction of many thoughtful people. But that each mind works through a living organism upon which it is dependent for the kind and the amount of its proper mental action, is universally conceded.
Other things equal, a large brain represents more force, mental or physical, or both working together, than a small brain; and yet the class of persons with large heads are by no means always superior to those with heads of much smaller compass. Many stolid, heavy men, who have great muscular development, have also craniums of unusual dimensions. There is a class of dull, plodding, sturdy, day laborers, whose brains, by actual measurement, would probably average a larger size than those of an equal number of fairly successful brain workers; the inference being, either that more brain force is expended in operating the larger and more used muscles, or that some difference in temperament and nerve structure makes the smaller brains the more efficient instruments. Both explanations may apply in many cases.
The men of very marked and conspicuous ability, with a few noted exceptions, have had large heads; but their bodies very frequently have not been large and muscular in proportion. It is possible that the greater development of brain tissue adapted to the superior muscles of men, would be out of place in the feminine organism. Our lesser brains do not absolutely prove that we are endowed with less of positive and available mental force.
But, in considering this question, a woman may be suspected of looking at it with the rose-colored vision so often attributed to womanhood. She will be readily credited with special pleading, since she has so much at stake. If it can be shown that Nature holds men and women, in each race, both physically and mentally, weighed against each other as in a balance maintained always in steady equipoise, what an immense amount of unsuspected credit must be at once handed over to the woman's side of the scale !
I appeal, then, to established facts; they can have no bias in favor of any pet theory. I consent to abide firmly by the final verdict of the highest male authorities in science, after they shall have considered the whole subject from the Woman's point of view as fully as they have already done from the Man's standpoint. The honest human mind must accept of evidence when it is presented to it; and there are two sides to this question as to all others.
It is impossible to judge of the relative ability of the sexes from an impartial historical basis. The outside limitations have always been unequal—so unequal that the feminine intellect has been virtually checkmated from the beginning. It is not yet in position to accept of fair competition on an equal footing. Hence the need of appeal to physical data; the imperative necessity to interpret mental differences in the light of admitted facts in physiology—the only criterion at present by which we can impartially test the relative mental ability of the sexes. Conceding the radical unlikeness of their minds, may they yet be fairly regarded as possessing equivalent psychical force? Is the feminine organism as efficient and as available to-day as the masculine organism in promoting the intellectual work of the dependent mind? The internal economy of the male and female constitutions has become widely differentiated. Even the more general processes, as those of digestion and circulation, though alike in the main in both sexes, are yet sensibly modified in each by unlike co-operative influences.
A system of minute nerves allied to the general nervous mechanism of organic life, called the vaso-motor system, is distributed to the muscular coat of all the blood vessels in their minutest ramifications. These nerves have the express office of regulating the supply of blood to any local organ or muscle. Is any part of the body unusually active, there an increased supply of nutriment is wanted; these self-regulating, involuntary nerves relax, the blood vessels enlarge, the life current sweeps through in force, and the needed supply is promptly utilized. But if any part or organ is inactive, there these little ready nerves tighten and contract the arteries; and thus they apportion the amount of blood to the smaller demand. This important branch of nervous economy can admirably regulate the varying needs of every part