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THE EXPRESSIVE PROCESS
The study of the smile reveals not only the qualities, but the very processes of expression. How should we produce tone? As easily as we smile.
In the deepest processes of expression, think of the way you smile—the ease, simplicity, directness and spontaneity. In the same way the singer should produce his tone and the speaker use his voice.
Tones become harsh, nasal, throaty, flat and unpleasant because of constrictions in the throat during the attempts at sound production. You would not produce a smile in the same way, nor could you. After a study of the co-ordinate laws of nature, the discovery of fundamental elements and the training of these, the tone will flow as easily as the smile and will share the life of the soul as does the countenance.
The same applies to all vocal expression. If we concentrate our attention and allow the spontaneous energies of thinking and feeling to dominate conversation or reading, then inflection, change of pitch, tone-color and movement will begin to manifest life, tenderness and sympathy. They will reveal our inmost imaginings and truly interpret our deepest experiences.
Again, in observing the characteristics of the smile, we find in it the basis of the laws of all the arts.
The painter will seek and labor for the true expression, but at the climax the right element seems to come to him; that which gives the true expression to his picture seems almost an accident. It comes, he hardly knows how or when.
No true artist paints by rule.
If a building lacks unity it is unsatisfactory. If a statue does not seem as simple, as direct, as inevitable an utterance as the smile, it is stiff, rigid and mechanical. There is something wrong with it.
A song must be simple. A great poem must come forth with all the spontaneity and naturalness of the smile.
Imagination, in fact all the emotions and higher faculties act spontaneously. True animation is but the response of our sensibilities to thinking. The sharing of all our powers in a simultaneous process is what gives human nature its fullness of life and energy.
This unity is a living process of co-ordination and will be found a part of our nature.
The struggle to master the mode of expression in any art is necessary, but when the artist has done his best, he gives his highest endeavors to the great creative impulses that spring up in the heart of every individual.
We are called. Every human being is called, every human being is equipped and endowed in accordance with the great law of the universe. He that is faithful over a few things will become ruler in many things. He who smiles receives in his soul the fullness of joy and becomes greater than he that overcometh a city.
The study of the smile reveals to us that true expression is not primarily physical but mental,
a process working from within outward-spontaneous, but with a deliberative element, that is, free and not artificial or labored; that it is always a co-ordinate union of many elements which can never be complete without the genuine action of thinking, feeling and imagination, as well as will; that all faculties are in some degree concerned in every simple and true act of expression. We find this law a universal one. It is a governing principle in every art.
A true picture has all the unity of a smile. We must feel in a song the absence of mere mechanical performance. We must feel a certain fullness and emanation of human expression.
In performing upon a musical instrument, we must lose the sense of the instrument and feel all the depth of love, joy and human passion.
The characteristics or qualities of expression are also the characteristics of all great art. Why do our art schools so rarely study the smile or any action or voice modulation? They merely study drawing. This is important, but observation must be trained. There must be a knowledge of the universal laws of expression in the pupil's own face and body. Why endeavor to secure a knowledge of expression by studying the mere objective records found in music, painting and sculpture?
If all of us understood more thoroughly the meaning of our simplest movements, men would model, draw and paint better and play better upon the flute and violin. We should sing better and construct better buildings. All the arts are one in principle and are governed by the same laws.
SMILE OR SCOWL
Sometimes we can best see the nature and importance of a thing by looking at its opposite. One of the opposites of the smile is the scowl. The contraction of the brow expresses antagonism; the smile, sympathy. The scowl denotes disapproval and dissatisfaction; the smile, approval and satisfaction. The scowl signifies discontent and annoyance, the smile contentment and enjoyment. The scowl implies that we are bored, the smile that we are entertained and amused.
The smile imparts thankfulness and receptivity, a welcome to what another is saying; the scowl implies the shut door,—that we are not listening, or caring.
The smile denotes that we are looking up; the scowl that we are looking down. The smile suggests an acceptance of the plans of the universe, a loyalty and welcome to the onward movement of things; the scowl that the universe is all wrong, the scowler antagonistic because he was not consulted in its creation.
The smile expresses a certain courageous confidence in the ultimate triumph of good; the scowl an unwillingness to accept conditions, and it often shows antagonism of the man to himself.
The scowl and the smile are born of spiritual attitude, or of our choice of point of view.
Have we no control over our points of view? Can we choose to scowl or smile? This is really
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a serious question. Henri Bergson in his book on “ Laughter," translated from the French, and James Sully, in his able“ Essay on Laughter," and I believe all great authors who have studied the smile, contend that the smile is social rather than moral in its character. Primarily, possibly, the smile is social. It expresses a man's relation to his fellow-men. It is born of the social and sympathetic instinct.
However, the question as to whether we shall smile or scowl is one of the great tests of human life and human character. If a man is free he can do the one or refuse to do the other. At any moment in life, if the character of the man is great enough, he can smile or frown. .
Is not this the real problem of the ages brought to a fundamental point where we can see the two paths? Is it not the problem in the depths of every life and soul?
Let each one go back carefully in his experiences to some real battlefield of his life. Was there not a crucial moment when he could have smiled or frowned, when he deliberately took his choice?
The insult came. The awakened impulse was to meet scowl with scowl. Could we not have obeyed David Crockett's rule and first have been sure we were right before we spoke? We could have risen to a higher plane of confidence, love and sympathy, and even pity, for the man who had misunderstood. We could have seen behind the scowl the real man who would regret his words; to-morrow we could have appealed from Philip drunk to Philip sober.
We do not allow ourselves to stop and scowl back at the drunken man's words—they are unnoticed.