The Healing Power of Sound & The Transformational Aspects of Music
March 13, 2013 1 Comment
HJ: I think it is safe to say that we have all had the experience of being profoundly moved by a piece of music. It is truly a mystical experience in every sense of the word… but what exactly is responsible for this incredible, palpable emotional effect? The study of sound as a healing tool has led to some incredible, groundbreaking research into the brain, nervous system and exactly how these forces interact to produce significant changes that can have very real effects on our mind, emotions, body and even spirit.
This contemporary research is able to provide insight into what ancient societies and tribes knew and embraced wholeheartedly. To my knowledge, every culture on the planet in some way incorporated music — sound with intention and form — into the fabric of its existence. In fact, cultures such as the Buddhists of Tibet developed many instruments such as singing bowls, chimes, and gongs which have profound, consciousness transforming effects, which can be felt by anyone has ever experienced them either in person or via recording.
An important technique in Sound Healing utilizes the intricate combination and interplay of various musical effects. It is the magical and complex interaction of special sounds with the human body and mind that give the impressive results that are achieved.
Music Aspect #1: Intervals
An interval is a technique used in music where two different notes are sounded at the same time. The individual notes combine to produce a new sound effect different than either of the two originals. This phenomenon is due to the interaction of the sound waves comprising each note.
When the brain receives tones that are presented extremely close to the ears (as when you wear headphones) the brain can only “hear” one tone at a time. If you play a different tone into each ear then the brain combines and averages both tones, and you hear a pulsing sound which is the average of the two tones. What is thrilling about this is that you have just introduced “whole brain” functioning. Regular use of “whole brain” functioning has been shown to enhance intelligence and overall mental performance, reducing mental decline.
Certain intervals impact our states of consciousness and produce different feelings. For example, a major fifth interval produces a harmonious, spiritual feeling while a major seventh interval produces a moody emotion and a minor third creates a melancholy feeling. Techniques employing sound intervals have shown impressive results relieving depression and other negative emotions such as loneliness, self-pity and anger.
Music Aspect # 2: Pitch
The pitch of a note is how high or low it sounds. Higher frequency is higher pitch – corresponding to faster vibrations or “tighter waves” and higher energy. Lower pitch is due to slower vibrations.
French physicist, Joel Sternheimer, discovered that: “while a protein is being assembled (in a plant) from its 20 constituent amino acids a frequency can be calculated…and transcribed into a note… for each amino acid”. If you play the notes, corresponding to the amino acids, back in the order that they are combined in a protein, a melody results. When the melody of the amino acids is played back to the plant, its growth and overall vitality is increased.
Just as plants have shown to be positively affected by Sternheimer’s melodies, there are many researchers studying the effects of pitches and melodies on human health. Robert Monroe, (founder of the Monroe Institute), discovered that listening to recordings of specific pitches produced psychic phenomena in some listeners. The French ear, nose and throat doctor, Alfred Tomatis, demonstrated that higher pitches affect the neocortex of the brain – energizing people.
Makers of sound and light machines tout that special sounds can induce delta and theta brain waves – corresponding to the production of beneficial neurochemicals.
Music Aspect #3: Rhythm
It has often been said that the human body is an orchestra with the heart drumming out the constant beat. In the womb, we hear our first communication in the rhythm of the mother’s heartbeat.
Rhythm can affect our pulse and heart rate, breath, stress response, and the pace of our speech, gait and numerous other physical activities. A healing rhythm increases or slows our energy down, strengthening the elasticity of our pulse, helping us gain vitality.
Our own rhythms can be a more complete expression of who we are than we realize. On a busy street watch the variations of walking. Some people bounce, others shuffle and a few march. Some are rigid, others flexible. Other variations include jerkiness versus regularity of rhythm, or a calm rhythm versus a rushed one. Our personality and emotions can be revealed in the rhythm of our walk.
Words have rhythm. Our rate of speaking and associated movements is an expression of individualism, and in fact often show unspoken communication; the underlining meaning beneath our words. While our words may say one thing, our rhythm of words and body language can say another, revealing a deeper truth.
Reinhard Flatischler, who developed the revolutionary approach to rhythm, combining pulse, breath, voice and rhythm, said in his book, The Forgotten Power of Rhythm,”The drum returns my energy by translating it into audible rhythm and thus completes a circuit of energy that allows me to connect with my own power.” The rhythm expresses our own energy and power.
American Indians used drum rhythms to induce trances, in which they experienced “out of the body” travel, similar to effects from hallucinatory drugs. These “journeys” were used to glean information from the future or to receive wisdom for their decisions and purposes in life.
African witch doctors utilized drum beats to work dancers into a frenzy, citing that these experiences cause one to shed negative energy that can be the underlying cause of illness.
Rhythm is an important contribution in the many faceted art of Sound Healing. Impressive results can be obtained when rhythm is properly combined with other powerful Sound Healing techniques.