The ability to hear and discriminate between different sounds is a gift. Our world is infiltrated with tone which we have learned to manipulate to create music. Aside from melody recognition and lyric interpretation, I have recently become appreciative of the subtle impacts that notes and music can have on one’s wellbeing. During two recent, but dissimilar experiences with sound, I have become aware that notes and music transmit more than just a melody.
My first experience occurred in Sedona, AZ. I had been curious about the technique of sound healing and good friends recommended I contact a practitioner from Brazil. As I walked into his studio, I noticed beautiful glass and metallic bowls scattered around the room, in addition to gongs, and other mysterious instruments. Porangui, the healer, instructed me to lay down on the table and covered my eyes with a soft cloth. As I lay there, I began to hear rich, complex, overlapping tones with varying intensity that made my body vibrate.
At first, I intellectualized the experience, reasoning that I was hearing Porangui play the various instruments. I knew that I needed to surrender to the experience though, and relax if I was going to benefit from the treatment. I focussed on my breath to bring about a meditative state and as I fell deeper and deeper into relaxation, I suddenly felt detached from my physical body. My consciousness wasn’t floating above the table or in the corner of the room, as some have reported with an out of body experience. Instead, I existed only as a stationary ball of light in the void of space. At varying distances from my orb presence, I sensed additional sources of light, which provided me with a sense of my relative position in space. These sources of illumination must have represented the sound energy originated from each of the singing bowls as they were played. It was a profound experience, induced by tonal sound.
Jennifer’s vocal performance at Eastman school of music was equally momentous. The operatic pieces she selected were unfamiliar to me. I imagined that most people in the audience had no comprehension of the words as each piece was sung in a different language. Yet, my niece captivated the audience with her gorgeous soprano voice during the weekend of her senior recital. As we listened, we were filled with awe, even reverence, that brought unexpected tears to our eyes. Even the legendary singer/songwriter Carole King, in town raising support for Hillary Clinton, dabbed her eyes with tissues as she listened to Jennifer’s performance. It was a truly uplifting experience, after which we were all filled with intense joy.
The notes that create music including those produced by a singing bowl, an acoustic instrument or a human voice, can create resonance, a phenomenon in which sound imparts energy into materials that are “tuned” to the same frequency. The classic example of an opera singer forcefully singing a singular note and imparting so much energy into a wine glass that it will shatter, is a real phenomenon. Most every physical object has a frequency at which it will resonate. In addition, individual parts of a whole can each have their own unique resonant frequencies. As all living beings have the ability to resonate, absorbing energy through resonance may explain why even plants grow better when they are sung to or played music.
Live acoustic music and analogue recordings provide a continuous, complex mixture of dominant notes and overtones called harmonics, each of which can also cause resonance. The mixture of a note with its complex of harmonics gives the tone a richness, called timbre. Digitized music by its nature, provides fewer harmonics and less timbre.
Listening to music can help calibrate or “tune” our bodies. To experience this sensation, sit outside and listen to the birds chirping and singing. Then, focus your sense of hearing by turning off your vision by either closing your eyes, or better yet, placing a blindfold on. Relax and you will instantly become aware of where you are in space, in relation to the sounds you are hearing. It may be disorienting or even frightening at first for you will feel vulnerable. You may be tempted to open your eyes or remove your blindfold, but sit with your eyes closed for 5 or 10 minutes and just relax, listening. After a short while, you will grounded and positioned by the sounds you hear.
Listening to or playing music each day,especially acoustic or analogue music can improve your health. Whether you sing in the shower or in the car while listening to the radio, producing music with your voice will benefit you, by imparting you with energy and reducing stress.
Music has always been emphasized in our family. I love to hear the sounds of my children practicing the piano and the violin each day. We even have two “singing bowls”, which someone will occasionally strike. If I am feeling uneasy or stressed, playing the singing bowl and filling up the room with its rich vibrational tone instantly brings me a sense of peace and serenity.
It can be wonderful to have an acoustic instrument at home. Having your children listen to or learn to play music, particularly classical music, is wonderful for brain development. Have you heard of the Mozart effect?
Sound is the only sense that we can consciously produce as well as absorb. So, enjoy it by bringing music into your home and playing or listening daily.