The Sacredness of the Human Voice

Oral traditions, mantras, recitations, sacred syllables, confessions, calls to prayer – voices are intrinsic to countless religious practices the world over. Even outside religious contexts, the voice is understood to be sacred in many of its everyday uses. Speaking our truths, making affirmations, telling stories, and singing lullabies are some of the ways (among many!) in which our voices bring into conversation our memories, emotions, values, personalities, histories, and cultures. Our voices serve as connectors between our pasts and futures, between our ancestors and our children, between our inner and outer selves, and between each other.

The deep connections that our voices allow us are incredibly important; it is not something that should be taken lightly, or taken for granted. The importance of an intimate conversation, the power of saying “I do,” the togetherness felt while singing in a choir – our voices are vehicles that travel between each of our inner selves. They can reach out with love, convey sadness – even reveal things about ourselves we may not know until we say them.

The voice is a creator of realities – it impacts how we feel, how others feel, and how we see ourselves and the world. It is a tool for learning and teaching, building up and tearing down, reaching out and cutting off. It is a vital to creating health in ourselves and peace in our communities, and should be seen and treated as such. What we vocalize and how we vocalize is of utmost importance – the choices we make have the potential to change lives and families and worlds.

Through careful practice, our voices can be used to grow our hearts and touch the hearts of others. When we recognize the sacred power of our songs, our words, our speech, and our silence, we may also recognize that there is no way that the voice may be used unproductively. Our voice is our truth. The sound is only ours, and its effects are only ours also.

The Voice as a Means of Self-Expression

The connection between the voice and self-expression may seem self-explanatory – indeed, using the voice is a key aspect to any form of verbal communication. However, there is an important distinction between ordering a meal and exploring the voice as a means of empowerment, affirmation, and healing analogous to the difference between expressing hunger or telling someone the time versus expressing sorrow or telling someone your story. In music therapy, therefore, the voice is regarded as an important tool for self-expression not only for its connection to verbal communication but because of its ability to explore and convey inner anxieties, emotions, experiences, memories, and identity.

Self-expression is crucial. It is key to communicating how we feel, our thoughts, opinions, needs, and wants. It allows for the release of emotions. It highlights individuality while allowing us to share, bond, relate, and empathize with others. In music therapy, therapists combine the importance of self-expression with the power of music to further dig deep into the individual’s emotional, physical, and spiritual experiences. Music opens the door to important verbal discussions as well as, and this will be the main topic of discussion in this article, singing in order to effectively empower and heal individuals through the use of the voice.

Singing can be a powerful, whole-body, emotional experience, and through encouraging individuals to sing, music therapists hope to help people get in touch with and articulate their feelings through an experience that is both creative and often pleasurable. Though singing may make individuals feel nervous or vulnerable, as many have difficulty overcoming the fear of sounding bad or making mistakes, working through this anxiety can have positive effects in itself, as often parts of the self are projected onto the voice and treatment of the voice. The hopeful end result of this process is the use of the voice as a way of empowering a person’s expressive and self-reflective capacities while providing them with a coping mechanism which draws on the individual’s inner resources in order to work through trauma, stress, anxiety, identity crises and insecurity.

By combining singing with music, individuals have the opportunity to be verbally expressive while being supported by music and all of its positive effects. Cognitive science has demonstrated that music engages the body and brain in ways that little else can, lighting up emotional, physical, and linguistic centres. The music’s character, therefore, has the ability to evoke emotions and memories, which can provide individuals with the opportunity to explore different aspects of the themselves and their experiences. By engaging the creative self in the growth and healing process, singing gives individuals the opportunity for holistic empowerment through its ability to promote self-expression.