"Our forests are a gift from our ancestors which must be passed to our children." New Guinea saying


Singing As If All Life Matters

Posted by Susan Elizabeth Hale on November 14, 2010 at 10:48 AM

On Earth Day 2010 over 3,000 people in 39 contries sang to trees. in the U.S. a group of children sing around a Native American Prayer Tree in Georgia, Australians gather in a rainforest near Byron Bay, a group of elders sing to a pine forest in North Carolina, young Londoners sing to trees in Hampstead Heath, while a Seattle woman goes alone to an old growth forest nearby. People from India, Japan, Italy, England, Germany, the Czech Republic, France and Sweden participate.


 pose the question what if singing to trees matters? What is we could make a difference with our intentions and our voices just as they are. We are needed as earth stewards and one way to commune with the earth is through the voice. This is an ancient ritual tradition of indigenous people that spans the globe. Hopis sing up the sun at dawn. The Dineh people of Arizona sing to corn. Pueblo people in New Mexico sing to bring the rain.


The following is an excerpt from my book Sacred Space-Sacred Sound: The Acoustic Mysteries of Holy Places on a chapter about mountains about the songs of the earth.


“Voice is one way to create a relationship to mountains and the hidden gods and goddesses who make their home there. Anthropologist Joan Halifax believes that the way to realize “...fully the true nature of a place is to talk its language and hold its silence.”3 To know a mountain is to know it’s songs, not only it’s lava and granite tones but to know the song of the wild rose, to speak the language of pine and hear the sonnet of a river, to echo the tongue of the hawk and join the chorus of hummingbirds, to praise the clouds that touch the earth as rain. All these are mountain, belong to mountain. All these are human; belong to human, to the humus we are born from.

The musical score of nature is written in the veins of leaves, the texture of a Ponderosa’s bark, the granite grain of rocks, the intricate design of a Monarch’s wings. Nature is a living scroll, continuously changing and revealing itself. Its patterns are like notes on a page revealing the music within. One can know the song of a mountain by patient listening and seeing, by a synesthesia of translating sight into sound, form into sung essence.

“The Dineh understand that all beings, be they star or stone are solidified vibration...to connect with the medicine, or power, of lightning or star, one must sound them.” The Mountain Chant singer knows the language of mountains “The singer is a specialist who through knowledge of evocative language has access to the natural world.”4


While western civilization is far from these roots, this is a part of our human heritage. What if it did matter that we sing to mountains, rocks, ourselves, to each other, just as we are, with the voices we have now? I am reminded of thousands of people who have told me that their mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers sang to them and that their voices were not perfect and sometimes out of tune. But what shone through these imperfect voices was love.


We can begin to open up a sound dialogue with nature, to become better listeners. We are badly out of tune, partly because we are so disconnected from the Earth. As sound healers we are in our infancy but we are also remembering we are part of an ancient tradition. Singing to trees on Earth Day is a small step to redress this imbalance. I hope you will add your voice to sing for the trees. Sing as if your voice matters. It does.


3. Joan Halifax, The Fruitful Darkness: Reconnecting With the Body of the Earth, HarperSan Francisco, New York, 1993, p. 77.

4. Ibid, p. 82.

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