Chapter XIII. Voice Charm
A cheerful temper joined with innocence will make beauty attractive, knowledge delightful, and wit good-natured.
- Joseph Addison, The Tattler.
Poe said that "the tone of beauty is sadness," but he was evidently thinking from cause to effect, not contrariwise, for sadness is rarely a producer of beauty - that is peculiarly the province of joy.
The exquisite beauty of a sunset is not exhilarating but tends to a sort of melancholy that is not far from delight. The haunting beauty of deep, quiet music holds more than a tinge of sadness. The lovely minor cadences of bird song at twilight are almost depressing.
The reason we are affected to sadness by certain forms of placid beauty is twofold: movement is stimulating and joy-producing, while quietude leads to reflection, and reflection in turn often brings out the tone of regretful longing for that which is past; secondly, quiet beauty produces a vague aspiration for the relatively unattainable, yet does not stimulate to the tremendous effort necessary to make the dimly desired state or object ours.
We must distinguish, for these reasons, between the sadness of beauty and the joy of beauty. True, joy is a deep, inner thing and takes in much more than the idea of bounding, sanguine spirits, for it includes a certain active contentedness of heart. In this chapter, however, the word will have its optimistic, exuberant connotation - we are thinking now of vivid, bright-eyed, laughing joy. Musical, joyous tones constitute voice charm, a subtle magnetism that is delightfully contagious. Now it might seem to the desultory reader that to take the lancet and cut into this alluring voice quality would be to dissect a butterfly wing and so destroy its charm. Yet how can we induce an effect if we are not certain as to the cause?
Nasal Resonance Produces The Bell-Tones Of The Voice
The tone passages of the nose must be kept entirely free for the bright tones of voice - and after our warning in the preceding chapter you will not confuse what is popularly and erroneously called a "nasal" tone with the true nasal quality, which is so well illustrated by the voice work of trained French singers and speakers.
To develop nasal resonance sing the following, dwelling as long as possible on the ng sounds. Pitch the voice in the nasal cavity. Practise both in high and low registers, and develop range - with brightness.
Sing-song. Ding-dong. Hong-kong. Long-thong.
Practise in the falsetto voice develops a bright quality in the normal speaking-voice. Try the following, and any other selections you choose, in a falsetto voice. A man's falsetto voice is extremely high and womanish, so men should not practise in falsetto after the exercise becomes tiresome.
She perfectly scorned the best of his clan, and declared the ninth of any man, a perfectly vulgar fraction.
The actress Mary Anderson asked the poet Longfellow what she could do to improve her voice. He replied, "Read aloud daily, joyous, lyric poetry."
The joyous tones are the bright tones. Develop them by exercise. Practise your voice exercises in an attitude of joy. Under the influence of pleasure the body expands, the tone passages open, the action of heart and lungs is accelerated, and all the primary conditions for good tone are established.
More songs float out from the broken windows of the negro cabins in the South than from the palatial homes on Fifth Avenue. Henry Ward Beecher said the happiest days of his life were not when he had become an international character, but when he was an unknown minister out in Lawrenceville, Ohio, sweeping his own church, and working as a carpenter to help pay the grocer. Happiness is largely an attitude of mind, of viewing life from the right angle. The optimistic attitude can be cultivated, and it will express itself in voice charm. A telephone company recently placarded this motto in their booths: "The Voice with the Smile Wins." It does. Try it.
Reading joyous prose, or lyric poetry, will help put smile and joy of soul into your voice. The following selections are excellent for practise.
REMEMBER that when you first practise these classics you are to give sole attention to two things: a joyous attitude of heart and body, and bright tones of voice. After these ends have been attained to your satisfaction, carefully review the principles of public speaking laid down in the preceding chapters and put them into practise as you read these passages again and again. It would be better to commit each selection to memory.
Haste thee, Nymph, and bring with thee Jest, and youthful Jollity, Quips and Cranks and wanton Wiles, Nods and Becks, and wreathed Smiles, Such as hang on Hebe's cheek, And love to live in dimple sleek, - Sport that wrinkled Care derides, And Laughter holding both his sides.
Come, and trip it as ye go
On the light fantastic toe;
And in thy right hand lead with thee
The mountain nymph, sweet Liberty:
And, if I give thee honor due,
Mirth, admit me of thy crew,
To live with her, and live with thee,
In unreproved pleasures free;
To hear the lark begin his flight, And singing, startle the dull Night Prom his watch-tower in the skies, Till the dappled Dawn doth rise; Then to come in spite of sorrow, And at my window bid good-morrow Through the sweetbrier, or the vine, Or the twisted eglantine; While the cock with lively din Scatters the rear of darkness thin, And to the stack, or the barn-door, Stoutly struts his dames before;
Oft listening how the hounds and horn Cheerly rouse the slumbering Morn, Prom the side of some hoar hill, Through the high wood echoing shrill; Sometime walking, not unseen, By hedge-row elms, on hillocks green, Right against the eastern gate, Where the great Sun begins his state, Robed in flames and amber light, The clouds in thousand liveries (light, While the plowman near at hand Whistles o'er the furrowed land, And the milkmaid singing blithe, And the mower whets his scythe, And every shepherd tells his tale, Under the hawthorn in the dale.