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Voice And Voice Building

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

Voice-building is the only known way in which to give an uncultivated rustic the tones of a gentleman, or of training growing lungs to draw blood into every part of them, and, through doing this, into every part of the brain. It does seem strange that materialists, of all men, should not recognize how much this blood is needed. There is no subtly philosophical, only a physiological reason, why many a student too dull to take interest in other branches has been led through elocution to discover interest in them, and, ultimately, to develop not only brightness but brilliancy.—Essay on Fundamentals in Education.


Even the department of English devoted to vocal culture has to do with more than merely giving the strenuous but too often uncultured country lad who comes to college the accent and bearing of refinement, desirable as would be this result alone. It is a theory of one of the Oriental cults that to make a man spiritual—in the sense of having an imaginative and inventive mind—you must first teach him how to breathe, because spirit and air-or breath—are one and the same. This explanation is not scientific, but the effort to represent it as such will not appear wholly absurd when we recall men like Beecher, Phillips, Guthrie, and Spurgeon, who, according to their own accounts, began their careers by learning how to breathe, and only subsequently developed their imaginative and inventive powers, until the results became, as Beecher expresses it, "as easy as to breathe." The truth seems to be that when one habitually clarifies the blood in every cell of his lungs—and about every man that I have ever known needs to learn how to do this-he does the same with the blood in every cell of his brain. This makes all of the brain active. If you could make it all sufficiently active you would have genius. Every man would be a genius, if only he could combine the fever-like glow which sets imagination on fire with the healthful steadiness of pulse which keeps the reason cool. Essay on Artistic vs. Scientific Education: Note.


Not three weeks ago, I read an article in a paper supposed to represent a knowledge of the conditions of culture, attempting to show that the quality of the voice does not depend upon methods of breathing, but entirely-not partly as everybody admits—upon character. I once had a pupil who, when a babe, had dropt upon his head and spine, with the practical result of telescoping his lungs and keeping his chin very near his abdomen. Though a dwarf, he was anxious to be a speaker; but it took a full year of hard practise for him to learn to make, in a satisfactory way, a single elementary vowel-sound. Two years later, he had a voice more sweet, rich, and powerful than any man in his large class. I refuse to believe that the change was owing to a change in his character. Nor will I admit that, de-formed as he was, his organs of expression were in need of reformation in any sense not true of those of scores of his fellows whose lungs, if not actually telescoped, had cells as effectually shut up as if this were the case. The light in a cathedral, after nightfall, when shining through the unhewn stone and wooden beams that occupy the space where will be the rose window, as yet unfinished, does not give expression to the Gothic character of the building; nor can it give this, until the work of art has chiseled the stone, and filled the interspaces with delicate tracery and color. A similar relationship often exists between the result of elocutionary art and the expression of human character. Essay on The Literary Artist and Elocution.


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