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emotion; and the breathing becomes, in consequence of the heightened organic action, caused by excessive feeling, hard and laborious : its force renders it plainly audible. A sigh, a sob, or a partial groan, perhaps, follows as the result of the over-excited action of the breathing apparatus. Breath thus becomes sound. We have here the history of involuntary voice.
A parallel illustration might be drawn from the hard breathing, the suppressed or loud groans, and the articulate exclamations, of a person suffering through the various stages of pain, from uneasiness to agony. But it is unnecessary to pursue examples of the fact that the function of breathing, when rendered intense, becomes vocal. To analyze the human voice, therefore, or to trace the organic mechanism of speech, we must examine the apparatus employed in the act of breathing.
We commence our investigation with the primary action of inspiration, or inhaling breath. A person in good health, draws in breath by an exertion, partly involuntary, partly voluntary, of those muscles which, by a combined act, expand, and, at the same time, raise the chest, and consequently enlarge the cavity called the thorax, - the region between the neck and the stomach. The degree of freedom and energy, in this muscular action, decides, of course, the extent to which the thoracic cavity is enlarged, and the volume of air which is inhaled : it decides also, as a natural consequence, the capacity of resonance in the chest, and the fulness of the supply of breath, – the material of sound.
These preliminary facts teach us the first practical lesson in the cultivation of the voice, the necessity of maintaining an erect, free, expansive, unembarrassed, posture of the chest, as an indispensable condition of full, clear, distinct, effective, and appropriate utterance.
Continuing our investigation of voice, we return, for a moment, to the case of a person in the act of silent reading. Let the reader come to a passage, not of exciting effect or vivid emotion, but of profound and absorbing thought, which fixes the attention, with extreme earnestness, on an abstruse subject, rivets the mind on a single point, requiring the closest discrimination, or leads it away in a train of abstract thought: let there be, in one word, what we term a“ breathless” attention; and we observe the person at once in the situation which we designate by the common phrase, “ holding the breath. The reader, so situated, neither attempts to inhale a fresh breath, nor to let go that which he has inhaled ; his chest becomes, as it were, fixed and immovable; in the intensity of his attention to a mental object, he forgets and neglects the organic demands of the vital processes; he unconsciously sympathizes with the stimulated condition of his brain; and his nervous energy takes that direction, - to the suspension, almost, of the functions of breathing, and even of circulation, and digestion, – hence the enfeebled state of the lungs, the paleness of the countenance, and the coldness of the extremities, which attend close mental application, when intense or long continued. Such is the condition of the human being, under the spell of
the intellectual instincts, when nature is absorbing the powers of life, for the purposes of fixed thought, and is forbidding utterance, or expression, or any external manifestation of mind. Voice is, in such circumstances, silenced ; and the organs are, for the time, irrevocably closed, by the stricture which is thrown over them.
But let us continue our observation of this silent reader; and we may perceive, perhaps, an immediate and entire change of phenom
The spell of irresistible attraction in the page of the book, has ceased; the cloud of perplexity has passed away; the difficulty is solved; the discrimination is made ; the doubt is cleared up; or the train of thought is come to an issue. As a consequence, the rigor of the brow relaxes; a radiant smile takes its place; the suspended breathing is resumed, with a deep and full expiration, which seems to let go the imprisoned function; the returning blood restores its hue to the cheek and the lip; animation once more sparkles in the eye; the heart resumes the throb of life; and a genial glow is diffused over the whole frame; an exclamation of joy, perhaps, succeeds; and a friend standing near, is invited, in cheerful accents, to partake the intellectual pleasure of the reader. The effect on the organs of speech, in such circumstances, is, then, that the breath is no longer held : the struggling prisoner escapes in a sigh of instinctive, reactive effort, or in an exclamation of delight.
The practical lesson here taught, is, that utterance demands a free expulsion, not less than a deep inhalation of breath ; - that there must be a vigorous consentaneous action of the will, along with the silent involuntary process of nature.
The full function of expiration, when carried to the extent of exclamation, as in the case supposed, implies an energetic use of the lower muscles of the trunk, those which are termed the abdominal,' — to impart, by upward and inward impulse, a powerful percussion to the diaphragm, by which the breath contained in the air-cells of the lungs, is forced through the bronchial tubes and the trachea, towards the glottis and the larynx, where it is converted into sound, and thence into and through the mouth, and the cavity of the head, where it is modified into speech, by the action of the nasal passage, the tongue, the palate, the teeth, and the lips, in the various functions of articulate utterance.
The engraved figures will serve to impart a clearer idea than can be conveyed by words, of the place and form of the vocal organs, together with their action in the production of sound.
Figure 1 represents the principal abdominal muscle, by which the first expulsory movement terminating in sound, produced. The action of this muscle, in energetic and abrupt forms of utterance, is nearly the same in kind, though not in degree, with that which takes place in the sudden shrinking from a blow, aimed at or below the stomach. In vigorous utterance of a steady and sustained character, or in the energetic singing of long notes, a powerful and continued upward and inward pressure of the abdominal muscles, takes place, as in the attitude observed in swift riding on horseback.
1 In shouting and calling, and other violent exertions of voice, the dorsal muscles, - those of the lower part of the back, - partake in the expulsory effort.
2. The diaphragm, which by an upward impulse, consentaneous with that of the abdominal muscles, and imparted to the pleura, or enveloping membrane of the lungs, forces the breath from the aircells into the bronchi, and thence into the trachea and the larynx.
3. The thorar, the great cavity of the chest. By the expansion and compression of this capacious organ, the process of breathing is conducted ; and by its resonance, the voice receives depth and volume.
4. The intercostal muscles at the lower, and
5. The thoracic and pectoral muscles, at the upper part of the chest, serve to dilate and compress ii, in the acts of breathing and of utterance.
6. The pleura, a membrane which envelopes the lungs, and propagates to their cells the impulse by which these are emptied of their successive supplies of air inhaled at the intervals of speaking or singing.
7. The lungs, a spongy body, in the form of lobes, into the cells, or little cavities, of which, the air inhaled in breathing, is drawn, and from which it is expelled by the impulse communicated, as mentioned before, by the pleura, and derived from the diaphragm and the abdominal muscles.
8. The bronchi, or two main branches of the trachea, or windpipe. These two tubes are themselves subdivided into many subordinate and minute ramifications, which serve to distribute to the air-cells of the lungs, – in which they terminate, - the breath inhaled through the trachea, and to convey that which is expelled from the lungs, by the impulsive action of the diaphragm, into the trachea, the larynx and the mouth. One important office of the bronchial ramifications, is to vibrate, and thereby aid in rendering vocal the column of air which is emitted from the cells of the lungs.
9. The trachea, or wind-pipe, a series of connected cartilaginous, or gristly, rings, forming the great air-tube, which receives and conducts the breath to and from the lungs, in the acts of inspiration and expiration, and in the function of utterance.
10. The larynx, a cartilaginous box, on the top of the trachea, the exterior projection of which is familiarly called the Adam's apple, in allusion to the fabled origin of this part, which was anciently said to have owed its existence to Adam's fatal offence in swallowing the forbidden fruit. The whole larynx is the immediate seat and general instrument of vocal sound. The portions of this organ, which are immediately concerned in the production of sound, are,
11. The cricoïd cartilage, situated immediately over the uppermost ring of the trachea, resembling, in form, a seal-ring, from which it takes its name, but having the broad part at the back, and the narrow in front. The form and position of this portion of the larynx, admit of the elevation and depression of its parts, one step in the process by which tone is rendered grave or acute.
12. The arytænoid cartilages, so called, from their fancied resemblance in shape, to a ladle, funnel, or pitcher. These fill up the space at the back of the thyroïd and cricoïd cartilages, and are connected with both ; while they serve also as points of support and of tension, for the vocal ligaments.
13. The thyroïd cartilage, which has its name from its partial resemblance to the form of a buckler, or shield, but much bent. Its two main plates form the walls, or sides, of the larynx ; and their size usually determines the capacity of the voice, as we observe, in their comparative smallness in females and children, and their great expansion and projection in men.
The comparative solidity of texture, in all these component portions of the larynx, and in the gristly rings of which the trachea is itself composed, give them the power of rendering the voice compact and sonorous.
14. The vocal ligaments extend across the upper part of the larynx, and form the lips of the glottis, and by their vibration, together with the action of the current of air expelled through the trachea and larynx, produce the phenomena of vocal sound or voice, and, by their tension or remission, the effect of high or low pitch.
15. The glottis, so denominated from the partial resemblance of its shape to that of the tongue, is a small chink, or opening, which forms the mouth of the larynx. The opening and the contraction of this portion of the vocal apparatus, decide, in part, the gravity or the shrillness of tone.
All the parts of the larynx are interconnected by ligaments, and by muscles which move in concerted action, so as to expand or contract, raise or lower the whole larynx, and thus enlarge or diminish its capacity, and elevate or depress the pitch of the voice, and increase or diminish its force. The whole interior of the larynx is lined with a continuation of the mucous membrane of the mouth, which imparts to it a vivid sensibility and a unity of action. Hoarseness is the result of the embarrassment or obstruction of this membrane, by the mucous accumulations arising from colds or catarrh, or the injudicious habit of using cold water too freely, during the exercise of speaking.
16. The epiglottis, the valve, or lid, which, when the larynx is elevated, as in the act of swallowing, covers the glottis, or orifice of the windpipe, and prevents strangulation. Its usual erect position allows free ingress and egress to the breath. But, in some instances of intensely impassioned utterance, its pressure, against the glottis, becomes an additional preparative for the ultimate explosive eruption of voice.
17. At the root of the tongue, lies a small crescent-shaped or horseshoe-formed bone, called, from its resemblance to the Greek v, the hyoïd, or u-like bone. This member serves, by its firm texture, as a gateway from the trachea and larynx to the mouth, or from the latter to the former. It forms a point of tension for the muscles which connect the larynx with the mouth. Its hard texture enables it to perform this office effectually, and thus to aid in giving pitch to vocal sounds,
18. The thyro-hyoidean membrane connects the thyroïd cartilage with the instrument just described, and facilitates the functions of both, in elevating or depressing the pitch of the voice.
19. The crico-thyroid ligament, attaches, as its name implies, the cricoïd to the thyroïd cartilage; and (20.) the crico-lhyroid muscle facilitates their consentaneous movement, in the production of vocal sound, acute or grave.
21. The pharynx, or swallow, situated immediately behind and above the larynx, although not directly concerned in the production of sound, has, — by resonant space, - a great effect on its character. Persons in whom this organ is large, have usually a deep-toned voice; those in whom it is small, have comparatively a high pitch. When it is allowed to interfere with the sound of the voice, through negligence of habit, or bad taste, it causes a false and disagreeable guttural swell in the quality of the voice."
22. The nasal passages. Through these channels the breath is inhaled in the usual tranquil function of breathing. The innermost part of the nostrils is united into one resonant channel, and opens into the back part of the mouth, behind the “ veil,” or pendent and movable part, of the palate, which serves as a curtain to part the nasal arch from the anterior portion of the mouth.
23. The internal tubes of the ears. Above the valve of the orifice of the windpipe, on each side of the root of the tongue, is a small opening, leading to a tube which communicates with the ear, and whose orifice is always opened, in the act of opening the mouth. These tubes have a great effect in rendering vocal tone clear and free ; as is perceived in the case of obstructions arising from disease, from accident, or from cold, which impart a dull and muffled sound to the voice. “ The ear,” says an eminent writer on this subject, “ being formed of very hard bone, and containing the sonorous membrane of the drum, the sound of the voice entering it, through the airtubes, must necessarily be increased by its passage along what may be termed the whispering galleries of the ear.”
The effect of these passages, as conductors of vocal sound, may be traced in the fact, that the middle and innermost parts of the nostrils, open into several hollows, or cells, in the adjacent bones of the face and forehead. By this arrangement, the whole cavity of the head is rendered subservient to the resonance of the voice. That degree of clear, ringing, bell-like sound, which is so obvious a beauty of the human voice, seems to be dependent on this circumstance. Hence, too, the stifled tone caused by obstruction arising from cold, from accident, from the deleterious effect of snuff-taking, or from malformation of organic parts.
The fault of utterance which is termed nasal tone, arises from lowering too far the veil of the palate, — the membrane which separates the mouth from the nasal passages, and raising too high the root of the tongue, in producing a vocal sound. The consequence of these
1 For a full and highly instructive statement of the effect of the pharynx on utterance, see a " Treatise on the Diseases and Hygiène of the Organs of the Voice, by Colombat de l'Isère.” Translated by Dr. J. F. W. Lane, and published by Otis, Broaders, & Co., Boston.