THE MECHANISM OF THE HUMAN VOICE.
(CURWEN'S EDITION, 5263.)
Late Lecturer on Vocal Physiology at the Tonic Sol-fa College, Teacher of Voice Production.
EDITED, WITH A NEW CHAPTER ON "VOICE FAILURE,"
BY MRS. EMIL BEHNKE.
LONDON: J. CURWEN & SONS LTD., 24 BERNERS STREET, W.
Price 1s. 6d.; CLOTH 2s. 6d.
PREFACE TO THE NINTH EDITION.
PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION.
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
TO MY DEAR WIFE THIS ESSAY IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED
PREFACE TO THE NINTH EDITION.
A ninth edition of this book having been called for, I take the opportunity to return my sincere thanks for the many kind expressions concerning its usefulness which have reached me since the lamented death of its author, my dear husband.
In carrying on his work, both my daughter and myself have felt the benefit of the clear and concise instructions the book contains.
We have also proved with our pupils the absolute truth and value of the BEHNKE SYSTEM OF VOICE TRAINING, by means of which we have obtained results most gratifying to ourselves, and surprising to the pupils, whether speakers or singers.
I hope that the new chapter on "Voice Failure," which I have added by Mr. Curwen's desire, may be of some use in preventing breakdown of voice, from which so many students suffer.
18, EARL'S COURT SQUARE, S.W.
PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION.
A THIRD edition of this little book has now become necessary, and I must again express my gratitude for the continued commendations bestowed upon my work both in the press and in private letters.
In response to many solicitations, I have added to this edition a few hints on teaching, deduced from physiological facts, which may prove useful by stimulating the advance of thought in a new direction.
These hints are extracts from a series of articles on "Science and Singing" which I had the pleasure of writing in the Edinburgh St. Cecilia Magazine; and I am indebted to the Editor, Mr. A. C. Miller, for kindly permitting me to reproduce them here.
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.
The favourable reception and rapid sale of a large first edition has stimulated me to revise this little book, and without alteration of my original scheme of practical utility, to somewhat enlarge on one or two points which appeared to demand further elucidation.
In this, as in the former edition, I have received great assistance from my friend Mr. Lennox Browne, the eminent throat surgeon, who, by ever patiently discussing with me debatable points, and by giving me access to cases, interesting from a physiological point of view, both at the Central Throat and Ear Hospital, Gray's Inn Road, and in his extensive private practice, has afforded me opportunities of increasing my knowledge and experience which would not have arisen otherwise. I feel it a pleasure as well as a duty publicly to acknowledge my indebtedness to him, which I have, many times before, expressed in private.
My best thanks are also due to Mr. J. Spencer Curwen, for the help he has rendered me in many ways.
And finally, it would indeed be ungrateful on my part, if I did not place on record the obligation under which I consider myself to my reviewers for the uniformly favourable notice they have so kindly taken of my first effort, and for several useful hints of which I have duly taken advantage.
One objection has been made which strikes at the very root of the plan upon which I have proceeded in my little volume, and to which, therefore, I beg leave to say a few words in reply. A learned writer in the Athenaeum finds fault with me for making use of popular instead of scientific terms, which, he says, may be the cause to the reader of great confusion if he refers to other works, and he adds that "Back Ring-Pyramid Muscle" is almost as hard a mouthful as "Crico-Arytenoideus posticus." I have asked several non-scientific friends of good general education to read this sentence to me, and they succeeded very well with "Back Ring-Pyramid Muscle," while they utterly collapsed when coming to "Crico-Arytenoideus posticus."
This is, however, in my humble opinion, of minor importance. The great point is, that my terms—which by the way are not inventions, but simply translations—convey a meaning to the general reader, and the originals do not. This is a fact which I dared not ignore, because my essay is intended for the people and not for men of science. As I have taken care also, for the sake of those who might wish to consult other and more learned books than mine, to give the terms generally used by physiologists by the side of my translations, I do not think there is anything that could ever confuse my readers.
I conscientiously believe that these are good and weighty reasons for the plan I adopted in the first edition, and trust my reviewers, as well as my readers, will accept them as a sufficient justification of the same practice in the present volume.
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
The number of books bearing more or less directly on the Theory of Voice Production which have been published during the last few years is very large, and shows clearly the extraordinary interest taken in this subject, not only by professional singers and speakers, but also by the general public. If I am now about to add another contribution to this already extensive literature, it is simply because amongst all the many excellent works on the Human Voice there is not one which brings before the reader the whole subject from beginning to end. The student who really wishes to get a clear understanding of the matter is obliged to wade through a variety of scientific books, and to pick up here and there, by means of very hard reading, such little scraps of information as, with much labour and waste of time, he can extract from books which were, in most instances, never written for the purpose for which he consults them.
* * * * *
To supply this generally-admitted want I have written these pages, in which I have endeavoured, to the best of my ability, to place before the reader in a simple and comprehensive form the Physiology of the Human Voice. I have, as far as possible, discarded all scientific terms, and it has been my aim to treat my subject in so simple and direct a manner as really to enlighten my readers instead of bewildering them. A treatise like this can, under no circumstances, be light reading; and I ask those who are truly anxious for information to give me patient study, accompanied by careful reference to the diagrams. For students who enter upon a perusal of these pages in such a spirit, this essay is specially intended; and if I have succeeded in making plain to such as these a really complicated subject, then my highest ambition will be satisfied.
The vocal organ as a musical instrument 8-61
Differences of the voice-box, or larynx, in children, women, and men 62-68
Movements of the voice-box, or larynx, which can be seen or felt 69-72
The laryngoscope, and how to use it 73-79
The teachings of the laryngoscope 80-105
Appendix—Hints on teaching 106-125
Appendix To The Ninth Edition—Voice Failure 126
Appendix To The Tenth Edition—Does Diaphragmatic Breathing Apply Equally To Women As To Men? 141
Index To "Voice Failure 146
I. General view of vocal organ facing title
II. The Lungs 10
III. The Chest 11
IV. Chest capacity—Methods of breathing 16
V. Side view of the Larynx 32
VI. Front view of the Larynx 33
VII. Larynx, Side view showing interior 37
VIII. Larynx, Side view, muscles, &c. 42
IX. Larynx, Side view, interior of left half 43
X. The Glottis in three states 46
XI. Larynx, Section viewed from above 48
XII. Larynx, Section viewed from behind 51
Sketch of Laryngoscope designed by Dr. Foulis 78
XIII. Laryngoscopic Image—Breathing 84
XIV. " " Upper thick register 84
XV. " " Upper thin register 85
XVI. " " Small register 85
Diagram of compass of the registers 93
We are living in an age which is singularly poor in fine voices, both male and female, and with regard to the tenors of the present time there is this additional misfortune, that, as a rule, their voices do not last, but are often worn out in a very few years; in many instances while their owners are still under training, and before they have had an opportunity of making their appearance in public. If we remember that there was a time when most beautiful and highly cultivated voices were so plentiful that even in comparatively small towns there were to be found Opera Companies consisting of excellent singers, we may well ask ourselves how this remarkable change for the worse has come about. People have attempted to account for it in various ways. Up to the middle of the last century women were forbidden by Ecclesiastical Law to take part in Church music. The voices of boys being available only for a very short time, means were taken to prevent their voices from breaking, and thus a class of male soprani and contralti was created, who made their first appearance in Rome in the beginning of the 17th century, and to these singers the education of the female voices was soon almost exclusively entrusted. In the middle of the last century, however, when women were permitted to participate in Church music, there was no longer any occasion to procure artificial female voices, and these singers gradually died out, though there were still some of them living and teaching in the beginning of the present century. According to Rossini, who certainly was eminently qualified to give an opinion on the subject, the decline of vocal art in these latter years is mainly due to the disappearance of this class of singers, and if it be true that henceforth the training of female voices was undertaken by tenors, who, being of course unable to give a true pattern to their pupils, treated the female organ according to their own very different registers, then it can easily be understood that many voices must have been ruined by the process, and the scarcity of distinguished female singers would thus be satisfactorily accounted for. But I fail to see in what way the disappearance of male soprani and contralti could possibly have affected tenors and basses.
Again, it is asserted that the way in which modern composers write vocal music is the cause of the evil. Certain it is that in the compositions of the old Italian masters the voice is studied, and nothing introduced which is hurtful or disadvantageous. Awkward intervals are avoided, no fatigue is caused, and everything is eminently singable; but the music is not always expressive of the sense of the words, which were clearly considered to be of minor importance. With our modern (and especially with the German) composers, it is just the opposite, their chief aim being thoroughly to enter, not only into the spirit of their text, but even into the slightest shade, the minutest detail of it, so as to make the music, as it were, a translation of their words into a higher kind of language. What, on the other hand, is possible or impossible for the voice is, since the time of Beethoven, but rarely considered; many composers, even the most distinguished ones, having evidently little knowledge of the most beautiful of instruments, for which they are nevertheless continually writing.
When one of the greatest living masters introduced the harp into his works, he wrote for it just as though it were a piano—i.e., as though it were to be played upon with the thumb and four fingers. But it so happens that on that instrument the fourth finger is never used. Consequently, when it came to the point harpists could not play that gentleman's compositions: they had first to re-write them. Here the composer, of course, was found out immediately, and he or any other man would have the same fate if he attempted to write for an instrument the properties of which he did not fully understand. But with the human voice the case is different. Every musician believes himself to be competent to write for it, though he may possibly be wholly unacquainted with its many peculiarities. It is to be feared, therefore, that modern composers must be held largely responsible for the sad state of affairs concerning vocal art at the present time, and well might they learn a lesson from Mozart, who, in spite of his genius, first carefully studied the human voice, and then wrote for it.
Another explanation of the decline of singing is this, that the gradual and very considerable rise of pitch during the last 150 years is at the bottom of all the mischief, as the vocal organ is unable to bear the strain to which it is subjected. With regard to tenors, however, the great evil is, that with very few exceptions, such as the celebrated Frenchman, Roger, they disregard, or at any rate did disregard for a considerable period, the falsetto register, singing everything, however high, in chest voice. I am afraid it cannot be said even that they have been beguiled into this serious mistake by the imperceptible rise of pitch just mentioned, but the truth is that they have committed this fatal blunder knowingly and wilfully, because they saw that it would pay. In support of this statement I will quote a few lines from the publication called "The Opera and the Art of Singing," by Glogg-ner-Castelli:
"In the field of singing a new man arose, who, in spite of great personal attributes, worked destructively for the future, and whose influence upon the later manner of singing is seldom truly recognized. I mean the singer Duprez. Hissed off at first in Paris, he turned to Italy, where he stayed several years, and then returned to the French capital. When he came to use his magnificent vocal resources, as he did in the Fourth Act of Tell, where he brought out the high C in the chest voice with all the might of his colossal organ, it was all over with the fame of all his predecessors. Nourrit, till then the favourite of the Parisians, a distinguished tenor singer, recognized the rival's power. His day was over, and in despair over his lost and irrecoverable glory, he flung himself from an upper window upon the pavement, and so made an end of his life. Duprez may justly be considered one of the greatest dramatic singers of our time, and the main features of his method soon spread themselves all over Europe. After hearing of Duprez, and how the chest register could be cultivated even into the highest regions of the voice, the public were no longer contented with the use of the falsetto. Soon it became impossible to be engaged as an "heroic tenor" without at least possessing the high B[b] in the chest tone. The singers found it a more thankful task to humour the taste of the public than to pay extra regard to the intentions of the composer; for often Meyerbeer himself indicates, by a pp, his design that the falsetto and not the chest tone should be employed. That every tenor singer, whether such high pressure suited his natural compass or not, strove to screw his voice up and 'make effect' was very natural; for art goes after bread, and a high C with the chest voice often realizes an income of thousands to its fortunate possessor. Roger has made a laudable exception; his beautiful use of the falsetto certainly produces a more agreeable effect than the forced chest tones so unnatural to the organ of many a singer. How widespread is this mistaken notion, that the use of the falsetto is entirely contrary to art, we hear frequently enough in the expressions of individuals when some unlucky tenor happens to get caught on one of these tabooed falsetto tones. Thus the school founded by Duprez, important in itself, has called into life a manner of singing, the ruinous consequences of which we can see daily."
But whatever may be the true reason or reasons, the fact that we have very few singers of eminence as compared with former ages, and that vocal art in general has gone down, is undisputed, and men have set themselves to remedy the evil by trying to ascertain the actual process by which the voice is produced, thinking that if they could but find this out there would be a true scientific basis upon which to found a way of teaching singing—or as I should rather say, of training voices—which would be sure and unerring.
* * * * *
The experiments of the great physiologist Johannes Mueller are well known, and they have been followed up by others. But they were made upon dissected larynges, and as various teachers of singing started the most conflicting theories as to how the process shown by Mueller was carried on in the living subject, and treated the voices of their pupils accordingly, these investigations have perhaps on the whole done more harm than good. Science was made responsible for the blunders of those who attempted to be guided by it. And thus it has happened that when at a later period further trials were made, but this time upon the living subject, and in the act of singing, they were received with indifference and distrust. Only very lately teachers of vocal music have begun to find out that here are facts put before them which cannot be gainsaid, and that if these investigations do nothing else, they at any rate make them acquainted with the exact nature of the vocal organ, and what it will bear and what it will not bear.
THE VOCAL ORGAN AS A MUSICAL INSTRUMENT.
"Physiologists," says Dr. Witkowski,[A] "are quite at issue when they endeavour to determine what kind of instrument the vocal organ resembles; indeed, Galien compares it to a flute, Magendie to a hautboy, Despiney to a trombone, Diday to a hunting-horn, Savart to a bird-catcher's call, Biot to an organ-pipe, Malgaigne to the little instrument used by the exhibitors of Punch, and Ferrein to a spinet or harpsichord. The last-named compared the lips of the glottis to the strings of a violin; hence was given the name Vocal Cords, which they have since retained. The current of air was the bow, the exertion of the chest and lungs the hand which carried the bow, the thyroid cartilages the points d'appui, the arytenoids the pegs, and lastly, the muscles inserted in them the power which tensed or relaxed the cords."
It must be admitted that the human voice bears more resemblance to a reed instrument than to any other; but when the comparison is pushed to its legitimate consequences it is found to break down. We cannot resist the conclusion that the vocal organ is infinitely superior to any instrument made by human hands. Its mechanism is so wonderful as to excite the profoundest admiration, and the more we continue to study it the more we marvel at the wisdom of the Divine Maker who planned it. I shall, therefore, speak of it simply as a wind instrument composed of—
Represented by the LUNGS. Pl. I (Frontispiece), L.
2.—THE WINDPIPE. Pl. I, w.
3.—THE VOICEBOX OR LARYNX. Pl. I, v.
Represented by (a) THE UPPER PART OF THE THROAT, or PHARYNX, pl. I, P; (b) THE MOUTH, pl. I, M; (c) THE NOSE, pl. I, N.
The Lungs are enclosed in the chest, which they fit exactly, and of which they occupy by far the largest portion, leaving but a small space for the heart. They consist of two halves (pl. II, R, L), each roughly resembling the upper part of a sugar-loaf somewhat flattened and hollowed out at the bottom. The left shows two and the right three distinct flaps or lobes. They are only connected by means of the windpipe (pl. II, W) and its branches.
The Chest (pl. III) is an air-tight chamber, which is narrower above than below. It is formed by the spine at the back, twelve ribs (pl. III, 1 to 11, the twelfth not visible on the drawing), with their inner and outer muscles on either side, the breast-bone (pl. III, B B) in front, the root of the neck at the top, and the midriff or diaphragm (pl. I, M) at the bottom.
The Midriff (pl. III, M) is a muscular and movable partition by which the lungs are separated from the abdomen. It is arched upwards like an inverted basin, but when its muscular fibres contract it flattens and descends, thus increasing the capacity of the chest at the expense of that of the abdomen.
The Function of the Lungs is, as everybody knows, respiration, which may be considered from a mechanical or a chemical point of view. In this little work we are only concerned with the mechanical part of the subject. If we examine the lungs of a calf, which are very similar to those of a human being, we find that they are soft and elastic to the touch, giving out when pressed a peculiar whizzing sound. We may increase their volume by blowing into them through the windpipe, so as to make them double their original size, and then tie up the windpipe. On re-opening the windpipe the air escapes, and the lungs are gradually reduced to their former bulk. Now, by drawing a deep breath we produce the same result in ourselves as by blowing into the lungs of the calf; by holding the breath we produce the same result as by tying up the windpipe—that is to say, we keep the lungs in a state of expansion; and by releasing the breath we are, as it were, untying the windpipe, leaving the lungs to dwindle down gradually to their former size.
There is one very material point, however, in which the analogy ceases. It is this: we keep the air in the inflated calf's lungs by tying up the windpipe, and the corresponding act in ourselves would be to hold our breath by muscular contraction of the outlet in the throat. This is precisely what we do in straining, and in lifting heavy weights, &c.; but it should never be done in breathing for vocal purposes. Here it must, on the contrary, be our endeavour to train, to the highest possible degree, the powerful muscles of the chest and of the abdomen, instead of throwing the labour intended for them upon the comparatively weak and delicate muscles governing the outlet of the windpipe.
To make the way in which respiration is carried on clearer still, I quote the following interesting and lucid account from Huxley's "Elementary Physiology," fourth edition, p. 104. He compares the breathing apparatus to "a sort of bellows without a valve," in which the chest and the lungs represent the body of the bellows, while the windpipe is the pipe; "and the effect of the respiratory movement is just the same as that of the approximation and separation of the handles of the bellows, which drive out and draw in the air through the pipe. There is, however, one difference between the bellows and the respiratory apparatus, of great importance in the theory of respiration, though frequently overlooked, and that is, that the sides of the bellows can be brought close together so as to force out all, or nearly all, the air which they contain, while the walls of the chest, when approximated as much as possible, still enclose a very considerable cavity; so that even after the most violent expiratory effort, a very large quantity of air is left in the lungs."
Respiration, consequently, consists of two acts—namely, inspiration and expiration. Inspiration may be produced in three different ways—(1) By pushing the chest forward and flattening the midriff, so as to compel the lungs to descend and to increase in volume in order to fill the empty space created by this movement; (2) by extending the ribs sideways; and (3) by drawing up the upper parts of the chest—namely, the collar bones (pl. III, C C) and the shoulder blades. In scientific works the first is called diaphragmatic or abdominal,[B] the second lateral or costal, and the third clavicular or scapular breathing. As, however, these terms convey no meaning to the general reader, I prefer to speak of—(1) Midriff Breathing; (2) Rib Breathing; (3) Collar-bone Breathing. In taking a full, deep inspiration, midriff breathing and rib breathing take place almost together and assist each other—that is to say, the midriff contracts and flattens, and immediately afterwards the ribs extend sideways; with this difference, however, that in men the action of the midriff takes a larger share in the work than the ribs, while in woman, on the contrary, the movement of the ribs is greater than that of the midriff.
By way of illustrating this curious difference of breathing in men and women, the following anecdote, which has the recommendation of being strictly true, may perhaps amuse the reader. Some time ago a troupe of "Female Minstrels," calling themselves, I believe, "The American Amazons," made a tour through this country. Their faces were blackened in the orthodox fashion, and they were in male attire, wearing tight-fitting garments of a peculiar kind. Two friends, both medical men, went to hear them (or perhaps to see them, I am not sure which), when Mr. A remarked that two of the performers were men. Mr. B did not see it, even when the individuals were pointed out to him, and asked his friend for the reasons for his opinion. "Why," said Mr. A, "I see it by their abdominal breathing!" And sure enough Mr. B now saw it too, and there was no mistake about it; for in the two suspected individuals the abdomen was evidently moving in respiration, while in all the others no movement was perceptible excepting that of their chests.
[Illustration: PLATE IV.
DIAGRAMS ILLUSTRATING THE VARYING CAPACITY OF THE CHEST, ACCORDING TO THE METHOD IN WHICH THE LUNG IS INFLATED.
From Mr. Lennox Browne's "Medical Hints on the Production and Management of the Singing Voice," by permission of Messrs Chappell and Co.
The front outline A of the shaded figure represents the chest after full expiration; the black continuous line A gives the increase in size of the chest, and the descent of the diaphragm, indicated by the curved transverse lines, in full abdominal respiration. The dotted line C shows the retraction of the diaphragm and of the abdominal muscles in forced clavicular inspiration. The varying thickness of the line B indicates the fact of healthy breathing in a man being more abdominal than in woman. The outlines of forced inspiration in both sexes are remarkably similar. ]
The combined forms of midriff and rib breathing are the right method of inspiration, while collar-bone breathing is absolutely wrong, and should never be made use of. The reasons of this are not far to seek. The lower part of each lung is large and broad, while the upper part is cone-shaped, and very much smaller. It is self-evident, therefore, that by downward and sideways expansion (enlarging the lower part of the lungs) you will inhale a much greater quantity of air than by drawing up the collar-bones. This consideration alone should suffice to prove the utter falseness of collar-bone breathing. Collar-bone breathing has also the additional disadvantage of causing much fatigue, because all the parts surrounding the upper region of the lungs are hard and unyielding, so that a great amount of resistance has to be overcome (the "lutte vocale" of French authors), while the very opposite is the case with the lower part of the lungs.
Mr. Lennox Browne, who was, I believe, the first to direct the attention of English readers to this matter, says,[C] "Clavicular [collar-bone] breathing is a method of respiration totally vicious, and to be avoided. By it the whole lower part of the chest is flattened and drawn in, instead of being distended; consequently the lower or larger part of the lungs is not inflated. It is a method never exercised by nature in a state of health, but only when, from disease, either the abdominal or chest muscles cannot act; and it is the method least efficacious in filling, as it is the one calculated to most fatigue the chest; for it compresses the vessels and nerves of the throat, and this leads to engorgement and spasmodic action of the muscles."
We may well pause here and give another moment to the consideration of this most important subject. The lungs, as we have seen, are the bellows of our vocal organ; they supply the air which is the motive power on which the voice depends. Without air no tone can be produced. Nay, more, life itself must cease without it. Breathing goes on regularly while the voice is silent; but in speaking and singing both inspiration and expiration have to be regulated according to the nature of the phrases to be spoken or sung. If the speaker does not know how to take breath and how to control the expiration, his delivery will of necessity be jerky and uncertain. But in the singer it is even more important that he should be able to fill his lungs well, and, having done this, to have absolute command over his expiration; because while the speaker can arrange his sentences, his speed, and his breathing-places very much at his own pleasure, the singer is bound by the music before him. It must, therefore, be his aim to cultivate a proper method of breathing with the object of first getting, with the least possible fatigue, the largest possible amount of air in the most scrupulously careful manner, so as to prevent even the smallest fraction of it from being wasted. Yet how seldom is breathing systematically practised as an indispensable preliminary to the production of tone! I have no hesitation in saying that the subject is, in many instances, dismissed with a few general observations. Pupils, of course, take breath somehow, and teachers are glad to leave this uninteresting part of the business, and to proceed to the cultivation of the voice.
It may be as well to add that what has been said so far about right and wrong methods of breathing is not by any means mere theory, but that any one can convince himself of the truth of the rules laid down by making a few experiments with the spirometer, an instrument for measuring the breathing power of the chest by indicating on a dial the exact number of cubic inches of air expelled from the lungs. This breathing power will be found to vary according to the way in which the inspiration has been accomplished. In my own case, for instance, the spirometer should register, according to the table of comparative height and breathing power compiled by John Hutchinson, 230 cubic inches. Having suffered from severe attacks of bleeding from the lungs, my maximum with midriff and rib breathing is only 220, but with collar-bone breathing I barely reach 180!
During the Summer Session of the Tonic Sol-fa College I carefully tested the breathing capacity of ten students, and found that there was an average excess of midriff and rib breathing over collar-bone breathing to the extent of 25 cubic inches: the least amount of their increased power was 12 cubic inches, and the greatest was 45! I imagine that these figures are more eloquent than any words, and I think it superfluous to make any further comment on them.
I am strongly of opinion that breathing exercises, especially in the case of intending public singers, should always be carried on with a spirometer,[D] because that instrument enables us with the greatest accuracy to check results which otherwise can only be guessed at.
If this suggestion were acted upon we should certainly no longer be distressed by that intolerable and never-ceasing tremolo which now so frequently mars many, in other respects, fine voices. It is a curious, and at first sight unaccountable, circumstance that this great fault is specially noticeable amongst French singers. But at the Conservatoire de Musique in Paris students are deliberately taught the wrong method of inspiration; for, as we gather from the "Methode de Chant du Conservatoire de Musique," they are told to "flatten [or draw in] the abdomen" and to "bulge out the chest." Thus the mystery is at once cleared up, because the tremolo arises almost invariably from a weakness of the muscles of the midriff or diaphragm, to which attention has already been called in these pages. Owing to the abdomen being drawn in, the midriff never properly contracts; the muscles are not sufficiently exercised, and consequently have not power enough to resist the pressure that is brought to bear upon them in singing. They tremble, and this trembling being communicated to the lungs, which are resting upon them, the stream of air they give forth, loses its evenness and continuity, with the result I have just stated. It will be seen from the above explanation that this tremolo, one of the greatest vices besetting modern singing, and which has hitherto been held by many to be incurable, may be got rid of completely, though perhaps not very quickly, by the simple remedy of lung gymnastics on the right principle. The tremolo may certainly also arise from weakness of some muscles in the voicebox or larynx, by which the tension of the vocal ligaments is diminished and increased in rapid alternation. But this is a case for a medical man, which does not fall within my province to discuss, though I am justified in saying, on the authority of Mr. Lennox Browne,[E] that even in many of these cases the effect is clearly attributable to faulty breathing, since there is seldom any local disease of the larynx; while exercise on a right method of breathing will cure the spasmodic action of the laryngeal muscles with but little or no medical treatment.
* * * * *
I need scarcely add that there is yet another kind of tremolo, which, being absolutely under the control of the performer, is one of the chief ornaments of song, and to which the observations just made in no way apply.
* * * * *
In addition to the involuntary tremolo there are a number of other afflictions, "Clergymen's sore throat" amongst them, which are admitted by eminent medical authorities to be due to collar-bone breathing, and which may be entirely cured by proper lung gymnastics, or, in other words, by breathing exercises on the right principle; that is to say, by calling into play the muscles of the abdomen and of the lower part of the chest. This is a subject which is little understood by singers and public speakers, many of whom would be amazed at the sometimes most wonderful results produced by such simple means. I will therefore quote a case in point which came under my notice quite recently, and which will give the reader an idea of the importance of proper breathing:
Mr. X, a tall thin young man, engaged in evangelistic work, suffered from a "weakness of voice," which he found a great hindrance to his success. He therefore consulted Mr. Lennox Browne, who at once told him that he had no disease of any kind, and sent him to me for a course of breathing exercises. I found that Mr. X chiefly spoke in a child's voice, over which, moreover, he had very little control; and when I requested him to take a deep inspiration, he drew in his abdomen, bulged out his chest, and raised his collar-bones. The spirometer only registered 200 cubic inches instead of 260, which, according to Hutchinson's table, was his mean.
My course was, therefore, plain. I made him stand in an easy natural position, neither allowing him to bulge out his chest, nor to draw in the abdomen, and then instructed him how to acquire some control over his midriff and the lower muscles of the chest. It may be observed here, in passing, that we can, in a state of health, contract and relax these muscles at will, just as easily as we can bend a finger, and that this power, when lost through disuse, can be regained with little difficulty. In Mr. X's case this process was particularly speedy, with the result of increasing his breathing power in two lessons by 60 cubic inches. In one additional week I could dismiss him with a full sonorous man's voice, in place of the uncertain child's squeak with which he came to me. It is no exaggeration to say that this young man left me with a new voice, and if people had heard him when he first came to me, behind a screen, and again after the last lesson, they would certainly not have believed that they were listening to the same person. What Mr. X and his friends think of his case may be seen from the following letter which he wrote me on July 6th, 1880:—"Now that a week has passed since the last lesson I had from you, I write to bear testimony to the wonderful benefit to my voice obtained through the very short course I took. My friends are quite astonished at the marked difference, and I beg you will accept my most sincere thanks," &c.
Many similar cases might be mentioned, but the one just quoted is sufficient, and I will sum the matter up with a few remarks which Mr. Lennox Browne made as chairman at my lecture at the Aldersgate Street Literary Institution, on October 9th, 1880. He then said that, in his medical experience, he found that persons who suffered from their voices generally owed their ailments to bad habits of using the voice, and not to any defect in the larynx or resonance chamber. In several cases lately he had sent such patients to Herr Behnke, who had given them lessons in correct breathing, and who had thereby, and without any medicine, galvanism, or other aid, restored their voices in a remarkably short time.
From what has been said above about midriff and rib breathing versus collar-bone breathing, the folly of tight-lacing, or, indeed, of in any way interfering with the freedom of the waist, will be at once apparent. We pride ourselves upon our civilization; we make a boast of living in the age of science; physiology is now taught, or at least talked of, in almost every school; the laws of health are proclaimed in lectures and lessons innumerable all over the country, and we laugh at barbarous customs of other nations, such, for instance, as that of Chinese women preventing the growth of their feet by forcing them into boots of only half their proper size. And yet our ladies wear instruments of torture called corsets, altering the shape of their bodies, and positively driving the lower ribs into the lungs! Now which folly is the greater—that of doubling up the toes, or of crippling the body in its most vital parts? Let ladies answer the question, and let them further most solemnly consider that the girls of to-day are the mothers of to-morrow, and that upon the measure of their own health and strength depends the well-being of coming generations.
It is only fair to add, that if the practice of interfering with the freedom of the waist is reprehensible in the case of ladies, it is, in one sense, still more so in the case of the male sex, because, as has been shown before, men depend more for their breathing upon the action of the abdominal muscle than women. They should, therefore, neither wear tight-fitting vests, nor suspend their pantaloons by means of waistbands, belts, or buckles. Loose garments and braces are the proper thing, though the latter are commonly, but erroneously, considered to be injurious. Abdominal belts may be worn with advantage by persons of either sex requiring their support; but these are very different from stays or waist-bands. I find that an enterprising firm is advertising corsets for gentlemen (!), and a woodcut may be seen in some papers representing a young Adonis laced up in regular ladies' fashion, so that, if it were not for his luxurious moustache, one would certainly take the drawing to be meant for a woman. It is almost impossible to imagine that a man could ever make such a fool of himself; on the other hand, it is clear that these advertisements would not continue to appear if they did not bring customers. But these poor creatures do not deserve to be called men, and I am sincerely sorry for them.
With regard to the question whether inspiration should take place through the mouth or through the nostrils, I must enter my most decided protest against making it a practice to inhale through the mouth. There are, of course, occasions when this is unavoidable, as, for instance, where the singer has rapidly to take what is called a "half breath." But complete inflation, or, "full breath," is not the work of a moment; it takes time, and must be done gradually, steadily, and without the slightest interruption. This should always be done through the nostrils. The mouth was never intended for breathing, while the nose is specially and admirably adapted for this purpose. Not only can the lungs be well and quickly filled through this channel, but it is so cunningly devised that it acts at the same time as a "respirator," both purifying and warming the air before it touches the more delicate parts of the vocal organ. On the other hand, when inhaled through the mouth, the air carries with it, sometimes right into the voicebox, dust and other impurities, and its temperature is not materially altered. The consequence is that the throat and voicebox, when heated by singing or talking, or by hot rooms, are often exposed to cold, raw, and foggy winter air, and serious derangements of the respiratory organs are the natural consequence. If, moreover, this pernicious habit of breathing be once contracted, we shall soon also sleep with open mouths, thus parching our throats, and sowing the seeds of many a serious disorder.
On this point I quote a few lines from Dr. Louis Elsberg,[F] professor of laryngology in the University of New York: "The natural mode of quiet breathing is through the nose; mouth-breathing is an acquirement. A new-born infant would choke to death if you closed its nose; it does not immediately know how to get air into the lungs through the mouth until after, by depressing the tongue, you have once made a passage for it."
George Catlin, the celebrated traveller among American Indians, became so thoroughly convinced that the difference between the healthy condition and physical perfection of these people in their primitive state, especially their sound teeth and good lungs, and the deplorable mortality, the numerous diseases and deformities in civilized communities, is mainly due to the habit, common among the latter, of breathing through the mouth, especially during sleep, that he wrote a book entitled "Malrespiration and its Effects upon the Enjoyment and Life of Man." In this book he says, "If I were to endeavour to bequeath to posterity the most important motto which human language can convey, it should be in three words, 'Shut your mouth.' In the social transactions of life this might have its beneficial results as the most friendly cautionary advice, or be received as the grossest of insults; but where I would print and engrave it, in every nursery and on every bedpost in the universe, its meaning could not be mistaken, and obeyed, its importance would soon be realized."
He also says, "It is one of the misfortunes of civilization that it has too many amusing and exciting things for the mouth to say, and too many delicious things for it to taste, to allow of its being closed during the day. The mouth therefore has too little reserve for the protection of its natural purity of expression, and too much exposure for the protection of its garniture; but, do keep your mouth shut when you read, when you write, when you listen, when you are in pain, when you are walking, when you are running, when you are riding, and by all means when you are angry! There is no person but who will find and acknowledge improvement in health and enjoyment from even a temporary attention to this advice."
Again he says, "There is a proverb, as old and unchangeable as their hills, amongst North American Indians, 'My son, if thou wouldst be wise, open first thy eyes; thy ears next, and last of all thy mouth, that thy words may be words of wisdom, and give no advantage to thine adversary.' This might be adopted with good effect in civilized life; he who would strictly adhere to it would be sure to reap its benefits in his waking hours, and would soon find the habit running into his hours of rest, into which he would calmly enter; dismissing the nervous anxieties of the day, as he firmly closed his teeth and his lips, only to be opened after his eyes and his ears in the morning, the rest of such sleep would bear him daily and hourly proof of its value."
Catlin regards the habit of sleeping with the mouth open the most pernicious of all bad habits. The horrors of nightmare and snoring are, according to him, but the least of its evil effects. He thinks "for the greater portion of the thousands and tens of thousands of persons suffering with weakness of lungs, with bronchitis, asthma, indigestion, and other affections of the digestive and respiratory organs," the correction of this habit is a panacea for their ills!
He insists that "mothers should be looked to as the first and principal correctors of this most destructive of human habits; ... and the united and simultaneous efforts of the civilized world should be exerted in the overthrow of a monster so destructive to the good looks and life of man. Every physician should advise his patients, and every boarding-school in existence and every hospital should have its surgeon or matron, and every regiment its officer, to make their nightly and hourly 'rounds,' to force a stop to so unnatural, disgusting, and dangerous a habit! Under the working of such a system, mothers guarding and helping the helpless, schoolmasters their scholars, hospital surgeons their patients, generals their soldiers, and the rest of the world protecting themselves, a few years would show the glorious results in the bills of mortality, and the next generation would be a regeneration of the human race."
The Windpipe (pl. I, W).—Having examined the bellows of our vocal organ, we next notice the windpipe, by means of which the air is carried into and out of the lungs. It is an elastic tube kept open by 18 or 20 rings which do not quite meet at the back. It enters the lungs by means of two smaller tubes, which in their turn branch out very much like the roots of a tree, until their ramifications end in the microscopic cells of the lungs. The windpipe is capable of being slightly elongated or shortened, and narrowed or widened, and its interior is covered with a mucous membrane, which, as its name implies, is continually kept in a moist state.
The Voicebox, or Larynx (pl. V) may be described as resembling a funnel, the upper part of which has been bent into a triangular shape. Its front corner (pl. V, 1) may be both seen and felt in the throat, and the general position of the voicebox is thereby at once indicated. The framework of the voicebox consists of five parts. 1st. The Ring cartilage (pl. V, 2) is so named on account of its general resemblance to a signet ring. It is narrow in front, and has the part corresponding to the seal behind; the upper border (pl. V, 8, 4) rises very considerably towards the back, where it is about an inch high. 2nd. Riding upon this, as it were, with its hollow part towards the back, is the Shield cartilage (pl. V, 5), which consists of two plates united in front at an angle which forms the prominence referred to just now as that corner of the triangular funnel (pl. V, 1) which may be both seen and felt in the throat, and which is commonly called the Adam's Apple. It protects the interior and more delicate parts of the voice apparatus, from which circumstance it derives its name of shield cartilage. The plates of the shield have each at the back two horns, the upper and the lower. With the upper horns (pl. VI, 1, 2) the shield cartilage is attached by means of bands (pl. VI, 6, 7) to the corresponding projections (pl. VI, 4, 5) of the tongue-bone (pl. VI, 3), which has the shape of a horseshoe. With the lower horns (pl. V, 8), of which on our diagram we can only see one, it moves upon the ring cartilage as upon a hinge (pl. V, 9).
This is a very particular point, and I beg the reader particularly to notice that if the shield cartilage (pl. V, 5) were gradually drawn downwards and forwards, the space which we now see between the shield and the ring (pl. V, 10) would get smaller and smaller, until at last it quite disappeared; and the distance between the front of the shield (pl. V, 1) and the highest part of the back of the ring (pl. V, 4) would be increased.
I may observe here that authorities differ as to whether the shield moves upon the ring, or the ring upon the shield, and that some maintain the one is drawn down while the other is tipped upward. It is sufficient for our purpose, however, that a movement as upon a hinge takes place, whereby, as explained just now, the distance between the front of the shield and the highest part of the back of the ring is increased.
3rd. The Lid (pl. V, 11) is an elastic cartilage which serves to close the voicebox in the act of swallowing, in order to protect it against any intruding foreign substances. The food we take has to pass over it, and it sometimes happens, when the lid has not been pulled down tight enough, that a particle of food enters the voicebox, in which case we say it has "gone the wrong way," and there is then no peace until the intruder has been got rid of, generally by a violent fit of coughing.
The lid, it is true, is not the only means of protection which the voicebox possesses. Professor C. J. Eberth, for instance, mentions (Archiv fuer pathol: Anatomie, vol. lxiii., p. 135, Berlin, 1868) the case of a woman who, upon dissection, was found to be entirely without the free upper part of the lid, which could alone cover the voicebox. She had never experienced any difficulty in swallowing, and it is therefore clear that with her the closing of some of the parts immediately below was sufficient to prevent the food from getting into the voicebox. But "the exception proves the rule," and in spite of this and other similar cases, the fact remains that the lid is obviously the first and most natural protector of the voicebox.
4th and 5th. We have thus far become acquainted with three cartilages out of the five. Let us now remove one plate of the shield, as though cutting it off with a knife (pl. VII, 1 and 2), in order that we may look inside and see the remaining two cartilages which have hitherto been hidden by it. These are—
The Pyramids (pl. VII, 1 and 2), so called because of their shape. Their bases are triangular and hollowed out; their sides taper upwards and terminate in points which are bent slightly backwards, and they have each two projections, one pointing forwards (pl. VII, 3) and the other outwards and backwards (pl. VII, 4). It will be convenient to have a special name for the projections pointing outwards and backwards, which we will therefore call the Levers.
The Pyramids are attached with their hollow bases to the borders of the ring (pl. VII, 5), and they are capable of executing rotary movements with surprising freedom and rapidity. Their inner sides may be made to run parallel or to diverge. In addition to this they can be drawn towards each other, or away from each other, so that their summits may either be widely separated or brought close together.
The Vocal Ligaments are two ledges of elastic tissue covered with a very delicate membrane. Each one of them is connected along its whole length, on one side, with the shield cartilage. The vocal ligaments are attached by their hinder ends to those little projections of the pyramids which point forwards (pl. VII, 3, 3), and by their front ends to the centre of the shield (pl. VII, 6), where the two plates meet under a more or less acute angle.
These vocal ligaments are generally called the vocal cords, but this term is misleading, as it implies strings like those, for instance, of the violin, which are attached only at either end and are free at every other point. This, however, as we have just seen, is not the case, the "Cords" being free only along their inner edges. The name "Vocal Bands," which German physiologists have substituted for "Vocal Cords," does not mend the matter, as it is open to exactly the same objections. The term "Vocal Lips," also used by some writers, is, in my judgment, the most unfortunate of all, because it conveys a totally wrong idea of these parts, as will be seen from a description in another chapter of their movements in the act of singing. I have, therefore, sought for a word which, as a proper description of the thing it is to designate, shall always call a correct image to the reader's mind, and as I cannot find a better one than "Ligament," I have adopted it. I shall consequently in these pages always speak of the tone-producing element as the "Vocal Ligaments."
The vocal ligaments, having met, are struck by the air blown against them from below, and being elastic they yield, allowing themselves to be forced upwards. A little air is thereby set free, and the pressure from below diminished, in consequence of which the vocal ligaments resume their former position, and even move a little more downwards. The renewed pressure of the air once more overcomes the resistance of the vocal ligaments, which again recede as soon as another escape of air has taken place, and this process is repeated in rapid and regular succession. In this manner, and in this manner alone, is vocal tone produced, whether it be called chest, falsetto, head, or by any other name.
There are still some writers who teach a different doctrine. For instance, Miss Sabilla Novello, in her "Voice and Vocal Art," embodied in the "Collegiate Vocal Tutor," published by Novello, Ewer, and Co., says on p. 9, that "The head voice results from the upper [i.e., the false] vocal cords" (these we shall see presently), and on page 13, that the falsetto tones "are created principally by the action of the trachea [windpipe] and not by that of the vocal ligaments." Another writer, Mr. Rumney Illingworth, in a paper "On the Larynx and its Physiology," read before the Royal Medical Society of Edinburgh, on March 3rd, 1879, and communicated to "The Students' Journal and Hospital Gazette" (Vol. IV., No. 91, p. 151), says that "The falsetto voice is produced by the laryngeal sacculi [the pockets of the voicebox, which will be described further on] acting in the same way as a hazel-nut can be made to act as a whistle, when the kernel has been extracted through a small hole in the shell; or as part of the cavity of the mouth acts in whistling." I shall refer to these theories again as the opportunity for their proper discussion arises; for the present I will quote a few authorities on the subject.
Dr. CARPENTER, in his "Human Physiology," eighth edition, page 914, says, "The true theory of the voice may now be considered as well established in regard to this essential particular that the sound is the result of the vibrations of the vocal cords," &c.
Professor MARSHALL, in his "Outlines of Physiology," page 255, says: "Experiments on living animals show that the vocal cords are alone the essential organs for the production of voice, for so long as these remain untouched, although all the other parts in the interior of the larynx be destroyed, the animal is able to emit vocal sounds.... The existence of an opening in the larynx of a living animal, or of man, above the glottis [glottis means the vibrating element of the voicebox] in no way prevents the formation of vocal sound; such an opening if situated in the trachea [windpipe] causes total loss of voice, but by simply closing it, vocal sounds can again be produced. Such openings, in man, are met with, either as the results of accidents, of suicidal attempts, or of operations performed on the larynx or trachea for the relief of disease."
Dr. TOBOLD, Professor in the University of Berlin, in his "Laryngoscopie and Kehlkopf Krankheiten" (Laryngoscopy and Diseases of the Larynx), p. 131, says, "Soft palate, lid, pockets, and pocket-bands are not directly active in the production of either chest or falsetto tones; they only modify the tone produced in the glottis."
Dr. LUSCHKA, Professor in the University of Tubingen, in his great work "Der Kehlkopf des Menschen" (The Human Larynx), says in the introduction: "Only the vocal cords, with the slit they form, have specifically functional signification, in a narrower sense, of a voice apparatus, as the parts of the larynx which lie under and over them have no material and deciding influence on the production of sound."
I will bring my quotations to a close with the following, which seeks to prove the contrary. Dr. C. B. GARRETT ("The Human Voice," J. and J. Churchill, London, 1875, p. 17) says, "It is recorded that the larynx of a blackbird was removed by severing the windpipe just below it; that the poor 'thing continued to sing, though in a feebler tone.' This proves that notes can be formed behind the instrument and before the air reaches it." This argument, however, is of no value, because it so happens that birds have two larynges, one at the bottom and the other at the top of the windpipe. Dr. Garrett seems not to have been aware of this fact.
The vocal ligaments in the adult male are, in a state of rest, about three-quarters of an inch long, and in the female about half an inch. I pointed out before that the vocal ligaments are attached in front to the shield (pl. VII, 6) and behind to the pyramids (pl. VII, 3, 3). Let it now be borne in mind—1st, That the pyramids, in their turn, are fastened to the upper border of the ring cartilage; and 2nd, That by drawing the shield downwards and forwards upon the ring, the distance between the upper border of the ring (pl. VII, 5) and the front of the shield (pl. VII, 6) is increased, and it will be easily seen that this movement must of necessity have the effect of stretching the vocal ligaments.
This drawing of the shield downwards and forwards upon the ring is brought about by a pair of muscles ascending on either side, in the shape of a fan, from the ring to the shield cartilage (pl. VIII, 1, 2). These muscles we name the "Ring-Shield Muscles." In opposition to them there is another pair inside the shield, running parallel with the vocal ligaments (pl. IX, 1, 2, 3). They are attached (like the vocal ligaments) in front to the shield cartilage and behind to the pyramids. These muscles we will call the "Shield-Pyramid Muscles." They counteract the ring-shield muscles, and having overcome their resistance, pull the shield cartilage up again, thereby, of course, relaxing the vocal ligaments. The ring-shield muscles, therefore, stretch the vocal ligaments and the shield-pyramid muscles relax them. The shield-pyramid muscles have an additional function—that of pressing together the vocal ligaments, under certain circumstances, thereby narrowing the opening between them. They have therefore been, in these later days, called the Sphincter[G] muscle of the glottis. They have also been called the Vocal Muscles, since they play so important a part in the formation of all vocal tone that a paralysis of them causes total loss of voice.
It may be observed here that it is impossible to imitate, in the dead subject, the contraction of the vocal muscles. All conclusions, therefore, drawn from experiments upon exsected larynges, with regard to tone-production in living man are necessarily quite untrustworthy, and cannot for one moment be admitted as evidence against observations made upon singers with the laryngoscope.
These two pairs of muscles, then, namely the ring-shield muscles (pl. VIII, 1, 2) and the shield-pyramid muscles (pl. IX, 1, 2, 3) by stretching, slackening, and compressing the vocal ligaments, mainly govern the pitch of the tones produced by their vibrations. The ring-shield muscles receive some assistance in stretching the vocal ligaments from another quarter, of which we shall speak later on.
We have now had a look at the vocal ligaments, and we have seen by what means they are put on the stretch. As, however, in a state of repose these ligaments diverge behind, they must be brought parallel to each other before they are ready for the production of sound. Let us, therefore, in order to explain how this is done, imagine that we have cut off that part of the pyramids which is standing out above the vocal ligaments (pl. VII), and let us now have a look at these parts from above. You see the ligaments (pl. XA, 1, 2), a section of the pyramids (pl. XA, 3, 4), and uniting these an elastic band (pl. XA, 5). The space between these parts is commonly called the Glottis, but as this appellation belongs more properly to the vocal ligaments, it is manifestly wrong to give the same name to the space which they inclose. This space should be distinguished as the "Chink of the Glottis" or the "Vocal Chink."
I have been blamed for making this distinction in the face of almost universal usage. But I can point to the great anatomist Professor Luschka as having set the example, and while it is true that in most physiological works "Glottis" is used for the slit between the vocal ligaments, yet the appellations "Rima glottidis" and "Aperture of the glottis" are also employed for the same thing. Medical men, moreover, speak of "Spasm of the glottis," and singing masters of the "Shock of the glottis," which terms are clearly quite meaningless when applied to a space.
Dr. Garrett says, on page 12 of the book quoted before, that "The upper portion of the larynx above the false vocal cords is termed the glottis." He might as well say, "The upper portion of the face above the nose is termed the mouth." I really should not notice so astounding a statement were it not made by one signing himself an M.D., and published by so eminent a firm of Medical publishers as Messrs. J. and A. Churchill.
On plate XI you see all parts in a state of rest. To the levers of the pyramids (pl. XI, 1, 2) a pair of muscles is attached, the bases of which are fixed upon the back of the ring cartilage below (pl. XI, 3, 6, 3). The action of these "Back Ring-Pyramid Muscles" (pl. XI, 4, 1 and 5, 2) is to contract as soon as we take breath, thereby drawing together the pyramids behind and separating them in front, at the same time stretching the elastic band behind (pl. X, A, 5). By this movement the chink of the glottis is thrown wide open into the shape depicted on pl. X, B. During expiration these relax, the elastic band contracts, and the vocal chink resumes the shape as on pl. XI. These movements go on from the beginning of our lives to the end, whether we are asleep or awake, with more or less vigour, according as we take a slight or a deep inspiration. The back ring-pyramid muscles (pl. XI, 4, 1 and 5, 2), have consequently the all-important function of keeping open the gate through which the air we breathe enters the lungs. They have, therefore, been poetically called the "Guardians of the Portal of Life." By their action of pulling the pyramids backwards, they also assist the ring-shield muscles (pl. VIII, 1, 2) in stretching the vocal ligaments.
* * * * *
In opposition to these "Opening Muscles" there is another pair rising from the side borders of the ring (pl. XI, 3, 3) which are fastened to the front part of the levers of the pyramids (pl. XI, 1, 2), serving to draw together their front projections to which the vocal ligaments are attached, and which are thereby brought parallel with each other.
These "Side Ring-Pyramid Muscles" (pl. XI, 3, 1 and 3, 2; see also pl. IX, 5, 4) are assisted by a single muscle uniting the pyramids behind the elastic band which we have already noticed. This muscle we will call the "Pyramid Muscle" (pl. XI, 7). By the united action of the muscles which have just been described the vocal chink is thrown in the shape shown on pl. X, C, and the vocal ligaments are now in a proper position for the production of tone.
* * * * *
Before proceeding any farther it will be well if we once more glance at the muscles with which we have become acquainted, so that we may be quite sure about their functions.
I. GOVERNING THE SHAPE OF THE VOCAL CHINK.
The Back Ring-Pyramid} OPENING Muscles } THE VOCAL CHINK.
THESE ARE OPPOSED BY—
The Side Ring-Pyramid } Muscles, and the Pyramid} CLOSING Muscles, assisted by the} THE VOCAL CHINK. Shield-Pyramid Muscles }
II. GOVERNING THE PITCH OF THE TONES.
The Ring-Shield Muscles, } STRETCHING assisted by the Back Ring-Pyramid } Muscles } THE VOCAL LIGAMENTS.
THESE ARE OPPOSED BY—
The Shield-Pyramid } SLACKENING Muscles } THE VOCAL LIGAMENTS.
The Pocket Ligaments (called "False Vocal Cords," pl. XII, 1 and 2) are a pair of horizontal projections running above and parallel with the vocal ligaments (pl. XII, 3 and 4). The pocket ligaments are, like the vocal ligaments, attached in front to the shield and behind to the pyramids. They may be described as two ledge-shaped pads mainly formed of glands. They are very sensitive and movable, and ready on the smallest incitement to meet with great rapidity in order to protect the vocal ligaments from any harm. They must, therefore, be chiefly regarded as safeguards of the vocal apparatus, though it is probable that by breaking the stream of air passing through the chink of the glottis, they also exercise considerable influence upon the quality of the tone emitted. It may be affirmed, however, without the slightest hesitation, that they have absolutely nothing to do with the production of tone. We shall see these glandular ledges again during our observations upon the living subject, and I shall therefore say no more about them at present.
The space between the pocket ligaments and the vocal ligaments (pl. XII, 1, 2, 3, 4) is the entrance to two pouches or pockets which extend outwards and upwards. The dimensions of these pockets vary very much in different individuals. As a rule their height does not exceed two-fifths of an inch, so that their terminations do not reach the upper borders of the shield cartilage (pl. XII, 5 and 6). But there are instances in which the pockets are nearly three-quarters of an inch high, and where such is the case they, as a necessary consequence, reach beyond the shield. Sometimes they are so high as nearly to touch the root of the tongue. Their outer walls are chiefly formed of loose fatty cellular tissue, and the pockets are almost entirely surrounded by a large number of small glands.
Now these are the "Laryngeal sacculi" which, according to Mr. Illingworth, produce the falsetto voice by "acting in the same way as a hazel-nut can be made to act as a whistle, when the kernel has been extracted through a small hole in the shell," &c. I think, however, that the reader will, from the description given above, agree with me that the acoustic properties of the pockets of the voicebox cannot be very great, and that, at all events, there is a vast difference between their construction and that of a hazel-nut, either with or without the kernel. Then there is this additional difficulty, that even if one could whistle upon the pockets in the manner suggested, there are two of them, covered, let it be remembered, with a multitude of glands, continually producing moisture, and liable to enlarge or to diminish. How, I should like to know, could two such cavities be so tuned as under any circumstances to produce exactly the same tones? Would not rather frightful discords be the inevitable result? And again, what provision is there in the pockets for the gradations of pitch? But quite apart from these considerations, this and other similar theories are completely disproved by the fact that every tone which the human voice is capable of producing can be produced by inspiration as well as by expiration. The tones sung by inspiration are, as might be expected, wholly devoid of beauty, because the vocal apparatus is, as it were, put upside down, and the position of bellows and resonator reversed. But that does not alter the question. The fact remains, and clearly proves that the pockets have no more to do with the falsetto than with the chest voice, because in inspiration the air strikes the vocal ligaments after it has passed the pockets, and yet the result is, beauty of tone apart, exactly the same.
The function of the pockets, in my opinion, is this: They are the means of isolating the vocal ligaments, thus enabling them to vibrate freely and without hindrance. They also allow the sound-waves to expand sideways, thereby materially adding to their resonance. Lastly, they with their many little glands produce and supply the vocal ligaments with that moisture without which, according to the investigations of J. Mueller,[H] the production of tone cannot be carried on.
Above the pocket ligaments there is a kind of tube which is formed by the upper part of the pyramids (surmounted by two little bodies called the cartilages of Santorini, pl. XII, 7, 8) behind; the lid or epiglottis (pl. XII, 9) in front, and sideways by two folds of mucous membrane running up from the pyramids to the lid (pl. XII, 14, 10 and 15, 11). These folds are in many cases supported by two small cartilages, which we will call the Wedges (pl. XII, 12, 13). These, according to Madame Emma Seiler, are the chief factors in the formation of the highest register of the female voice. In some physiological works they are treated as of very little consequence, and in others they are not mentioned at all.
These wedges are two thin strips of cartilage running in front of the pyramids (pl. XII, 12 and 13) where they are embedded in a number of glands. Their upper ends terminate in the cartilages of Wrisberg (pl. XII, 14, 15), and their lower ends gradually dwindle away in the direction of the vocal ligaments.
Madame Seiler says that they "reach to the middle of the vocal chords, by which they are enveloped."[I] She comments in the same book on the fact that German anatomists have been reluctant to admit the existence of these cartilages; and she adds on page 61, "It was, therefore, a great satisfaction to me to find them described under the name of the cuneiform cartilages in Wilson's 'Human Anatomy.'" It must be confessed, however, that Wilson's description of them is totally different from Madame Seiler's. He says, "The cuneiform cartilages are two small cylinders of yellow fibro-cartilage, about seven lines in length and enlarged at each extremity. By the lower end or base the cartilage is attached to the middle of the external surface of the arytenoid (the pyramid), and by its upper extremity forms a prominence in the border of the aryteno-epiglottidean fold of membrane"[J] (i.e., the fold running up to the lid). According to Seiler, therefore, the wedges reach from the pyramids to the middle of the vocal ligaments, but according to Wilson their bases are attached to the middle of the outer surface of the pyramids, so that they cannot even touch the vocal ligaments. As Madame Seiler assigns very important functions to these wedges in the formation of the highest register of the female voice, and as she quotes Wilson in a manner that must lead the reader to suppose he gave a similar description to hers of these cartilages, I have thought it right to give Wilson's statement in full.
But there is a description of these cartilages by Dr. Witkowski which corresponds very closely with Madame Seiler's. Speaking of some of the glands of the voicebox, he says in the work mentioned before, on p. 12—"They are arranged in the form of an L, whose vertical branch goes along the arytenoid cartilages (the pyramids), the horizontal branch following the direction of the vocal cords. There is often found situated in the midst of this group of glands the cuneiform cartilage of Wrisberg, sometimes reduced to a mere cartilaginous granule."
Dr. Elsberg also describes them on p. 37 of the treatise before mentioned as "elongated nodules" in the hinder portion of the vocal ligaments, and says they are found "more often in the female than in the male sex." He calls them the "posterior vocal nodules," and gives on p. 36 a diagram which shows them most clearly and unmistakably. This point would therefore seem to be settled.
The Resonator.—We now come to the last part of our instrument, namely, the resonator, which is formed of (1) the pockets of the larynx; (2) the tube above the pocket ligaments; (3) the upper part of the throat; (4) the mouth; and (5) the nose. Before giving a description of the resonator, it will be necessary to make a few introductory remarks on certain laws of the philosophy of sound, which have been so clearly demonstrated that they admit of no contradiction.
Tone, as we have seen, is the result of rapid periodic vibrations.
The Loudness of tone depends upon the amplitude of the vibrations. This is easily shown by drawing a bow over the string of a violin: while the vibrations of the string are largest, the tone produced is loudest, and as the vibrations get smaller, so the tone becomes fainter.
The Pitch of tone depends upon the number of vibrations in a given period of time. The greater the number of vibrations the higher the pitch, and vice versa.
The Quality of tone depends on the form of the vibrations, "which also determines the occurrence of upper partial tones."[K]
Now, to make the sound of any tone-producing element more intense, and to give it some special quality, is the work of the resonator. If we simply fix a fiddle string at either end, and, after giving it a certain amount of tension, draw a bow across it, we shall certainly produce a tone, but a very poor and faint one. Put the same string with the same amount of tension upon a cheap violin, and the tone will be intensified, and its quality changed, though that quality may be of a very unpleasant kind. Repeat the experiment upon an Amati or a Straduarius, and not only will the tone be more powerful still, but it will also have a full, round, and beautiful quality. Something, it is true, depends upon the string and upon the bowing, but we are here supposing the same string and the same player, our object being to show how the resonator, which, in this case, is the body of the violin, intensifies the tone of the string, and affects its quality.
Illustrations exemplifying the same thing might be multiplied to any extent, but the one I have just given will suffice. As with the string, so with the vocal ligaments. Cut a larynx out of a dead body, put it in proper position on the top of a bellows, and force the air through it, and you will produce tone, but faint and poor tone. Now add a resonator to the larynx, and the tone of the vocal ligaments will be intensified, and its quality altered according to the kind of resonator you make use of.
It is clear, therefore, that the human voice does not only depend upon the vibrations of the vocal ligaments, and the corresponding vibrations of the air passing between them, but also upon the resonator as defined on p. 9. According to the natural formation of our resonator, and according to the infinite variety of shapes which every one has it in his power to give to it, our voices will be, always supposing the conditions of the vocal ligaments to be the same, either full, round, sonorous, and beautiful, or they will be poor, cutting, muffled, guttural, nasal, and ugly.
As we have, or may easily acquire, absolute command over the resonator, or, at least, over the greatest part of it, it is a comfort to know that so very much depends upon it, and I trust my readers will now, with some amount of pleasure, look with me at this part of the vocal apparatus.
The 1st and 2nd divisions of the resonator—namely, the pockets of the larynx and the tube above the pocket ligaments—have been fully described on pp. 52, 53, and no more need be said on the subject here.
The upper part of the throat, called in scientific works the "Pharynx" (pl. I, P), is a cavity, the largest part of which may be seen through the arch at the back of the open mouth. Its hinder wall is formed by the spinal column, and it extends upwards as far as the Eustachian tubes (pl. I, E) which communicate with the middle part of the ear. Here it joins—
The Cavities of the Nose (pl. I, N), which have for their base the hard and soft palate (pl. I, H and S), and which are divided by a bone partition.
The only part of the Mouth which requires a particular description is the soft palate. This is a movable partition by means of which either the mouth or the nose can be completely separated from the throat. If the nose is to be shut off from the throat the soft palate is raised, and pressed against the back of the pharynx. If the mouth is to be shut off the soft palate is lowered, and rests closely upon the back of the tongue. This partition plays a most important part in vocalization. In the formation of all pure vowel sounds it is raised, thereby closing the nasal cavities, and it has been found that the closure is loosest for "ah" (as in "father") and tightest for "e" (as in "bee"), the intermediate vowels being "a" (as in "name"), "oh" and "oo" (as in "food"). This has been clearly shown by Czermak in the following manner. Lying down on his back, he had the nasal cavities filled with tepid water. He then uttered the various vowel sounds, and ascertained from the quantity of water required to force open the closure formed by the soft palate the degree of tightness for each vowel. He afterwards constructed a very ingenious little apparatus, by means of which, in one of his lectures, he demonstrated this fact to his audience. It will be easily understood from the above explanation that, if the closure of the nasal cavities is sufficiently imperfect to allow any considerable amount of air to pass through the nose, the result will be a nasal tone.
I am aware that the very opposite is taught by some. There are those who maintain that nasal tone arises from the air not being able to get through the nose. I am even informed that in some parts of England where nasal tone seems to be a general affliction, it is the practice of teachers of singing to cause their pupils to bathe their noses in hot water in order to relax the muscles which are supposed by their contraction to produce nasal tone. I would, however, in support of my statement, draw attention to the following indisputable facts:—(1) It is quite possible to completely close the nostrils, and yet to produce pure vocal tone. (2) Persons who are either partly or entirely without the soft palate can under no circumstances utter a single sound without the most pronounced nasal quality. It seems to me that these facts sufficiently speak for themselves; but if any of my readers are not convinced by them, let them try this experiment: Take a thin mirror and hold it flat against the upper lip, with the glass upwards. Now sing a pure vocal tone, and the mirror will remain perfectly bright. Sing, on the contrary, with nasal quality, and the mirror will at once be completely dimmed. This shows conclusively that nasal sound is produced by singing through the nose, and this cannot be done without lowering the soft palate. Teachers of singing know well enough that guttural tone is caused by the obstinate arching up of the tongue, and if they understand their business they eventually succeed in teaching a pupil labouring under this disadvantage to get perfect control over his tongue. But nobody thinks of the soft palate, though that can be brought under subjection just as well as the tongue. Let singing masters see to it, and young ladies will no longer be laughed at for having to put their noses into hot water before charming their friends with a song.
It now only remains to be added that the interior of the windpipe and of the voicebox, as well as that of the throat, the mouth, and the nose, is lined with a thin mucous membrane of a pinkish colour. This concludes my description of the Vocal Organ as a musical instrument.
DIFFERENCES OF THE VOICEBOX, OR LARYNX, IN CHILDREN, WOMEN, AND MEN.
The voicebox of a newly-born baby is about one-third the size of that of a grown woman. It is therefore rather large in proportion to other parts of the body, with the exception of the head, which comparatively is larger still. The horizontal outline of the shield cartilage is a very gentle curve, and the upper horns are short, in consequence of which the voicebox is close to the tongue. The wedges, according to Merkel, are strongly developed; the vocal ligaments are short and thick, and the pockets deep. Up to the third year the voicebox grows very considerably, but no particular alterations take place from that time to the period of puberty, which generally occurs at the age of 14 or 15, rather earlier in girls than in boys. This period of change lasts from six to twelve months, or sometimes even two or three years. During this time the vocal organs undergo a marked change. In boys, the angle at which the two plates of the shield meet becomes more and more acute, and the length of the vocal ligaments increases only in the proportion of five to ten. In girls, on the other hand, the horizontal outline of the shield does not lose its evenness, and the length of the vocal ligaments increases only in the proportion of five to seven. The cartilages would seem, especially in boys, to grow more rapidly than the muscles, so that the slowly-growing muscles do not, at first, control the newly-developed cartilages. This accounts for the unmanageable state of the voice at this period. The changes which take place in the female voicebox are very imperceptible, so that they do not materially affect the character of the voice. In the male voicebox, on the contrary, the alterations are very marked, and the result is that the high voice of the boy is changed into the tenor or the bass of the man. While, therefore, before the period of puberty the voicebox is materially the same in both sexes, there are, afterwards, considerable differences noticeable, not only with regard to size, but also with regard to shape. This seems, indeed, sufficiently obvious, and any one can see it by simply comparing the outside of the throat of a man with that of a woman.
Nevertheless we are told by Mr. Lunn[L] that "Anatomy teaches us that there is no difference between the male and female larynx save in size;" and by Dr. Garrett (on page 13 of the book quoted before) that "The male larynx does not differ anatomically in the least from that of the female, except in size."
My readers may judge for themselves whether these statements are borne out by facts or not.
It must further be observed that the whole upper part of the shield in the female voicebox is less developed than in the male. The upper horns are short, so that the voicebox is more closely attached to the tongue-bone, and its position in the throat is altogether higher in woman than in man. To show more clearly still the difference in the proportions of the male and the female voicebox, I give below some average measurements (taken from Luschka's great work on the Larynx) which I have, for the convenience of English readers, reduced, as nearly as possible, from centimetres and millimetres to inches.
Height of the voicebox in } 2-4/5in. 1-9/10in. front, with the lid raised } (7 cent.) (4.8 cent.)
Greatest width between the } 1-3/5in. 1-2/5in. plates of the shield cartilage} (4 cent.) (3.5 cent.)
Depth between the lower } border of the shield cartilage, } 1-1/5in. 1 in. and the opposite point } (3 cent.) (2.4 cent.) of the ring cartilage. }
Length of the vocal chink ... 1 in. 3/5 in. (25 mm.) (15 mm.)
According to this eminent anatomist, therefore, the differences between male and female larynges are as follows: In height, 9/10; in width, 1/5; in depth, 1/5; in the length of the vocal chink, 2/5 of an inch. As it is plain that if there were "no difference between the male and the female larynx save in size," all their proportions would be alike, I think I may safely assume that I have proved my point, which is a rather important one, as the reader will see when the registers in the male and female voice come up for discussion.
We will now consider the question how the various classes of voice—i.e., Sopranos, Contraltos, Tenors, and Basses—are to be accounted for by corresponding differences in the voicebox. We know that tone is produced by the vibrations of the vocal ligaments. It is clear, therefore, that a voice will be high or low according to the number of vibrations which the ligaments are capable of producing, or in other words, according to their dimensions and their tension. This difference is easily seen by comparing the voicebox of a soprano with that of a bass, because there the proportions are so manifestly smaller in the one than in the other. There are similar distinctions between soprano and contralto on the one hand, and between tenor and bass on the other, but they are not so striking. Neither can they, for various reasons, be demonstrated with the laryngoscope; but they exist nevertheless.