Bauhaus-Universität Weimar

Titel:
On the sensations of tone as a physiological basis for the study of music. Translated with the author's sanction from the third German edition, with additional notes and an additional appendix by Alexander J. Ellis
Person:
Helmholtz, Hermann von
PURL:
https://digitalesammlungen.uni-weimar.de/viewer/image/lit3875/180/
156 
VOWEL QUALITIES OE TONE. 
Part I. 
mouth. The more this cavity is narrowed, either by the lips or 
the tongue, the more distinctly marked is its resonance for tones 
of determinate pitch, and the more therefore does this resonance 
reinforce those partial tones in the compound tone produced by 
the vocal chords, which approach the favoured pitch, and the 
more, on the contrary, will the others be damped. Hence on in¬ 
vestigating the compound tones of the human voice by means of 
resonators we find pretty uniformly that the first six to eight 
partial tones are clearly perceptible, but with very different de¬ 
grees of force according to the different forms of the cavity of the 
mouth, sometimes screaming loudly into the ear, at others scarcely 
audible. 
Under these circumstances the investigation of the resonance 
of the cavity of the mouth is of great importance. The easiest 
and surest method of finding the tones to which the air in the 
oral cavity is tuned for the different shapes it assumes in the 
production of vowels, is that which is used for glass bottles and 
other spaces filled with air. Tuning forks of different pitches are 
struck and held before the opening of the air chamber—in the 
present case the open mouth—and the louder the proper tone of 
the fork is heard, the nearer does it correspond with one of the 
proper tones of the included mass of air. Since the shape of the 
oral cavity can be altered at pleasure, it can always be made to 
suit the tone of any given tuning fork, and we thus easily discover 
what shape the mouth must assume for its included mass of air to 
be tuned to a determinate pitch. 
Having a series of tuning forks at command, I was thus able 
to obtain the following results : — 
The pitch of strongest resonance of the oral cavity depends 
solely upon the vowel for pronouncing which the mouth has been 
arranged, and alters considerably for even slight alterations in the 
vowel quality, such, for example, as occur in the different dialects 
of the same language. On the other hand, the proper tones of 
the cavity of the mouth are nearly independent of age and sex. 
I have in general found the same resonances in men, women, and 
children. The want of space in the oral cavity of women and 
children can be easily replaced by a great closure of its opening, 
which will make the resonance as deep as in the larger oral 
cavities of men. 
The vowels can be arranged in three series, according to the
        

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