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This page contains the sound files of the readings discussed in Reuven Tsur's paper
"The Structure and Delivery Style of Milton's Verse", and the respective texts.
Before turning to Milton, I present my categories of "convergent" and "divergent" delivery styles by way of scrutinizing two recordings by Sir John Gielgud, sixteen years apart, of the last line of Sakespeare's Sonnet 128:
[This discussion is derived from an earlier paper of mine:
Tsur, Reuven (2006 Winter) "Delivery Style and Listener Response in The Rhythmical Performance of Shakespeare's Sonnets" College Literature 33.1 (special issue on "Cognitive Shakespeare: Criticism and Theory in the Age of Neuroscience", guest-edited by Patrick Colm Hogan and Lalita Pandit) pp. 170-196].
The lower window presents the wave plot display which shows a plot of the wave amplitude (in volts) on the vertical axis, as a function of time (in milliseconds) on the horizontal axis. The upper window presents a fundamental frequency plot, which displays time on the horizontal axis and the estimated glottal frequency (F0 = pitch) in Hz on the vertical axis.
Listen to Gielgud's first reading (Gielgud 1).
The figures dubbed above Figure 5 and Figure 6 do not occur in the present paper; they are numbered here, anomalously, as in the original paper from which they are reproduced.
Listen to Gielgud's second reading (Gielgud 2).
Stop release is the movement of one or more vocal organs in quitting the position for a speech sound. Listen online to "bright", "brighten", and the stop release excised from "bright ", as read in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (Audio Edition). When followed by a vowel as in "brighten", there is a stop, but no stop release. Notice that in the wave plot above, the [t] occurs under the bulk that ends "bright", but in "brighten" it occurs in a "valley".
(3) Of Man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us and regain the blissful seat,
Sing, Heav'nly Muse ...
Listen online to the first five and a half lines of Paradise Lost, read by Anton Lesser and Ralph Cosham.
Figure The first token of fruit is reproduced here from Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (Audio Edition); the second token has been excised from Cosham's reading, the third token from Lesser's reading. In all three tokens, the stop release is preceded by a subtantial pause, perceived as overarticulation of [t] (in Lesser's reading there is some phonation in the pause). Notice that the dictionary entry is a complete, stand-alone utterance, closed with a long, smoothly-falling intonation curve. Cosham's fruit is marked by a mildly-falling curve, whereas Lesser's is marked by a high falling-rising curve, indicating an end, but also that something is still to be expected.
Listen to three tokens of fruit, one reproduced from Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (Audio Edition); one has been excised from Cosham's reading, and one from Lesser's reading.
Figure 3 Wave plot and pitch extract of "Of man's first disobedience and the fruit/ Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste" in Anton Lesser's reading (the words reproduced are the ones preceding pauses).
I have found that Lesser's reading had too many "redundant" cues, most of them indicating discontinuity. In order to indicate discontinuity without a pause, I tampered with his reading of the first two lines: I cut out the pause and a glottal stop before and in the first line, and prolonged the [s] at the end of disobedience. Likewise, I cut out the pause after the first line (after fruit), so as to indicate a run-on sentence, but lengthened the pause in midword before the [t], so as to overarticulate the [t] and, by the same token, the line ending. In the second line, too, I deleted the pause after Tree, and intended to lengthen the [i:], but found that it was long enough to indicate discontinuity. Briefly, I attempted to create conflicting cues so as to instantiate the enjambment from line 1 to line 2 as well as the perceptual drive toward the verb (in line 6).
Listen online to the first two lines of Paradise Lost, read by Anton Lesser, and a doctored version of it.
Figure 4 Wave plot and pitch extract of "and the fruit/ Of that for-" in Anton Lesser's reading (the symbol indicates a glottal stop).
Ralph Cosham's reading displays a tendency opposite to Lesser's. Pauses are considerably shorter, and the tempo considerably faster. The problem is that word endings and line endings are not articulated clearly enough, so that much of the poetic rhythm is lost. There is some reason to suppose that, not as Lesser, Cosham intended to realize the onward drive of the text toward the predicted predicate. His full recording of Paradise Lost is preceded by a recording of Andrew Marvell's poem "On Mr. Milton's Paradise Lost", written in end-stopped heroic couplets. Here the tempo is much slower, and line endings and couplet endings are carefully (sometimes too carefully) articulated. So, the faster tempo and less careful articulation in Paradise Lost is not necessarily his default style of poetry reading.
On Mr. Milton's Paradise Lost
When I beheld the Poet blind, yet bold,
In slender Book his vast Design unfold,
Messiah Crown'd, Gods Reconcil'd Decree,
Rebelling Angels, the Forbidden Tree,
Heav'n, Hell, Earth, Chaos, All; the Argument
Held me a while misdoubting his Intent
That he would ruine (for I saw him strong)
The sacred Truths to Fable and old Song,
Listen online to Ralph Cosham's reading of the first four couplets of "On Mr. Milton's Paradise Lost" by Andrew Marvell.
Figure 5 Wave plot and pitch extract of "-dience and the fruit/ Of that for-" in Ralph Cosham's reading (no glottal stops). The markers mark the boundaries of [n].
The fast tempo in Cosham's reading prevents the listener from discerning the acoustic cues for discontinuation. Not as in Lesser's reading, there is no measurable pause between disobedience and and. This contributes a feeling of lack of articulation in this performance. I made an attempt to improve the articulation of this performance, by tampering with its tempo and the articulation of two word-final phonemes. First, using the audio editor "Audacity" I reduced the tempo of the reading by 8%. This gives the listener some leisure to discern significant acoustic cues. Further, I lengthened to some extent the [s] of disobedience, and the pause preceding the stop release in fruit. In this way, the overarticulation of these phonemes has been increased, generating a feeling of discontinuity after these words, without any measurable pause.
Listen online to the first two lines of Paradise Lost, read by Ralph Cosham, and a doctored version of it.
The shorter the passage, the easier it is to discern the acoustic cues. Note the overarticulation of [s] at the end of disobedience, and of [t] at the end of fruit in the doctored version. Listen online to the phrase "disobedience and the fruit of that for-", read by Ralph Cosham, and a doctored version of it.
Figure 6 Wave plot of "With loss of Eden, till one greater Man/ Restore us and regain the blissful seat,/ Sing, Heav'nly Muse" in Anton Lesser's reading.
Figure 7 Wave plot and pitch extract of "Restore us and regain the blissful seat,/ Sing, Heav'nly Muse" in Anton Lesser's reading.
Figure 8 Wave plot of "With loss of Eden, till one greater Man/ Restore us and regain the blissful seat,/ Sing, Heav'nly Muse" in Ralph Cosham's reading. The markers mark the boundries of a pause.
Figure 9 Wave plot and pitch extract of "Restore us and regain the blissful seat,/ Sing, Heav'nly Muse" in Ralph Cosham's reading
Listen online to "With loss of Eden, till one greater Man/ Restore us and regain the blissful seat,/ Sing, Heav'nly Muse", read by Anton Lesser and Ralph Cosham.
Finally, drawing the lessons from the foregoing manipulations, I made a second attempt at "doctoring" Lesser's and Cosham's readings of the first two lines.
In Lesser's genuine version, discontinuity after disobedience is signalled by three different vocal cues: a long pause, a glottal stop before and, and a sudden increase of amplitude from disobedience to and. In order to render the transition smoother but still effective, I lengthened the word-final [s] in disobedience by 50%, and cut out most of the ensuing silence (not all of it). I've found that the glottal stop and the leap in amplitude still obstruct the smooth transition; so, I deleted the former, and reduced the amplitude of and by 11.5%. (A glottal stop is the speech sound we insert before aim in the sentence "I said an aim, not a name"). I also cut out most of the silence after tree (not all of it). Finally, I judged that the brief pause after fruit on the one hand, and the high falling-rising intonation contour on the other, properly take care of the break and the impulsion across it, required by the enjambment. So, I didn't interfere here.
Listen to the second doctored verion of the first two lines of Paradise Lost, read by Lesser.
In Cosham's genuine reading, fruit is run into of, reinforcing syntactic continuity, but effacing the line boundary. In the doctored reading, I attempted to enhance the line boundary without impairing continuity, by overarticulating the word-final [t]. It would appear that this is a step in the right direction, but still insufficient. So, I added another cue for segmental discontinuation. I copied the glottal stop from Lesser's reading, and pasted it between the release of [t] and the word-initial vowel of of in Cosham's doctored reading, with no measurable pause between them. In my perception at least, this clearly articulates the line boundary and, to my pleasant surprise, even exerts a "perceptual force" of onward drive. Listen to the second doctored version of Cosham's reading.
One may, perhaps, account here for the onward-driving "perceptual force" by the combination of two acoustic cues. The stop release of fruit has been far removed to the right and run into the next word, tilting the perceptual balance forward; and a considerable leap of pitch is heard between fruit and of. The pitch extract shows a moderate rise of pitch between the two words; but it shows only the pitch of the voiced vowels. Between them, however, we also hear a much higher unvoiced click of the [t], more tightly attached to the ensuing of than to the preceding vowel. These two acoustic cues seem to be active in the genuine version too, but there they are less readily perceptible.
fr u: t o f
Figure Wave plot and pitch extract of fruit of excised from the second doctored version of Cosham's reading. The markers mark the boundaries of fruit.
Listen to fruit and fruit of excised from the second doctored version of Cosham's reading.
Listen in sequence to fruit, fruit of and [t] excised from the second doctored version of Cosham's reading. Note that the pitch of [t] is considerably higher than that of of.
fruit, fruit of, [t]—Cosham
2nd doctored version