Male voices are divided into bass, baritone, or singing bass, and tenor. The voices of women are the contralto, which corresponds to the baritone, mezzo-soprano, and soprano. The extreme limits of these voices are, for the base the G below the CC; for the soprano, the F in alt. or the F of the last octave but one of the piano. Mozart heard a singer at Parma who gave the C above. Ordinary voices do not go beyond two octaves, but celebrated artists have compassed three and even three and a half octaves.

Fortunately the prodigious compass of such a voice is not necessary to entrance a real lover of music. The artist is always sure to triumph when to correct intonation he joins sympathetic quality, and, what is rare, that good taste which will not permit him to sacrifice the expression and the character of the music to a desire to shine.

Instrumental music awakens in us the most profound emotions; we are transported by Baillot's violin or the orchestra of the Conservatory, but no instrument can equal the impression produced by a beautiful voice; no instrument can pretend to those sounds, soft or sharp, passionate or purely peaceful; none has that variety in quality, those accents which fascinate us and plunge us into ecstasy. Instruments and their voices are prodigies of art, but the human voice is living sound, as the glance of the human eye is animated light.


Those who created the word ventriloquy evidently believed in a voice produced by some other organ than the larynx. But in these days every one knows that what is called ventriloquy consists in concealing the origin and nature of the voice. The ventriloquist speaks with his lips nearly closed, and he so modifies the sound of his voice as to make it seem like that of a child, or a woman; he makes us believe that it comes from a chimney or a cavern, from the far distance, from the sky, or from the bowels of the earth. In the last century the French Academy of Sciences appointed a commission to study the phenomena of ventriloquy in a man exceedingly skilful in the art, but acting in good faith and making no mystery of his power. It is to the uncertainty as to the direction of the sounds, and to the errors into which we are easily led by the organ of hearing, more than to anything else, that the ventriloquist owes his success. They may deceive ignorant and credulous people, but they are generally content to amuse their auditory, and in that they succeed.