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The Five Elements and Voice

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A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog about the three principal voice types, Jelal (power), Jemal (beauty), and Kemal (wisdom), described in Sufism. In his classic work, The Music of Life, Hazrat Inayat Khan also wrote about the five qualities of the voice which correlate to the elements, earth, fire, water, air and ether. Indeed every voice is made up of varying degrees of each of these elements, and where an individual may fall on the continuum of vocal flexibility is determined by the access he or she has to each of the elements as well as the extent to which each element is in balance with the others.

A person who exhibits a great deal of earth in his voice would tend to speak low in pitch and slowly thus bringing about a feeling of groundedness, reliability and emotional security. Or negatively aspected, perhaps the person would come across as rigid and opinionated or even dull. Whereas someone exhibiting water traits would be more apt to instill a healing and comforting feeling in the listener, that is to say, if they didn't instead come across as jealous or false as their voice meanders in speed and pitch. So you see, each of the elements can present itself in either positive or negative aspects. If the element is well balanced with all others, it is more likely that the positive aspects will express. It is no different whether we are speaking of the speaking or singing voice.

In my opinion, each of the three voice types may express any one or more of the elemental qualities. So a jelal voice that is weighted in the earth element would express itself as very controlling and literal. But on the other hand, a jelal voice that is weighted in fire might be more like that of a zealous and fanatical preacher. This is not to say that all jelal voices would express negative traits. A jelal fire could also be represented by someone with the ability to awaken people and start a much needed revolution, for example. A jemal voice with an abundance of water might be very intoxicating, the voice of a tender lover perhaps. Or a jemal voice mixed with ether might be able to bring harmony to two warring factions. When we add the earth element to a kemal voice, we get hope and wisdom in a mix that would calm our fears and raise us up above illusion. Or if we add fire to a kemal voice, we may discover the voice of our intuition.

So what does this mean to us as vocalists? Your song and the way you present it expresses both one of the voice types as well as a unique combination of elements. This is your art, your alchemy, but only if you bring your attention and consciousness to your expression. Without conciousness, you are at the mercy of the elements rather than their master. At a rehearsal, why not try singing with the intent of expressing a particular element? Then, when you repeat the song, apply another element. What do you notice? What changes? What do you feel? What feedback do you receive? Maybe just a touch of air will lighten a line that feels overweighted with earth. Or perhaps some ether will open up a crowded lyric.

As always, I am interested in hearing about your explorations and discoveries.


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