Vox

open-uri20130830-29665-1g95zlt

Augentur autem sicut omnium, ita vocis quoque bona cura, neglegentia minuuntur. sed cura non eadem oratoribus quae phonascis convenit, tamen multa sunt utrisque communia, firmitas corporis, ne ad spadonum et mulierum et aegrorum exilitatem vox nostra tenuetur; quod ambulatio, unctio, veneris abstinentia, facilis ciborum digestio, id est frugalitas, praestat. praeterea ut sint fauces integrae, id est molles ac leves, quarum vitio et frangitur et obscuratur et exasperatur et scinditur vox. nam ut tibiae eodem spiritu accepto alium clusis alium apertis foraminibus, alium non satis purgatae alium quassae sonum reddunt, item fauces tumentes strangulant vocem, obtusae obscurant, rasae exasperant, convulsae fractis sunt organis similes. finditur etiam spiritus obiectu aliquo sicut lapillo tenues aquae, quarum impetus etiam si ultra paulum coit, aliquid tamen cavi relinquit post id ipsum quod offenderat. humor quoque vocem ut nimius impedit, ita consumptus destituit. nam fatigatio, ut corpora, non ad praesens modo tempus sed etiam in futurum adficit. sed ut communiter et phonascis et oratoribus necessaria est exercitatio, qua omnia convalescunt, ita curae non idem genus est. nam neque certa tempora ad spatiandum dari possunt tot civilibus officiis occupato, nec praeparare ab imis sonis vocem ad summos nec semper a contentione condere licet, cum pluribus iudiciis saepe dicendum sit. ne ciborum quidem est eadem observatio: non enim tam molli teneraque voce quam forti ac durabili opus est, cum illi omnes etiam altissimos sonos leniant cantu oris, nobis pleraque aspere sint concitateque dicenda et vigilandae noctes et fuligo lucubrationum bibenda et in sudata veste durandum. quare vocem deliciis non molliamus, nec imbuatur ea consuetudine quam desideratura sit, sed exercitatio eius talis sit qualis usus, nec silentio subsidat, sed firmetur consuetudine, qua difficultas omnis levatur. ediscere autem, quo exercearis, erit optimum (nam ex tempore dicentis avocat a cura vocis ille qui ex rebus ipsis concipitur affectus), et ediscere quam maxime varia, quae et clamorem et disputationem et sermonem et flexus habeant, ut simul in omnia paremur. hoc satis est; alioqui nitida illa et curata vox insolitum laborem recusabit, ut assueta gymnasiis et oleo corpora, quamlibet sint in suis certaminibus speciosa atque robusta, si militare iter fascemque et vigilias imperes, deficiant et quaerant unctores suos nudumque sudorem. illa quidem in hoc opere praecipi quis ferat, vitandos soles atque ventos et nubila etiam ac siccitates? ita, si dicendum in sole aut ventoso, umido, calido die fuerit, reos deseremus? nam crudum quidem aut saturum aut ebrium aut eiecto modo vomitu, quae cavenda quidam monent, declamare neminem qui sit mentis compos puto. illud non sine causa est ab omnibus praeceptum, ut parcatur maxime voci in illo a pueritia in adulescentiam transitu, quia naturaliter impeditur, non, ut arbitror, propter calorem, quod quidam putaverunt (nam est maior alias), sed propter humorem potius: nam hoc aetas illa turgescit. itaque nares etiam ac pectus eo tempore tument, atque omnia velut germinant eoque sunt tenera et iniuriae obnoxia. sed, ut ad propositum redeam, iam confirmatae constitutaeque voci genus exercitationis optimum duco quod est operi simillimum, dicere cotidie sicut agimus. namque hoc modo non vox tantum confirmatur et latus, sed etiam corporis decens et accommodatus orationi motus componitur.
(Quintilian, Inst. Or. 11.3.19-29)

The good qualities of the voice, like everything else, are improved by training and impaired by neglect. But the training required by the orator is not the same as that which is practised by the singing-master, although the two methods may have many points in common. In both cases physical robustness is essential to save the voice from dwindling to the feeble shrillness that characterises the voices of eunuchs, women and invalids, and the mentions for creating such robustness are to be found in walking, rubbing-down with oil, abstinence from sexual intercourse, an easy digestion, and, in a word, in the simple life. Further, the throat must be sound, that is to say, soft and smooth; for if the throat be unsound, the voice is broken or dulled or becomes harsh or squeaky, For just as the sound produced in the pipe by the same volume of breath varies according as the stops are closed or open, or the instrument is clogged or cracked, so the voice is strangled if the throat be swollen, and muffled if it is obstructed, while it becomes rasping if the throat is inflamed, and may be compared to an organ with broken pipes in cases where the throat is subject to spasms. Again, the presence of some obstacle may divide the breath just as a pebble will divide shallow waters, which, although their currents unite again soon after the obstruction is past, still leave a hollow space in rear of the object struck. An excess of moisture also impedes the voice, while a deficiency weakens it. As regards fatigue, its effect is the same as upon the body: it affects the voice not merely at the moment of speaking, but for some time afterwards. But while exercise, which gives strength in all cases, is equally necessary both for orators and singing-masters, it is a different kind of exercise which they require. For the orator is too much occupied by civil affairs to be able to allot fixed times for taking a walk, and he cannot tune his voice through all the notes of the scale nor spare it exertion, since it is frequently necessary for him to speak in several cases in succession. Nor is the same régime suitable as regards food: for the orator needs a strong and enduring voice rather than one which is soft and sweet, while the singer mellows all sounds, even the highest, by the modulation of his voice, whereas we have often to speak in harsh and agitated tones, must pass wakeful nights, swallow the soot that is produced by the midnight oil and stick to our work though our clothes be dripping with sweat. Consequently, we must not attempt to mellow our voice by coddling it nor accustom it to the conditions which it would like to enjoy, but rather give it exercise suited to the tasks on which it will be employed, never allowing it to be impaired by silence, but strengthening it by practice, which removes all difficulties. The best method for securing such exercise is to learn passages by heart (for if we have to speak extempore, the passion inspired by our theme will distract us from all care for our voice), while the passages selected for the purpose should be as varied as possible, involving a combination of loud, argumentative, colloquial and modulated utterance, so that we may prepare ourselves for all exigencies simultaneously. This will be sufficient. Otherwise your delicate, overtrained voice will succumb before any unusual exertion, like bodies accustomed to the oil of the training school, which for all the imposing robustness which they display in their own contests, yet, if ordered to make a day’s march with the troops, to carry burdens and mount guard at night, would faint beneath the task and long for their trainers to rub them down with oil and for the free perspiration of the naked limbs. Who would tolerate me if in a work such as this I were to prescribe avoidance of exposure to sun, wind, rain or parching heat? If we are called upon to speak in the sun or on a windy, wet or warm day, is that a reason for deserting the client whom we have undertaken to defend? While as for the warning given by some that the orator should not speak when dyspeptic, replete or drunk, or immediately after vomiting, I think that no sane person would dream of declaiming under such circumstances. There is, however, good reason for the rule prescribed by all authorities, that the voice should not be overstrained in the years of transition between boyhood and manhood, since at that period it is naturally weak, not, I think, on account of heat, as some allege (for there is more heat in the body at other periods), but rather on account of moisture, of which at that age there is a superabundance. For this reason the nostrils and the breast swell at this stage, and all the organs develop new growth, with the result that they are tender and liable to injury. However, to return to the point, the best and most realistic form of exercise for the voice, once it has become firm and set, is, in my opinion, the practice of speaking daily just as we plead in the courts. For thus, not merely do the voice and lungs gain in strength, but we acquire a becoming deportment of the body and develop grace of movement suited to our style of speaking. (tr. Harold Edgeworth Butler)

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