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The Voice.—In the human system the parts con­cerned in the production of speech and music are three—the wind-pipe, the larynx, and the glottis. The windpipe is a tube which terminates in the lungs, through which the air passes to and from these organs. The larynx, which is essentially the organ of speech, is an enlargement of the upper part of the wind-pipe. The larynx terminates in two lateral membranes which approach near to each other, having a little narrow opening between them called the glottis. The
edges of these membranes form what are called the vocal chords. To produce voice the air expired from the lungs passes through the wind-pipe and out at the larynx through this opening between the membranes, the glottis; the vibration of the edges of these mem­branes, caused by the passage of air, produces sound. The organs of the voice produce sound on the same principles as a reed-instrument. By the action of deli­cate muscles we can vary the tension of these mem­branes, and make the opening between them large or
small, and thus render the tone of the voice grave or acute. The sound, as it passes through the mouth, is greatly modified by the tongue, teeth, lips, roof of mouth and nasal passages. The loudness of the voice depends mainly upon the force with which the air is expelled from the lungs. The force which a healthy chest can exert in blowing is about one pound per square inch of its surface; that is to say, the chest can condense its contained air with that force, and can
blow through a tube, the mouth of which is ten feet under the surface of water. Coughing, sneezing, laughing, crying, each in itself a marvel of wonder, are due to the sudden expulsion of air from the lungs. All persons cannot hear sound alike. In different individuals the sensibility of the auditory nerve varies greatly. The whole range of human hearing, from the lowest note of the organ to the highest known cry of insects, as of the cricket, includes about nine octaves.

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III