Tami Simon: You’re listening to Insights at the Edge. Today my guest is Silvia Nakkach. Silvia is an award-winning composer and author, a multi-instrumentalist, and a voice culturist. She is the founding director of the Vox Mundi, an international project dedicated to teaching and preserving indigenous musical traditions as well as combining music, service, and spiritual practice. Silvia’s significant body of work has been integrated in innovative curriculum or vocal principles, theories, and applications.
With Sounds True, Silvia has distributed several music titles, and has written a brand new book called Free Your Voice: Awaken to Life Through Singing, which includes over 100 exercises steeped in spiritual tradition and backed by the latest science. Silvia is also releasing with Sounds True a new music CD called Medicine Melodies, where Silvia offers a rare and authentic tool for listeners to evoke the original purpose of music, to quiet the mind, and open us to divine inspiration.
In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Silvia and I spoke about melody, tone, and the spiritual dimensions from which music emerges. We also talked about the phenomenon of freeing one’s voice versus finding one’s voice. And Silvia was very helpful in showing the way for anyone to begin to free their natural voice. Silvia and I also spoke about the idea of “planet music,” and she introduced us to three different tracks from her new CD Medicine Melodies. Here’s my conversation with Silvia Nakkach.
Silvia, in your new book, you talk about sound having an outer, and an inner, and a secret dimension. And I’m curious about that if you could help our listeners understand these three dimensions of sound.
Silvia Nakkach: Tami, I’m so happy that you choose the most important part of, probably the core or the essence of what I am bringing into the world. Actually we connect very much with outer sound. Like I am hearing you, and you’re hearing me, and it’s a physical experience through our ear. So through the outer sound, we hear. With the inner sound, we feel. Sound makes us feel; music makes us feel. There is a process there where we feel something, and even with the skin sometimes when we hear something very special.
So the inner sound is about feeling. And the secret sound is a piece that I wanted to connect with this book, and I bring it into the teachings, which is what happens to us when we have an experience—a transformational or a very particular vibrational experience—something that happens at the level of consciousness that we don’t expect, something that could be an insight, that could be a memory, a secret. It’s mysterious, but it’s being conveyed by the power of sound and music or singing. So this secret element is the transformation that follows.
TS: and in your work, you’ve done a tremendous job of collecting songs that have a particular impact on people. You call them “medicine melodies.” And I wonder if you can talk a little about that and how these three dimensions—outer, inner, and secret—might apply to this idea of medicine melodies.
SN: medicine melodies are melodies, of course, and very, very short. The easiest word to understand the configuration would be like a lullaby. So they’re repetitive, and they’re natural. They’re like mantras, as well, from India or from other places.
So what happens is that we hear first, with the outer sound, we hear these medicine melodies, they’re very easy to resonate with, so we want to sing them, we want to hum them, we remember them easily. We feel a sense of belonging because they’re simple. We don’t have to think too much, and they probably open the heart of something that needed to be opened.
And then what happens is we start listening to new medicine melodies. The medicine melodies bring some kind of equality of relaxation or contentment that allows for another kind of intervention—we can call it spiritual or intervention by the divine—but there’s something that gets, there’s more space and consciousness. And then we start receiving melodies that we didn’t have before. We become more open, more like a vase that receives music. And that happens in the world of the shaman. In shamanism, which is the oldest form of music and sound healing in the planet, the shaman is listening to melodies that are dictated by nature. And there are shamans in different parts of the world, and apparently, it’s proved that they hear the same melody.
SN: So there is an element of secret quality or archetypal, I would say, that happens because music has its origin in the spiritual realm.
TS: Tell me a little about your experience working with the shamans and specifically in the receiving of these medicine melodies.
SN: Well first comes, always, what I’m bringing more and more into this forthcoming book, how we create a state of deep listening. If we are agitated or whatever is a state of mind or emotional disposition needs to be more open, more luminous, more relaxed, more expanded. After we get to that space that normally impacts our consciousness, we are not just thinking. We are becoming like a sonic antenna, like we are receptors of something.
And I start listening. I start listening to the birds. Because I am calm, and I am not thinking of anything. I don’t have to do anything afterwards. So I’m quiet; I’m listening. I’m listening to the birds. And then I listen to the other bird. And then I listen to the wind. I start thinking that the plant is talking to me. The plant is talking to the birds. My whole make-up becomes more like nature. So I am listening to layers of sound, deeper and deeper, until a melody comes to me.
And that melody is very here and now. I hear that melody at that time—probably, there is a reason why that melody comes to me. So I start humming the melody over and over, so repetition. And then I share the melody. And when I share the melody, there is a sense of transformation happening. When I listen to the melody, and I can share, I can offer the melody.
TS: Now you said something interesting, Silvia, that it’s now accepted that shamanic practitioners in different parts of the world hear the same melodies. What’s the evidence for that?
SN: Well, I spent a lot of time researching and listening to different cultures of melody from Australia, Siberia, South America, Thailand, and those small islands in the Pacific Ocean, and I realized that those melodies are really similar. And when the shaman is doing the healing work, or the divination work, you hear exactly the same tonal configuration in the middle of the Amazon and in Australia. And they didn’t connect with each other, so what’s happening there?
There is something that doesn’t belong to anybody, like the ragas. The ragas from India—nobody composed the ragas. They say, “Well, they were brought to us by the gandharvas, which are some kind of dakinis—you know, celestial beings that fly in the sky. And Tibetan melodies, mantras are very similar to the Desana Indians in the Amazon. They start always the same way. So it must be, we could consider that there is an archetype of melodies. If we are open and there’s an intention, we might receive. I believe that we don’t have to be a shaman specifically, to receive those melodies.
TS: Now I want us to listen to a wind chant from your new release, Medicine Melodies. And I wonder if you can tell us a little bit about that. I mean, presumably, with the name, “Wind Chant,” this is a melody that is embedded in the natural element of the wind. Or how do you understand this?
SN: There is a movement that happens when we are singing this melody, and originally, whatever I am saying, it’s like I’m calling to the wind. It’s like an invocation to the wind. It’s like [if] we listen deeply to the wind, the wind will start having different sounds. And then in the Amazon and in different forests, every indigenous tradition will have a different name for the wind, and the wind will be an entity that they live with and ask questions to, and they might have a relationship with it. And so the chant is a relationship with the wind.
TS: Let’s take a listen. “Wind Chant” from Medicine Melodies.
TS: It’s so beautiful to get to hear your singing voice like that.
SN: [Laughs] Thank you, Tami. I remember that in the piece I call Oya. Oya is one of the names for Yansa, which is the entity of the wind in the Yoruba tradition in Africa. So I am part-time in Brazil, and I go to Brazil all the time because I have a school there as well, and Oya is the embodiment, in a woman, [the] beautiful body of the possibilities power and the power of the wind. So in the chant, I am constantly calling the power of Oya. I’m invoking the power of Oya, which is the women of the air.
And it’s very circular. And then I brought my ensemble of four women that are singing, like with their voices, are singing like when the wind circulates very gently and makes things grow. So Oya is a very female, very powerful entity in the Afro-Brazilian tradition as well. So it’s an invocation to Oya.
TS: It’s almost like listening to you I can imagine someone with your level of sensitivity could hear melodies in all kinds of things. I mean, this is a melody that came with an invocation with the wind, but that resting in nature, being in nature, taking a walk, you would hear all kinds of melodies. I’m wondering if you could talk about that.
SN: Well, like, when I was a child, and still now when I’m composing music, my mind become very animistic, what we used to call animism. I believe that I can talk to the moon, and the moon becomes a source of information. What I’m bringing to the book, as well, and to my teachings, with all the students I see, is that music is a form of divination. You can call, you can receive information. So if you listen deeply, constantly I receive melodies that come sometimes from being in connection with the sun.
Lots of people experience when they are in the sun that they have that sense of that light, of this direct light of the sun might bring some kind of inspiration. If I’m a musician the inspiration will come probably as a melody, as a small melody. As much as I kind of receive to my whole body, and mind, and spirit, it kind of becomes a medicine melody.
So that’s the piece that we call intentional or how do we offer them the music we hear? I hear music all the time. I hear music when I dream. I hear music when I drive. I hear music when I am sometimes in silence. And I ask the music to give me a break because I want silence, right? But yes, I think it comes from a very, very engaged and integrated connection with nature that I’ve had all my life.
TS: Now you used an interesting word that you find this kind of listening and tuning in and then singing of a melody a type of quote unquote divination. What did you mean by using that word, “divination”?
SN: Well, in divination, your system of beliefs becomes energy. So you believe that if you request something to this particular plant, this plant will bring what you need. Divination is what we do with the I Ching; divination is what we do with the Oracle of Rama. So you have a question, and you make a request to obtain information from another dimension. This, in a way, helps us to believe in something that we don’t necessarily see.
And I noticed that in a way also it gives more power, more strength, more force to our life, to our capacity to be devotional. So we think about music as a process of divination. It’s kind of liberating to think, “I’m going to be quiet. I’m going to enter in the dimension of just listening, and I might receive information from other dimensions. I might ask information from the goddess of music, Saraswati, and Saraswati responds to me with a very beautiful, watery melody.
Or I might ask information to the mother of all the plants in the middle of the Amazon, called Yahi. So I ask information to his plant, and I say, “How can I help this person that is asking me for some kind of emotional relief?” So divination is about a request. And a request has to be with obtaining information from dimensions that we don’t necessarily see.
SN: The unseen.
SN: And then we have to believe, which is a piece that we need to work harder on sometimes. What do we believe? Do I believe what I believe? I’m constantly in that inquiry, you know? How much I believe what I believe. And divination helps us to think that music can come from other dimensions, which is true, and is one of the arts that definitely comes from another dimension that is not physical. And it is not about me who is singing or who is playing the piano; it’s about how I connect.
TS: So I’m following you in terms of the music and the melodies coming from what can be experienced from a different dimension. But what’s the belief part? I don’t get that.
SN: The beliefs part. Well I have to believe that there’s other dimensions first, besides what I see, the physical. I have to believe that there is a tradition that talks about deities that fly and bring information. I have to believe—I have to have some information from different traditions. And that puts me in a place of different cultures. So I have to believe that I’m not just alone all the time, that there is a spiritual reality in everything I do. Does that make sense?
TS: Yes. Yes. And it seems that, in your experience, this is not a belief, this is what your experience of being a composer and a singer has shown you to be the case.
SN: Yes, and I think I became a believer—and I think many people have the same experience—through my participation with music. I didn’t become a believer going to temples or churches, although I love the architecture. But it was more like being infatuated by beauty. But I became a believer when I found music and music found me because I can get into that higher state, and I’m more sensitive, and I am less of the ego system of who I am. I am more expanded. So music makes—for all of us—believers, if we listen.
TS: One of the very interesting notes that I took from your new book, Free Your Voice: Awaken to Life Through Singing was the idea of committing to devotion, to personal devotion before we even begin singing. That the act of devotion actually comes first. And I wonder if you can talk a little bit about that—what you mean by devotion and why it comes first.
SN: Well my experience of devotion is to feel very innocent in front of something or in front of someone. It’s a kind of awareness; it’s a kind of consciousness. When I feel safe, I feel free, and I feel very protected. And I feel like I want to do it again [laughs]. So this experience of devotion is the experience of Maya, the mother holding the baby. There is a sense of completion. There is a sense of, “I found what I was looking for. I don’t have to keep looking anymore.” So there’s a lot of liberating possibilities in developing personal devotion.
And singing is a very easy way to create an evolving practice of devotion. I don’t think devotion can be developed, I think devotion is something that cannot be practiced. It’s an instant. Devotion happens when you see something that you love. And you hear something that you love. I start feeling devotion when I hear music, and I am still listening and I still have exactly the same devotion after forty years of listening to the same piece.
So it’s something that you don’t want to think too much about it, but you are engaged with absolute and unconditional love. And nobody told you about it. Nobody teaches you to do it. It’s your own personal experience. I met my teacher when I arrived here in February of 1982, is that right? Yes, 1982. I arrived in Marin County. I found Ali Akbar Kahn, it was an instant picture. It’s like taking a picture. And I knew that I would be there until the last day of the last breath of his life. And I was there all the time for 27 years. And every day I was at the feet of this amazing musician, I was feeling exactly the same humble, innocent, creative experience.
TS: I’m curious what it was about meeting Ali Akbar Kahn that generated that kind of devotion in you? What was it that you felt or saw in him?
SN: Well actually, it was what he saw in me. Immediately, immediately he saw the treasure, something that I could develop. And he gave me all the possibilities for me to stay at this school as much as I could for hours and hours a week in the beginning, and experience the music from the food because he taught me how to cook, from ironing his curtains, for making me sing and cry sometimes because I couldn’t do it right.
It’s just a sense if being so known by someone. He caught my nature like nobody in this planet. Nobody. Nobody—because it was all about bringing the best of my music, my voice. It was not about being my husband or being my different relationships, with students. It’s not even a teacher. It was beyond. It was like seeing my nature, my musical nature, and bringing it out. Sometimes very painfully, you know. I remember one time, I said, “I’m not coming back,” because it was so painful. And I came back and I heard exactly what I—every time in his presence I feel, I hear, exactly what I needed.
So that’s my experience with Ali Akbar Kahn and the ragas. Because what he taught me were the ragas. But not just the ragas, but the spiritual quality of music. Something that I studied music before I went to the school, of course, for years. I went to classical music schools, conservatories, sang in operas, but something that I discovered was that the music can be your mother—the good mother that you always wanted to have inside that will protect you when you’re in an airport, that will protect you when you have fear. Music became a family for me.
TS: Well, you know, it’s interesting—one of the points that you make in Free Your Voice that I thought was so important was that our ears are the first organ to develop in the womb and that the fetal ear is the organ of primal bonding. And I took careful note of this. And even as you’re talking about this experience of music as a mother, I’m wondering if you can bring this together for us of how our sense of hearing and listening is our first sense to develop and how music can be like a mother for us.
SN: When we hear the breath of our mother and we are inside the womb there’s something that—of course, we still don’t have a brain that thinks—but there is a vibration. It’s a whole vibrational experience that we have that is very pleasant, that is very comforting, is very enjoyable. If you think about the way that we move inside the womb, it’s very natural.
Then we start listening to more layers, and more layers, and then we start listening with other organs. Our first organ for listening is our skin; you can feel that when we have goose bumps in a symphony hall, suddenly the music is—so there’s something about the music being a holistic experience, a complete experience, through the breath of the mother. And then when we listen to music maybe what happens is that we are still listening to the breath of the mother. Because it’s the very first music we heard. And we can—I’m sure that our brain, I mean I’m not a scientist in that level, though I’m reading a lot about it; I’m sure there is a print—a memory print of the breath of the mother in our brain.
So it’s the first time that I think this, I mean just talking to you, and you’re so amazingly inspiring, Tami. You’re so involved that suddenly I’m saying something that I’ve never said before that music is like your best mother! [Laughs.]. And I think it has to do with the vibration. When you hear the right vibration through music, that probably reminds us of that sense of unconditional comfort and love that we hear inside.
Now we are hearing—I think we are still not listening when we are inside the womb—because listening comes from, it’s a function of consciousness. Listening is, we choose what to listen, but hear—we hear everything that sometimes we don’t choose to.
TS: Yes. I want to circle back just for another moment, if you will, just to this idea of starting with devotion. And the reason that I’m so interested in this is that I’m imagining someone who says, “I’ve never met a teacher. I’ve never had an experience like meeting a music teacher like Ali Akbar Kahn. And yet, according to Silvia, if I start with devotion, then the singing will come naturally, the voice will come naturally.” So what would be your suggestion to someone who wants to tune to this kind of devotion but doesn’t have a ready experience? Where do they start?
SN: This is a great question because I thought about it. And my whole probably vision, mission, what I’m bringing to the world is what do we do if we don’t have that kind of external source of devotion, right? Well I realized by doing it for many, many, many years that singing devotional music brings you into that space. So I started collecting, archiving lots of devotional music from different cultures. And singing it in a very particular way, again the most important piece is what I call the “pre-assessment,” which is how we create this space for us to listen. How we are really only in the experience of sound and music, single-pointed attention. And this comes from our experience in meditation, right?
So we are listening, and then I am sharing with you a devotional chant. And the way I am sharing it with you—call and response. And I’m sharing my spiritual energy with this chant with you. I’m not just sharing the music. I’m also transmitting the quality of devotion within music. So it has to be what we call “repertoire development” in music. Sometimes we have the devotion, we feel it, we love music, but maybe we were trying to think very complicated tunes and got lost in the way of trying to do it, which is another functioning.
But what happens if I transmit? There is an instant transmission. We are transmitting the devotional awareness quality, light within the music in a very simple experience of participation. It happens also in the Sufis’ ceremonies. There is a transmission, you know. [Pants heavily] And then, at some point, you know we’re all singing the name.
So repetition is an important part of the experience. Finding the particular music that comes already charged with that loving quality, and when we transmit, when we participate, we feel that we are equal, we are sharing something together. It’s not that I’m teaching you something new. It’s an experience of immediate transmission.
TS: Silvia, let’s listen to a track from Medicine Melodies that’s a devotional song. This is the song, “Reza.” Silvia, do you want to introduce it for our listeners?
SN: OK. This song is a prayer—reza means “prayer”—again, an Afro-Brazilian tradition where I always come back. And we are calling in the qualities of all the regions, but particularly messengers of suchness and destiny, and particularly, the healer. There is someone that needs comfort and healing. And we are calling, in the morning; we are calling this Oratia, this entity called Omolu or Obaluaiyé. And we are asking for his nectar of deathlessness to help people that are ill.
TS: Let’s listen.
TS: Silvia, you have such an interesting sonic aesthetic.
SN: [Laughs] I was listening after a long time I didn’t listen to this piece, and usually you want to sing with a little bit more beautiful voice, but I was engaged in such a state of mind that I just got this dirty voice. You know?
It’s like it doesn’t matter whatever the voice is calling, but it’s like the true voice. So it’s interesting because in this piece, when I hear it back as a listener, I hear my true voice, almost the voice that I’m speaking with you, a speech voice, no effort. And at the same time, I hear also the film music. My background is in composing music for films. So I can see always the picture behind the voice.
TS: Now you talked some about what you call the spiritual reality of music the spiritual dimension of music. And we’ve talked a little bit about melody. And in your book, Free Your Voice, you talk also about tone, and you quote from the work of Rudolf Steiner about tone as a spiritual reality. And I wonder if you can speak some to that.
SN: For me, it was a very good encounter when I started reading Rudolf Steiner because it allowed me to balance my very strong connection with Eastern music through Indian music and my very strong connection with Western classical as well.
So for Rudolf Steiner, tone is a spiritual reality. That means that there is always a connection that we make with tone that brings us to another dimension. He said it’s exactly like music has always held a special position among the arts because music is the only art form whose archetype or origin is in the realm of the spiritual rather than in the physical world like architecture, or sculpture, or painting. So music, we hear the music with the soul.
And then there are other points when we allow ourselves to understand and express, produce tone, with all of our consciousness in the experience of tone. The tone becomes an event that calls for another tone, and then another tone, and then you become part of a relationship of tones. So tone calls for another tone and becomes a force that actually creates a musical event. And everything is happening because you are listening. And the music is dictated to you by another dimension that is not physical.
Think about Beethoven, right? Which is our closest way to understand that you don’t necessarily have to hear music to feel music. So Rudolf Steiner had a lot of students that were opera singers. He thought that we hear tone with our etheric body. The experience of tone is an experience of the etheric kind.
There is no difference between that and the experience of the ragas in India—in Indian music. The ragas are spiritual entities received by a musician that is in that state of openness to receive. So who composed the ragas? Nobody knows. Except for some ragas composed by composers. But the whole point here is that we are open to sing a tone that will immediately bring us to another kind of dimension or experience that is not physical anymore. We can consider just physical tone, but tone also can be a spiritual event.
TS: Yes. That is. That’s helpful. And I think it goes along with one of the central themes of your new book, which is that it’s about freeing the voice, not finding the voice. We’re not putting something in place that’s not there. And I wonder if you can talk about that, why you emphasize freeing versus finding one’s voice.
SN: You’re amazing. You got all of the most important points that I wanted to speak with the book. [Laughs] You’re a great listener, Tami. Of course as a voice person, I receive people all the time, or I see books or things, [that say] “finding your voice.” And I’ve had kind of a strange reaction in my skin when I hear that. So I said, “Why doesn’t this feel good to me?”
Well, finding your voice is based on the idea that you don’t have a voice. And so many times in our lives as people, or people that want to sing, or singers, opera master, we always found one time that someone told us not to sing, or that we don’t sing well, or that we don’t have a voice, or that we can’t carry a tune, right? You hear that all the time. So it all comes from the idea that you can find something that is lost.
But the voice is muscle and breath. And it just needs to be opened, like when I am doing an asana in yoga, and then I feel like my chest got opened, and my spine is more aligned. The same happens with the voice. If I talk about the voice, the next experience that I want to have is openness. The voice wants, needs a request to be open. Because it’s an experience practiced. Because it’s a muscle. And then you have the breath that constantly needs to flow. And we need to control the breath in different forms.
So if we approach the voice as an instrument that we can clean, and open, and tune, and retune, and practice, so the voice has nothing to be with me. And that’s where I want to get. I want to work with my voice like a musical instrument. And that, sometimes, for people, takes you months to realize that the voice is a musical instrument given to us, birthright, from the beginning, pure and beautiful, and we just need to understand that everything we put in the voice is personal. And the voice is not personal.
TS: Now what about the person that has the experience that their musical instrument is just permanently badly tuned?
SN: [Laughs] So we thought about that too. [Laughs] OK. So we discovered this instrument in India—I probably was a researcher in another life as well—so I have to figure out how to help people that think that way—that they cannot sing, that their voice is broken. And some voices have physical impediments, actually.
So I found this incredible instrument from India called the shruti box, which is just like a little accordion that you just need to open and close like a diaphragm that originally was used in India to tune flutes. So the flute player would tune the flute with his hand or her hands, and they would play this instrument with the feet. And the instrument would play like an accordion: open and close, open and close. And you would get the same, long tone. So hearing that long tone, they were tuning the flutes.
So I said, “Well, this is great. Everybody can play this instrument, and they can tune their voice.” The instrument gives you just a beautiful kind of church, harmonium, long tone that we call the “throne of the voice.” And then the voice can have as much time as possible becoming one with that tone. So the experience is an experience of becoming one with what you hear.
And because the tone is so beautiful, of these shruti boxes that I found, so you want to continue tuning until your sound disappears with the sound of the instrument and becomes one. You don’t know who is singing. This instrument and you are in tune. So that’s practice that we do. I ask people to try to get that instrument or we try to put it into a digital form if we have to. And then just to align your sound with what you are hearing outside, and it’s just the same sound, and sustain your attention, which is very important.
TS: What about people who are tone deaf? You know? I’m just tone deaf. I have a shruti box, and I think we’re on the same—me and the shruti box sound like one to me, but other people are like, “Oh my God.”
SN: In that case, the idea is that I have this little instrument that is helping me become part of my breath, I am playing it, and I bring my attention to listen and produce the same sound that I am listening. And then the whole magic happens. When someone is in front of you, helping you, and then you practice at home as much as possible to sound like the instrument is sounding. So the element, the ingredient here is sing what you listen.
And try to spend as much time as possible singing the same [thing]. Over and over, sustain, sustain, long, and just stay there until there is a moment that you are singing exactly what you hear, and then you’re listening, and that’s the magic. So you have to spend more time than you think that you can spend. So usually you have to give yourself more time.
TS: But you don’t think anybody’s a lost case?
SN: I don’t think so. I had a couple of them in my life, and I spent with one friend that hopefully will hear this wonderful conversation we have, and he will remember we spent five hours, and then he tuned it up. He tuned. And when he tuned, he started crying. I mean, this is a very, very, very well-known psychologist. And then suddenly he tuned, and then he started crying because he found human resonance. You know, that vibration that he was really searching for, for so long. You know sometimes, Tami, we don’t even have time for the things we want to do.
TS: Well, I’m so happy to hear you say this because I spoke to our book editor here at Sounds True, after I spent some time with your new book, Free Your Voice, and I said, “I really love this book.” And she said, “I do too. It’s made me want to sing.” And I said, “It’s made me want to sing too.” And yet, at the same time, I can feel an empathy with your friend the psychologist and think I may be a little bit of a tough nut to crack. Yet, I’m inspired to get a shruti box, and bring your book Free Your Voice into my meditation room and start experimenting and looking for that breakthrough moment.
SN: I insisted that the last words of the book will be to do the practices of the book. The book has 108 practices, at least, and many practices that come from those practices. So we made sure that we offer some very simple points of entry for people to start. And then sometimes you have to give people points of exit because they don’t want to stop. Because that’s the whole point of the voice.
The voice is prana. It’s like a waterfall. When you trigger the voice with beautiful sounds and simple long tones, and the mind is listening, you don’t want to stop. And that was my experience when I started singing this kind of contemplative music. But I wanted to finish the book with this idea that—be open and aware to the transformation that follows that experience because you want to do it again. And if you switch too fast, given a few minutes of secret sound, what is the transformation that follows? Why do I feel good?
Now we ask people to do some journaling. At the end of a session we say, “Hey, how are we feeling?” Something that gives room for us to listen to whatever was transformed inside. And that’s the secret sound. I think the secret sound is the key for us to continue doing something we want to do.
SN: And this is something I didn’t learn through music. It’s completely extra-musical information. I go this information through Tibetan practices of meditation and sound.
TS: The idea that when we tune into that empty space after we’ve tuned ourselves to the moment, that there’s something special to be received in that space?
SN: Yes. You don’t even have to think about it. You just have to keep listening to what happens after. It’s like the sound of the tambura. The most beautiful part of the sound of the tambura is after you play. After you plug it. After you play, you have this extra vibration that is still playing—the same like a good shruti box, or a good instrument. The most expensive instruments on the planet are those instruments that can hear after you play it. They have resonance.
TS: That’s beautiful.
SN: There is a resonance that we hear in our minds. There’s a groove move, something that still grooves after we play. And that is the peace, the mother that continues protecting our musical lives.
TS: Beautiful. I want to end, Silvia, with a traditional dedication prayer from your new CD Medicine Melodies. It’s called, “Twameva Mata.” But before we do, I want to ask you one final question, which is you introduce this idea of “planet music.”
TS: And before we end our conversation, I want to make sure that you take me to planet music. Where is it? Take me there.
SN: [Laughs] Now? Or after the show?
TS: Right now!
SN: OK. I wish I could tell you exactly because it really changed my life when I realized that this is what I was telling you before that the last part of the book was really transformative for me too, OK? After the book, I really wanted to have this idea of what I felt making the book, creating the book. And the piece that triggered this was a movie. I am a moviegoer. I go to movies all the time, and I listen to the music as well of movies.
So I went to see this movie, which I can’t really tell you exactly the name because all of my cultures get a little bit conflicted when I try to pronounce. But you will help me to pronounce it properly, OK?
SN: The name of the movie was, Melancholy.
SN: Exactly. Melancholy. We say in other languages, “Melancholia.” So I went to see this movie, and it was about a woman that her depression became a planet. And it was a planet that was coming to be actually bigger than the earth. And what happens when a planet bigger than the earth is coming in?
At that moment I had this insight—secret sound insight. What happens if we realize that music has all the conditions to be a planet that can easily, easily take all of the room, all of the functioning of our brain and our mind? If we are completely in the dimension of music, like meditation, completely in the dimension of music, we don’t have any more personal conditioning.
Because music will make us, will involve and engage every functioning, every aspect of our mind, our body, our spirit. And probably, it’s now very clear to all of this new research, music engages every part, almost the whole brain. So in that idea of more than the whole, I thought, “Well, I’ve been creating, being, participating in music as a planet. And if music is—if we participate in that way—the planet that comes to us, music can be really spiritual liberation. That means there are no more personal conditions.”
TS: Silvia, you did it. You took me to planet music. Thank you.
TS: And now we’ll end our conversation with this traditional dedication prayer from Medicine Melodies. Let’s listen.
TS: and that’s from a new CD by Silvia Nakkach called Medicine Melodies. I’ve been speaking with Silvia about Medicine Melodies and about her new book, her first book. It includes 108 exercises to free your voice. The book is called Free Your Voice: Awaken to Life Through Singing. And it’s a very comprehensive, brilliant, and inspiring book that truly make you want to sing and explore the depths, the silence and the secret dimension of singing, as well as the joy beauty and fulfillment of singing. Silvia, it’s been so great to talk to you.
SN: It’s been a delightful experience to talk to you, Tami, I feel very, very comfortable. Your questions were right to the point. Wonderful to collaborate with Sounds True.
TS: Wonderful. SoundsTrue.com. Many voices, one journey. Thank you for listening.