Christianity: Aesthetics: Spirituality: Life: Stuart and Moira Gray

Aesthetics and the benefits of sound vibrations: Thought for the Month - June, 2012

Stuart Gray
Moira Gray
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Sound, Vibrations, and the Universe

A modern astrophysicist, Trinh Xuan Thuan, has written that "if the cosmos is vast it is by no means silent. Nature delights in continuously sending us her notes of music". To understand this "music", in modern terms, is to understand that nature communicates to us in the language of wave patterns: sound waves, light waves, electromagnetic waves, etc. All these waves are on a continuum from lower frequencies to higher frequencies. The degree of frequency is how fast, or often, something vibrates in one second. Everything on the planet, living or not, is radiating frequencies. We know that this broadcasting of frequency is a primal form of communication. Before the specialization of eyes or ears, before olfactory organs, organisms locate and identify with frequency. We live in a sea of frequencies and we are composed, in essence, of frequencies. The structure of matter is a dynamic relationship of frequencies, which is to say, of relative motion.

Vibration plays an extremely important part in the everyday lives of everyone by way of normal thinking processes and states of being. Thoughts, emotions, desires, temperament indeed any mental state of Mind or being are all ultimately degrees and aspects of Energy as vibration, as of course is thought itself. This is just one reason why in the collective plane of the human Mind thoughts can, often unwittingly or even intentionally be projected, and can affect other people by the process of induction. These are major factors in so called “paranormal phenomena” which people recognise as “telepathy” and other forms of Mind power. It is also the reason why a persons “mood” can affect those around that person, a “mood” simply being an energetic state of vibration.
It is a most important fact that every single thought, every single state of Mind and every single emotion is each characterised by its own unique vibration. In the physical world of matter these vibrations and “thought forms” are not readily apparent to the physical senses.

We were built to understand the basics of melody, harmony and rhythm of music. Unlike language, which is very culture specific, understanding music is universal. Research on babies throughout the world shows they have superior memories for music constructed along conventional lines of major/minor scales and regular rhythms (Sandra Trehub, Dept. of Psychology, University of Toronto).

Each of the organs, glands, and cells in our bodies vibrate at their own specific frequency. These frequencies correspond with musical notes. For example, a healthy heart vibrates at the frequency of the F note. Sound can move molecules, rearrange realities, and penetrate any substance. It moves 4 times faster in water than in air, and as the human body is 70% water, that makes us perfect resonators. According to Newlands in 1864 and Mendeleev in 1869 there is even a case to be made for the periodic table of elements to be constructed along the same pattern of repetition as the musical octave.

While the power of music to touch the soul is both existential and subjective, its effects on our physical and mental activity have been well-researched. According to The Power of Sound, (Healing Arts Press), music triggers at least three neuro- physical processes:
1. Music moves through the brain’s auditory cortex directly to the centre of the limbic system. It can help create new neuropathways in the brain as well.
2. Music activates the flow of stored memory and imagined material across the corpus collosum (the bridge between the left and right hemispheres of the brain) helping the two work in harmony.
3. Music excites peptides in the brain and stimulate the production of endorphins, which are natural opiates secreted by the hypothalamus elevating mood and emotion, and, in singing and making music with others, the hormone oxytocin which produces feelings of trust and solidarity.
In a recent study conducted by brain researcher Prof. Manfred Spitzer of Ulm, Germany, new nerve cells were discovered to form by engaging actively in music.

Scientific studies show that sound waves can produce changes in the autonomic, immune, endocrine and neuropeptide systems of the physical body. Doctors, for example, use sound to treat kidney stones by non-invasively focusing a harmonic frequency on the stones, whilst increasing use is made of music in stroke and heart disease therapy, and focused ultrasound (i.e. above the hearing range of 20,000 Hz) in treating cysts, tumours, the delivery of drugs to specific areas, and the cure of internal bleeding.

At the other end of the sound spectrum infrasound (i.e. below 20 Hz) is thought to have an effect on brain activity. There are five kinds of brain waves: Gamma, Beta, Alpha, Theta, and Delta.
Gamma (30–70 Hz) frequency band, where faster rhythms such as gamma activity have been linked to cognitive processing.
Beta waves (ranging from 13-30 Hz) are most typically associated with normal waking states in which we are focused on external stimuli. Beta is born out of our basic survival orientation and is most present when we are sorting out and making sense of the external world. Beta affords the quickest response and allows us to attend to the largest number of things. Beta is increased in moments of stress or anxiety, enabling us to manage situations and solve immediate problems.
Alpha waves (ranging from 8-13 Hz) indicate an alert state with quiet mind. In this state, attention may be focused outward for problem solving or inward to achieve an alert meditative state. Increase alpha is often present in people who practice meditation or yoga.
Theta waves (ranging from 3.5-8Hz) reflect a mind state that is attuned to visualization, imagery and creative inspiration. These are produced during deep meditation. This is experienced during the dream state of our sleep.
Delta waves (ranging from 0.5-3.5 Hz) are associated with the deepest levels of physical relaxation and dreamless sleep.

Influencing, enhancing or stimulating each of the waves is achieved by the use of binaural or isochronic beats (in the former a differently pitched signal is sent to each ear through headphones, the difference between the two being within the range of the brain wave one wishes to enhance, while in the latter the same effect is produced by pulses to both ears). This science is still in its infancy, often hijacked by elaborate claims, but may yet prove an aid to generating an overall feeling of well being. As one site puts it, the use of binaural or isochronic beats can help to still the mind in times of stress as a precursor for meditation.

Then there are the different ways in which our brain comprehends music. The 2 hemispheres present 2 fundamentally opposed realities, 2 different modes of experience, each important for the true expression of humanity. There are more connections in the human brain than there are particles within the known universe. In one we experience the flow of music, in the other we divide into bits, analyse it thus giving us explicit knowledge of it. The right hemisphere apprehends anything new. It is more flexible of thought, the left dwelling on past experience, what it already knows, the world it has made for itself. The Left Hemisphere needs certainty and to be right. The right hemisphere specialises in no-verbal communication, the relations between things rather than entities in themselves. Music is nothing but relations, the tension of one note/chord to the next, and the silences between. One note/chord means nothing on its own. It is their interconnection which transforms and gives meaning to the note/chord, and in ways always new. Music thus is the natural language of the right hemisphere because it moves creatively through time, always changing/evolving, never static. It has the subtle pulse of a living being, and appeals to the emotions. Melody, tone, timbre and pitch processing are mediated by right hemisphere. Rhythm is more widely based. Complex, syncopated and cross rhythms are mediated by right hemisphere, while basic, metrical rhythms are mediated by the left, hence the popularity of pop music today which, with its heavy static rhythm, appeals to the left hemisphere. Similarly the left hemisphere loves the known and loves repetition which, in part, is why Philip Glass and minimalism are so popular.

So, what do we make of all this? One thing strikes me immediately. We take sound too much for granted, as indeed we do the functions of our brains. We fail to relate the two. We live, for example, in a world governed by finance and false logic (witness the results these two attributes have wrought on our economic plight - both products of our left hemispheres), while the more ephemeral and transient aspects of our more globally aspiring right hemisphere, such as spirituality, seeing the big picture and inter-relationships, are in decline. We are all too aware of the damage loud sounds can do and indeed legislate health and safety rules to ensure minimum damage occurs. How often, I wonder, do we look to make beneficial use of sound in our lives. Sound, after all, has existed since that first Big Bang and those vibrations still echo in every aspect of our existence.