Fach and Hazrat Inayat Khan

Every person is gifted. God has given him a certain pitch, a natural note, and if that pitch develops and he develops that natural note, it is a magic, he can perform a miracle. But he must think about the hall where he has to sing, and of how loud he must shout!

There was a man from India visiting Paris. For the first time in his life he went to the opera to hear the music and he was trying hard to enjoy it. The first thing he heard was a soprano who was doing her best, and then came the tenor, or the baritone, and he had to sing with her. So this man became very annoyed and said: ‘Now look, he has come to spoil it!’

When we come to the essence and the inner principle of sound, the closer to nature we keep it, the more powerful, the more magical it becomes. Every man and woman has a certain pitch of voice. Then the voice producer says: ‘No, this is alto, soprano, tenor, baritone, or bass’. He limits that which cannot be limited.

How can there be so many voices? There are as many voices as there are souls; they cannot be classified. As soon as he is classified, that person is obliged to sing in that pitch. If his pitch is different, he does not know it; if his voice is higher, he does not sing in that pitch. Because the voice producer says: ‘This is a soprano’, that person cannot be anything else. Besides that, a person has to depend upon what the composer has written. The composer never knew the voice of that particular person, the composer wrote only for a distinct pitch, either this one or that one. When a person has to sing in the pitch that is prescribed, then he loses the natural pitch he had.

Apart from singing, even in speaking, among one hundred persons you will find one who speaks in his natural voice, and ninety-nine who imitate. They imitate someone else; they do not know it. The same thing that you find in grown-up people you will find in little children. The tendency in a little child is to change and to imitate. Every five or ten days, every month a child changes his way of speaking; his voice, his words, many things he changes. And where does he learn it? From the children in school. He sees a child walking in some way, or making gestures, or frowning, or he hears it speaking in a certain way. He does not realize it, but he has heard it and he does the same thing; so he goes on changing.

In the same way every person – also without knowing it – changes his voice, and so the natural voice is lost. To retain one’s natural voice is a great power in itself, but one cannot always retain it. In order to have a great, a good, a powerful effect with one’s voice and sound, one does not have to be a singer. What one has to do is to practise the breath in different ways. One must first know how to breathe; one must then know how to blow; one must then learn how to make a sound, how to say a word. If one practises in these three ways, one will attain that power which is latent in every soul.

One need not be a singer, but for every person it is necessary that he should give some part of the day – even the shortest time he can give: five, ten, or fifteen minutes – to his voice, to the development of his voice.

Khan, Hazrat Inayat. The Mysticism of Sound and Music: Revised Edition. Shambhala Publications. 2014.

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Profound Wisdom from Sufi Hazrat Inayat Khan

Over the next several days I will be sharing the profound wisdom of Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882-1927). Khan was the founder of The Sufi Order in the West in 1914 (London) and teacher of Universal Sufism. He initially came to the West as a Northern Indian classical musician. His message of divine unity focused on the themes of love, harmony and beauty.

It is startling to find in his writing – from nearly a hundred years past – such breadth of wisdom for the modern singer and teacher of voice. I know that I will be coming back to his writing consistently to ‘reset’ my views and values of the singing voice.

When we come to singing it is quite different, because today the art of singing has become as artificial as can be. The whole idea is to train the voice and make it different from what it is naturally. The training of the voice does not develop what is natural in it, it mostly brings into it something which is not natural to it. Therefore when a person sings according to the method of the day he has a different voice. It is not his voice, it is not his character. He may have a great success, he may be audible to thousands of people, but at the same time he is not singing in his natural voice. You cannot see his stage of evolution in his voice. Therefore the real character of the person is to be seen in his speaking voice.

Khan, Hazrat Inayat. The Mysticism of Sound and Music: Revised Edition. Shambhala Publications. 2014.