Technique Voice Interpretation

By the adjustment of voice defects, the voice instrument is gradually brought into tune.

By Marion E. Cady

By the adjustment of voice defects, the voice instrument is gradually brought into tune. The manipulation of the tuned voice in reading and speaking is called delivery, or voice interpretation. For the best results in delivery, there must be harmonious union of voice modulations, which will be referred to under seven divi­sions, as follows:

1. Pause.— A continuous flow of words, without a pause, will not pro­duce the desired effect, however vast and deep and sacred the theme. " Speech is silvern, and silence is golden," is as true in the field of expression as in social contact. To know when to speak and when to be silent, in the realm of conversation, is a great art, but it is a greater art to know when the pause of silence is most expressive in public speaking or reading. A modern writer and teacher of expression makes the fol­lowing statement: " The first requisite of all expression is attention, and attention necessarily involves silence. Expression must come out of this si­lence as naturally and rhythmically as one swing of the pendulum follows another." The realization and assim­ilation of each idea requires a mo­ment of pause, lest the idea become a loose or missing thread in the web of thought. Pause is one of the sure ways of preventing the monotonous reading of the Scriptures, as is so often the case.

There are two kinds of pause: (1) The ordinary rhythmic pause, the re­sult of physical necessity; and (2) the emphatic pause, coming just before or after the most important word of a sentence. For example, there should always be a pause before speak­ing the sacred name of the Deity; also in such eases as, " I am the door [pause] of the sheep." " He that en­tereth in by the door [pause], is the Shepherd [pause] of the sheep."

2. Touch.— As pause indicates prep­aration and attention, so touch denotes the location of the center of the idea. Pause shows the concentration of at­tention, and touch the volitional as­sertion of attention, and together they reveal the rhythmic alternation between reception and manifestation, impression and expression. The length of the pause determines the intensity of the touch. The degree of realization of ideas is shown in the vigor of the expression. Pause is the realization or cause, and touch shows the effect. Touch reveals the control of the breath and the organism, the command of words, posses­sion of the means of expression, and also control of the feelings as well as concentration of thought.

Touch is extremely important in the reading of the Scriptures, on ac­count of the tendency of readers and speakers to drift in feeling. A de­cided touch, expressing definite, vig­orous attention of the mind, is the best remedy and preventive of the so-called " ministerial tone." The more decided the touch, the freer will be the thinking and feeling, and the use of all means of expression. In the interpretation of the Scriptures, with­out the rhythmic, dignified pulse beat, the depth of the soul's realization can­not be revealed.

3. Change of Pitch.— It is through change of pitch that we indicate a change of word picture or idea. This is of special importance in the read­ing of Scripture, and should be stud­ied in connection with parallelism of the Psalms and Proverbs. The strong contrast in ideas, the fine discrimina­tions in emotion, as well as change in point of view, render this phase of voice modulation very important.

4. Inflection.— Change of pitch on the accented vowel of a word is called " inflection." It reveals the discrim­ination of one idea from another, and indicates the attitude of the speaker toward the idea, and also his degree of earnestness and conviction.

a. Direction of Inflection.— A rising inflection indicates doubt, triviality, or confusion. The failing inflection indicates weight, importance, or con­viction of thought. For example, read 1 Corinthians 11: 22, 23.

b. Length of Inflection.—The most important word has not only a change in the direction of inflection, but also a longer inflection than any other word in the phrase, clause, or sentence. The length of inflection indi­cates degrees of importance. For ex­ample, read Isaiah 10: 1-4; Matthew 23: 13, 18, 39.

c. Abrupt Inflection.— The gradual change of an inflection indicates calm­ness, repose, contemplation, command; while excitement, intensity, superfici­ality, triviality, and nervousness are shown by a jerky or abrupt inflection.

For examples of gradual and abrupt inflection, read John 21: 1-18, noting the difference between the dignified, serious, tender words of the Master, and Peter's excited speeches. Great depth of meaning, persuasion, and ap­peal should be given to the Master's questions, hence the inflections are long and gradual, while Peter's pro­tests are abrupt and broken.

d. Straightness of Inflection.—In ad­dition to direction, length, and abrupt­ness, an inflection may be character­ized by straightness or crookedness, or may be direct or circumflex. An inflection is straight in proportion to the dignity and weight of the thought and the frankness, directness, sim­plicity, and seriousness of the speaker or reader. Inflections are crooked in proportion to duplicity, sarcasm, dou­ble meaning, or the undignified atti­tude of the speaker.

5. Tone Color.— Herein lies the most subtle, unconscious, and spontaneous form of voice modulation. It is the direct result of the diffusion of emo­tion through the muscular texture of the body. It is the language of sym­pathy, feeling, and tenderness. The imagination or creative action of the mind is the most powerful factor in developing the feelings and emotions. In imagination, the reader of the Scripture should be with Christ and the disciples while reading the Gospel story of their travels and experiences. As far as possible, he should identify himself with every situation and ev­ery experience narrated in the Scrip­tures. If this is true, then a message of joy and gladness will be read in a glad and joyful tone of voice, and an experience of sadness and disappoint­ment will be rendered with a tone color in harmony with the situation portrayed.

It is impossible by inflection alone to reveal the feelings and emotions of the soul, for its function is largely intellectual. The emotions and feel­ings are revealed by the color of the voice. The union of inflection and tone color is very essential in deliv­ery, or voice interpretation. Inflection is as the sketching of the picture, while tone color is the coloring. When reproducing the word paintings from the Scripture gallery, be sure not to leave out the beautiful colorings in all their wonderful tints and shades.

6. Volume.— Voice modulation has reference to the quantity rather than the quality of tone. Many regard loudness of tone as one of the most Important elements of expression. It is by some considered as an indication of earnestness. But the element of loudness does not combine with other voice modulations. It eliminates touch, change of pitch, inflection, tone color, and other modulations, except in a small, crude degree. The volume of voice used should be determined mainly by the size of the auditorium, the size of the audience, and the acoustic properties of the building. A reader or speaker should not place his main dependence upon the volume of his voice to indicate dignity and ear­nestness of expression, for these qual­ities are more dependent upon inflec­tion, change of pitch (increase of range), pause, touch, and the next and last phase of voice modulation to be considered in this article, viz.,

7. Movement.— The character, func­tion, and value of movement is well expressed by Dr. S. S. Curry, in his book entitled, " The Vocal and Liter­ary Interpretation of the Bible," from which the following excerpt is taken:

" The last element of vocal expression that has been enumerated is movement, or the expressive modulation of the rhythmic pulsations. Movement dis­places no other expressive element, but co-ordinates all, causing their accentu­ation and higher unity. In fact, it makes the other modulations of the voice freer and more expressive. The highest plane of movement is such a mysterious union of all the elements of expression that they are lost in the natural and noble interpretation pro­duced. It is the supreme element of harmony, yet like all true elements of harmony, it hides itself, and is apt to be overlooked.

" Movement is of great importance in reading the Scriptures, because it enables the reader to emphasize a whole clause, sentence, or paragraph, and to bring into unity all the various parts of a long passage. It is prac­tically the only means of revealing the assimilative instinct, dramatic action, the epic spirit, or of showing that larger relationship and unity between all the parts of a story or a succession of scenes. But besides all these, it is the important element of naturalness."

The immediate cause of all the mod­ulations of the voice is the free, en­ergetic, vivid action of intellectual, emotional, and volitional powers of the mind. Usually reading and speak­ing are painfully formal. The free­dom and naturalness of the conversa­tional style used in talking to a friend is almost entirely lacking. The life­less, colorless, meaningless voice is a sham and a farce when used to ex­press the beautiful, meaningful, and powerful truths of the gospel.

As messengers of the gospel, shall we not seek to cultivate these expres­sive modulations of voice, so that the word of truth may not be robbed of its beauty and power?

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By Marion E. Cady

February 1930

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