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XPRESSION implies cause, means, and effect. It is a natural effect of a natural cause, and hence is governed by all the laws of nature's processes. The cause is in the mind, the means are the voice and the body.
Expression may be improved by stimulating the cause, by developing the organic means,— the voice and body, by training them to be more flexible and responsive to the mind, or by bringing them under better control; and, lastly, by securing a better knowledge of right modes of execution and greater skill in their use. The process of improving the voice and making it a more adequate agent in expression is called Vocal Training. The process of improving the body and making it a better agent for the manifestation of the soul may be called Pantomimic Training. The manifestation of the actions of the mind through the body may be called Pantomimic Expression, and that through the voice, Vocal Expression.
The word "Expression" covers every possible revelation of a human being, and implies any means or mode of manifesting the conceptions or emotions, the conditions or dispositions of the soul. Every art is an art of expression. Expression also names the manifestation in animals of their instinctive actions and conditions.
Man has many modes of expression. His natural expression in speaking is composed of three forms: Verbal, or the symbolic representation of ideas; Vocal, or the manifestation of the processes of the mind, of feelings and emotions through the modulation of tone; and third, Pantomimic, or the manifestation of emotions and conditions through the motions and positions of the various parts of the body. The term "elocution"
is often applied to the whole of delivery, to all Pantomimic and Vocal Expression, and also to Articulation. Elocution is also used in a narrower sense as standing merely for the technique of Vocal Expression, and at times it is applied merely to right articulation or the utterance of Verbal Expression.
Vocal Expression, to which the present work is devoted, is that part of delivery which refers to the manifestation of the processes of thought and feeling, the emotions and relative conditions of the man, through the modulations of his tones. It does not include articulation, or pronunciation, which refer to the moulding of tone into words, and which will be included in the work on Vocal Training. Vocal Expression, as here used, refers simply to the modulations of the inflections, the textures, and the resonance of the voice, by the actions of the mind and the emotions and conditions of the man.
There are two modes in common use for the improvement of Vocal Expression. The first is by Imitation, which endeavors to improve Expression by making one man copy the speech of another who is supposed to speak better than himself. The other method endeavors to analyze the modulations of the voice as independent acts of the will, and to exercise the student upon them so as to give him conscious control over them. It professes to have discovered the right signs of emotion, and by teaching these signs professes to teach delivery objectively and scientifically.
Both of these methods are imperfect. Imitation overlooks the fact that men are different in temperament, in rhythm of thought, in the pitch of their voices, and in the texture and resonance of tone, and that they can never be made alike without superficializing and destroying individual elements of power. The second, or mechanical method, even if it recognized, as it does not, the true signs of emotion, causes the student to think of the modulation of his voice as an end and not as a means; to think of the sign rather than of the thing signified. The focus
of the mind is transferred by such a method from the centre or cause, the process of thinking, and placed upon the effect, or the mere mode of delivery. Those actions of the voice which in nature are always free and constantly varying according to the spontaneous effect of the process of the mind in thinking and feeling, have been made fixed and subject to rule. An artificial set of signs has been arranged which the student must learn and use in recitation and speaking according to rule. Moreover, many of the most important of the natural modulations of the voice have been overlooked and eliminated by this system, and the natural, free, and flexible modulation of inflection and changes of pitch have been interfered with and made monotonous and mechanical.
Both of these methods proceed from without inward, and not as nature always does, from within outward. They tend therefore to make men unnatural, and have caused prejudice against elocution in some of the ablest and most observant minds. The highest requisite of all expression, especially Vocal Expression, is that it shall be natural. It must be in some sense a direct and spontaneous result of its cause, which lies in the processes of thought, the earnestness, the purpose, the feeling, and the general attitude of the man who speaks. Vocal Expression, in fact, whenever it is true and adequate, is the nearest to nature, the most spontaneous and unconscious, of any actions peculiar to man. Many of the modulations of the voice are as involuntary as the twinkle of the eye. No method has ever yet succeeded in making them completely voluntary without making them superficial and mechanical. In short, Vocal Expression is the most subjective and spontaneous form of art; it is the most immediate manifestation of thought and feeling. It does not represent products, but manifests processes; it reveals emotions and conditions; it is the out-breathing of the line of the soul.
This book is an endeavor to meet the problem of delivery from another point of view, and to arrange some steps for its
improvement different from either of the two methods commonly in use. There is an endeavor to recognize the fact that the technical actions of Vocal Expression must be studied side by side with the actions of the mind, which they manifest. Everything proceeds upon the principle that in natural expression every modulation of the voice is the direct effect of some action or condition of the mind, and that very frequently wrong action of delivery can be traced to wrong action in thinking, such as one-sidedness, lack of control over emotion, lack of imagination, or the fact that conception is too abstract. Delivery is a question of responsiveness. A fault of delivery may be caused by inadequate or incorrect mental action, or by some hindrance to the transmission of this mental or volitional action through the organism; that is, by some constriction, lack of control, or misuse of the voice or the body; or it may be due to some misconception of the nature of delivery, or to bad habits resulting from such misconceptions, unconscious imitation, or weakness.
No problem of education presents more difficulties than the improvement of delivery. Some even doubt the possibility of its development. The student should, therefore, at his first step glance carefully over the whole field, in order to secure a correct general conception of the nature of the work he is undertaking.*
At first thought, delivery is a very simple thing. To the student it seems the most superficial part of education; but on mature consideration it will be found to be one of the most complex subjects with which the mind has to deal, one of the most difficult problems that education has to meet.
Only a few facts need be mentioned to show this. It is subjective. A flower can be held before the eye, torn to pieces, and part studied in contrast with part; but delivery is the utterance of the highest faculties and powers, the subtlest thoughts and emotions, the deepest intuitions and impulses of the soul.
* See "The "Province of Expression," for a more complete discussion of various aspects of the problem of delivery.