Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 36.djvu/257

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tion of the registers was that, while in the delivery of chest notes the whole substance of the vocal cord vibrated, in the "head" voice only its thin inner margin did so; in both cases the entire length of the cord was supposed to vibrate. The shortening of the vibrating reed, however, by the mutual "stopping" process mentioned above, is not a theory, but a fact which can be seen. I am inclined to believe, however, that under certain circumstances the two processes of shortening and marginal vibration may be combined. This may possibly be the true mechanism of the falsetto voice, as to which there has been so much dispute. It is clear that the term has been used by different persons in different senses, and much of the confusion which exists on the subject is, in my opinion, due to this cause. By most of the old Italian writers, the term falsetto is used as synonymous with head voice; by others it is employed to denote that kind of voice "whereby a man going beyond the upper limit of his natural voice counterfeits that of a woman" (Rousseau, "Dictionnaire de Musique"). A similar difference of opinion exists as to the beauty of falsetto, some speaking rapturously of its flute-like softness, others reviling it as "the most disagreeable of all timbres of the human voice" (Rousseau, ibid.). I venture with all humility to submit that "falsetto" and "head voice" should not be used interchangeably. The "long reed" and "short reed" registers are used alike by the two sexes, the greater part of the male voice, however, belonging to the former, and the greater part of the female to the latter. The term "falsetto" should be reserved for the artificial method of delivery, by which the limited "short reed" register in men is forced upward beyond its natural compass. In this mode of production the air is blown up from the lungs so gently that it has not sufficient power to throw the whole thickness of the vocal cord into vibration. This accounts for the soft, "flute-like" tones which are characteristic of the falsetto voice.

To sum up the mechanism of the registers, there is first the "long reed" or "chest" register, in which the cords vibrate in their whole length and thickness; then the "short reed" or "head" register, in which the vibrating reed is gradually shortened; lastly, the falsetto, which belongs to men alone, and is formed by the vibration of the margins only of the shortened reeds. Pitch rises in the long reed register owing to increasing tension of the cords, accompanied by increasing rapidity of vibration; when the cord can not be made more tense, the device of shortening the reed is brought into play. In the upper register not only is the aperture between the cords ("glottis") diminished to the smallest possible size, but the whole upper orifice of the larynx is compressed from side to side, so as to leave only a very narrow chink for the voice to pass through. In the lower register, on the other hand, the