Ventriloquist Distant Voices
By Cecil H. Bullivant
THE " DISTANT" VOICES
By this time the young ventriloquist should have attained sufficient proficiency in the art of manipulating " knee " figures to feel confident of venturing on the far more difficult and relatively more important is distant " voices.
The real test of ventriloquist power is when the performer is capable of making sounds appear to come from a distance, i.e. so modify his utterances that they appear to the audience to proceed from some point remote both from the entertainer and from themselves.
The basis of real ventriloquism, as apart from polyphony, i.e. "near" effects, is known as the "bee drone," because the first sound of which the vocal chords are capable when placed in the required position much resembles the droning of a bee in full flight.
The " bee drone " should be practiced in loosely fitting clothing, so that neither the muscles of the throat nor of the chest are unduly hampered.,.
From a natural, upright position, inhale in a short, jerky manner, making what is best described as a retching noise at the back of the throat. Unpleasant as the practice of this undoubtedly is for the first few minutes, after a short while the noise emitted will settle down to a softly sustained hum. The tongue should lie flat, so that the sound waves produced partly in the larynx and partly in the back of the throat are forced upwards by the action of the abdominal muscles and directed towards the roof of the mouth, the latter acting somewhat as a sounding board-modifying the sound and conveying to the ears of a listener some distance away a "distant" effect.
The continuous practice of the word "ah," with the vocal chords in the position just described, will speedily produce the necessary droning quality.
It remains now only by a contraction of the throat to regulate the quality of the tone and the distance from which you wish it to appear come.
From this point progress will be found rapid and satisfactory. The various modifications of the bee-drone produce respectively,
The "roof " voice is extremely useful for illusions of all kinds,
and perhaps is the easiest of the three to acquire. Its purpose is to make sound
appear to come from any point above the audience, and the entertainer practices
it at first by standing erect, taking in a deep breath, and then drawing
backwards and downwards the lower jaw, holding it by muscular contraction in
that position. With the lips about an inch apart say your words, whatever they
may be, just as you would the "ah!" of the bee drone, concentrating
your mind on the effort of directing the sound waves towards the roof of the
mouth. In this case, however, exhalation should take place very slowly, while
the speech is uttered with unusual clearness.
The effect of the illusion, however, is destroyed if whilst using the "roof " voice you look either straight before you or down to the ground.
The ventriloquist must bear in mind that it is important to deceive the audience, just as a conjurer does, but the former has this advantage over his magic brother, that the deception is both optical and oral.
Let him, therefore, when ,throwing his voice" to the roof, glance sharply upwards as soon as the words are uttered, and turn his head in a listening attitude; his example will be followed immediately by the audience, who naturally fall into the trap prepared for them, and, for the time being, are quite satisfied that the sounds do really come from the roof.
This is an advantage on which the ventriloquist can trade to an enormous extent, because the ear is so easily deceived. How difficult it is, when listening from within a closed room to a street organ playing outside to tell whether the music comes from up or down the road. So with ventriloquism--the performer has but to modify the position of the vocal chords as indicated, and to fix his eyes upon the roof, when lo and behold! everybody is perfectly satisfied that the speech does come from above.
Of the three " distant " voices, the " level " is, perhaps, the most useful and the most generally successful, because the mere fact of the entertainer being on the same plane as the door and the windows, from behind which people are supposed to converse with him, pro vides him with opportunities for using the facial muscles and for distorting sounds, and so heightening the illusion.
For instance, whereas he must turn full or three-quarter face when using the "roof " voice, he can carry on a dialogue on the level , sideways to the audience; or in the case where the stage possesses a door at the rear, he may often be permitted for a moment to turn his back.
Practice as before in the " bee drone " voice, without endeavoring to any great extent to shut off the sound in the throat. This may be done by curling up the tongue so that its tip presses against the back of the upper teeth.
If you are practicing by the side of the door, as you open it towards you the ventriloquistly uttered sounds must be raised in tone and made more distinct by lifting the shutter from the throat, or, in other words, by allowing the tongue to resume its normal position, and the sounds to issue forth on the principle of the " bee drone."
THE "FLOOR" VOICE
This voice is extremely useful for such illusions as " the man in the cellar attending to the gas meter," &c. It calls particularly for a display of histrionic powers, and the mere fact of bending down, as the sounds appear to come from below, helps to give it the necessary subdued and " distant " effect. Whilst speaking very slowly in the " bee drone, " thrust the chin forward, contracting the larynx as much as you possibly can ; roll back the tongue to stifle the sound in the throat, and the illusion will be complete. Immediately you change from the "floor" to the natural voice, resume the standing position and speak with unusual distinctness. The contrast cannot fail to escape the notice of the audience, who will be quite convinced that you have indeed carried on a conversation with some one below.
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Last modified: October 15, 2016.