The Voice

Many years ago (how time fies!) I drank ayahuasca with some friends in south London. It was quite an eventful night, to put it mildly. At one particularly memorable point in the proceedings, I regressed to the consciousness of a unicellular organism and proceeded to recapitulate my phylogenetic evolution up to hominids and the historical stages of the cultural evolution of humanity. Somewhat irritatingly, my friends intervened at the agrarian stage due to concerns about the neighbours, because they felt that I was shouting too loudly (how else could I herd the cattle?!)

The music we were listening to aided my evolution, culminating in the ethereal sounds of Palestrina, sung for me by a literal choir of angels. As I attempted to sing along, I found that my own voice was becoming more refined and controlled, especially compared to the cowboy hollering of a few eons earlier. I was myself (almost!) singing like an angel, and feeling like one too.

This experience contributed to my deepening appreciation of the importance and centrality of the human voice. One aspect of this understanding is psychological: we have to loosen the repressive shackles modern civilization imposes on us and “find our voice”. Another is physiological: the sound vibrations of the voice reverberating in the chest and throughout the body clearly have transformative and healing power. By refining the quality of our voice, we can refine the quality of both our mental and physical energy. Both the unvoiced and voiced breath are crucial in bridging and integrating body and soul.

Fast forward a few years to the second ever Medicine Festival in West Berkshire. I am sitting listening to an act on the main stage, which turns out to be a young woman singing with an acoustic guitar. Having just smoked a joint, I relax and surrender to the music. And the voice enters me in waves of textured bliss. More powerfully than any showy set by The Rolling Stones or Rihanna. No need for a big band, orchestra, backing singers, electronic beats, special effects, auto tune, light show etc. etc. Just a simple, beautiful voice singing simple, beautiful lyrics to a simple, beautiful melody.

And I remembered the sacred power of the human voice. Thank you and bless you Alexia Chellun.