Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 9.djvu/544
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
fluence on the glottic sounds, and we possess no means of measuring these qualities.
The character of the voice is fixed from the time when the larynx has reached its full development. So long as the activity of youth continues, the voice will retain this character without any very considerable modification; still, by exercise it will perhaps gain intensity, and may be improved in point of timbre. Suppleness and agility of the organs are acquired only at the cost of labor; this is shown from the history of many a singer. The voice of the young Marie Garcia was at first harsh and husky, but afterward it became the sweet voice of Malibran. Still, as a rule, natural physical gifts manifest themselves prior to any attempt at culture.
As old age approaches, the play of the larynx becomes difficult; at first the tone of the voice is lowered, and then its intensity is lessened; the breath comes with less force. Sometimes disease impairs the instrument before the advent of age. While appearing to be intact, the organ often ceases to discharge its functions perfectly, owing to more or less serious affection of the nervous action. Mandl has, by means of electricity, momentarily restored voices that had been thus destroyed. Songstresses have now and then irretrievably lost their voices in consequence of overstrain of the vocal organs. Here we are reminded of the case of Cornelia Falcon.
Amid the refinements of civilized life, singing is prized only in so far as it is an art; when it rises to that dignity, it attracts crowds. A man or a woman possessing no matter how fine a voice, must begin by going to school. The instrument, whose admirable mechanism we have seen, is not entirely under control, except after much study and long-continued and methodical exercise. This is true of all organs subject to the will, as every one knows from experience, as in the employment of the hands. Though expert in all the movements of the larynx and the mouth, the singer cannot, even with a superb voice, produce brilliant effects, save by the aid of mind. From mind alone come expression, taste, style, and these qualities are all personal. Sensibility, whether real or feigned, is always an element of success. The artist is advised never to give way to the passions which he expresses, for mental commotion is quickly succeeded by extreme fatigue; he may attain a perfect imitation of passions, meanwhile preserving a tranquil mind. Still, are not emotions which are felt always the most communicable?
After we have studied the human voice in its various manifestations, the voice of animals seems to us to be scarcely worthy of notice. The barking of the dog, the mewing of the cat, the bleating of the sheep, undoubtedly constitute a very scanty language. These cries of animals do but annoy us; but it must be remembered that they are intended for other ears than ours. The warbling of small birds alone affords us pleasure; it possesses resemblances which cause pleasing illusions; it