The Latins have bequeathed to us a word that has no precise equivalent in our tongue, therefore we have accepted it, body unchanged—it is the word tempo, and means rate of movement, as measured by the time consumed in executing that movement.
Thus far its use has been largely limited to the vocal and musical arts, but it would not be surprising to hear tempo applied to more concrete matters, for it perfectly illustrates the real meaning of the word to say that an ox-cart moves in slow tempo, an express train in a fast tempo. Our guns that fire six hundred times a minute, shoot at a fast tempo; the old muzzle loader that required three minutes to load, shot at a slow tempo. Every musician understands this principle: it requires longer to sing a half note than it does an eighth note.
Now tempo is a tremendously important element in good platform work, for when a speaker delivers a whole address at very nearly the same rate of speed he is depriving himself of one of his chief means of emphasis and power. The baseball pitcher, the bowler in cricket, the tennis server, all know the value of change of pace—change of tempo—in delivering their ball, and so must the public speaker observe its power.
Change of Tempo Lends Naturalness to the Delivery Naturalness, or at least seeming naturalness, as was explained in the chapter on "Monotony," is greatly to be desired, and a continual change of tempo will go a long way towards establishing it. Mr. Howard Lindsay, Stage Manager for Miss Margaret Anglin, recently said to the present writer that change of pace was one of the most effective tools of the actor. While it must be admitted that the stilted mouthings of many actors indicate cloudy mirrors, still the public speaker would do well to study the actor's use of tempo.
There is, however, a more fundamental and effective source at which to study naturalness—a trait which, once lost, is shy of recapture: that source is the common conversation of any well-bred circle. This is the standard we strive to reach on both stage and platform—with certain differences, of course, which will appear as we go on. If speaker and actor were to reproduce with absolute fidelity every variation of utterance—every whisper, grunt, pause, silence, and explosion —of conversation as we find it typically in everyday life, much of the interest would leave the public utterance. Naturalness in public address is something more than faithful reproduction of nature—it is the reproduction of those typical parts of nature's work which are truly representative of the whole.
The realistic story-writer understands this in writing dialogue, and we must take it into account in seeking for naturalness through change of tempo.
Suppose you speak the first of the following sentences in a slow tempo, the second quickly, observing how natural is the effect. Then speak both with the same rapidity and note the difference.
I can't recall what I did with my knife. Oh, now I remember I gave it to Mary.
We see here that a change of tempo often occurs in the same sentence—for tempo applies not only to single words, groups of words, and groups of sentences, but to the major parts of a public speech as well.
QUESTIONS AND EXERCISES 1. In the following, speak the words "long, long while" very slowly; the rest of the sentence is spoken in moderately rapid tempo.
When you and I behind the Veil are past, Oh but the long, long while the world shall last, Which of our coming and departure heeds, As the seven seas should heed a pebble cast.
Note: In the following selections the passages that should be given a fast tempo are in italics; those that should be given in a slow tempo are in small capitals.
Practise these selections, and then try others, changing from fast to slow tempo on different parts, carefully noting the effect.
2. No MIRABEAU, NAPOLEON, BURNS, CROMWELL, NO man ADEQUATE to DO ANYTHING but is first of all in RIGHT EARNEST about it—what I call A SINCERE man. I should say SINCERITY, a GREAT, DEEP, GENUINE SINCERITY, is the first CHARACTERISTIC of a man in any way HEROIC. Not the sincerity that CALLS itself sincere. Ah no. That is a very poor matter indeed—A SHALLOW, BRAGGART, CONSCIOUS sincerity, oftenest SELF-CONCEIT mainly. The GREAT MAN'S SINCERITY is of a kind he CANNOT SPEAK OF. Is NOT CONSCIOUS of.—THOMAS CARLYLE.
3. TRUE WORTH is in BEING—NOT SEEMING—in doing each day that goes by SOME LITTLE GOOD, not in DREAMING of GREAT THINGS to do by and by. For whatever men say in their BLINDNESS, and in spite of the FOLLIES of YOUTH, there is nothing so KINGLY as KINDNESS, and nothing so ROYAL as TRUTH.—Anonymous.
4. To get a natural effect, where would you use slow and where fast tempo in the following? FOOL'S GOLD See him there, cold and gray, Watch him as he tries to play; No, he doesn't know the way— He began to learn too late.
She's a grim old hag, is Fate, For she let him have his pile, Smiling to herself the while, Knowing what the cost would be, When he'd found the Golden Key.
Multimillionaire is he, Many times more rich than we; But at that I wouldn't trade With the bargain that he made.
Came here many years ago, Not a person did he know; Had the money-hunger bad— Mad for money, piggish mad; Didn't let a joy divert him, Didn't let a sorrow hurt him, Let his friends and kin desert him, While he planned and plugged and hurried On his quest for gold and power.
Every single wakeful hour With a money thought he'd dower; All the while as he grew older, And grew bolder, he grew colder.
And he thought that some day He would take the time to play; But, say—he was wrong.
Life's a song; In the spring Youth can sing and can fling; But joys wing When we're older, Like birds when it's colder.
The roses were red as he went rushing by, And glorious tapestries hung in the sky, And the clover was waving 'Neath honey-bees' slaving; A bird over there Roundelayed a soft air; But the man couldn't spare Time for gathering flowers, Or resting in bowers, Or gazing at skies That gladdened the eyes.
So he kept on and swept on Through mean, sordid years.
Now he's up to his ears In the choicest of stocks.
He owns endless blocks Of houses and shops, And the stream never stops Pouring into his banks.
I suppose that he ranks Pretty near to the top.
What I have wouldn't sop His ambition one tittle; And yet with my little I don't care to trade With the bargain he made.
Just watch him to-day— See him trying to play.
He's come back for blue skies.
But they're in a new guise— Winter's here, all is gray, The birds are away, The meadows are brown, The leaves lie aground, And the gay brook that wound With a swirling and whirling Of waters, is furling Its bosom in ice.
And he hasn't the price, With all of his gold, To buy what he sold.
He knows now the cost Of the spring-time he lost, Of the flowers he tossed From his way, And, say, He'd pay Any price if the day Could be made not so gray.
He can't play.
—HERBERT KAUFMAN. Used by permission of Everybody's Magazine.
Change of Tempo Prevents Monotony The canary in the cage before the window is adding to the beauty and charm of his singing by a continual change of tempo. If King Solomon had been an orator he undoubtedly would have gathered wisdom from the song of the wild birds as well as from the bees. Imagine a song written with but quarter notes. Imagine an auto with only one speed..
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