The Healing Power of Sound
The History of Sound Healing
Sound has been used as a healing force for thousands of years. All ancient civilizations used sound for healing. Traditional cultures still surviving today understand the remarkable healing power that lies in sound.
In the Bible we are told that David played his harp to lift King Saul's depression. Egyptian papyri over 2,600 years old refer to incantations as cures for infertility and rheumatic pain.
The ancient Greeks believed music had the power to heal body and soul. They used the flute and the lyre for treating illnesses such as gout and sciatica. It is reported that Alexander the Great's sanity was restored by music played on the lyre. There is an ancient Greek saying, 'Men have song as a physician for pain.'
Pythagoras used special songs and incantations with particular melodies and rhythms, to cure diseases of the body and mind.
What is Sound Healing?
Sound healing is the therapeutic application of sound frequencies to the body/mind of a person with the intention of bringing them into a state of harmony and health. The dictionary defines 'harmony' as 'congruity of parts to their whole or to one another'. 'Health' is defined as 'the state of being bodily and mentally vigorous and free of disease'.
The French ear, nose and throat specialist Dr Alfred Tomatis has devoted the last 50 years to understanding the ear and its function. He believes that the ear is the most important of all our sense organs. The ear controls the body's sense of balance, rhythm and movement and is the conductor of the entire nervous system.
Through the medulla, the auditory nerve connects with all the muscles of the body. Hence, muscle tone, equilibrium, flexibility and vision are affected by sound. Through the vagus nerve, the inner ear connects with the larynx, heart, lungs, stomach, liver, bladder, kidneys, small intestine and large intestine.
Tomatis believes that high frequency sounds (3,000Hz and above) activate the brain and affect cognitive functions such as thinking, spatial perception and memory. Listening to these sounds increases our attentiveness and concentration.
When an opera singer vibrates a glass with their voice, they have matched the resonant frequency of the glass. As the singer increases the volume of their sound, the resonance becomes too great for the forces that hold the glass together and it shatters. Modern medicine now uses sound waves to break up kidney stones and gallstones.
Every organ, every bone, every cell in the body has its own resonant frequency. Together they make up a composite frequency like the instruments of an orchestra. When one organ in the body is out of tune it will affect the whole body. Through sound healing it may be possible to bring the diseased organ into harmony with the rest of the body, hence avoiding the need for drugs or surgery.
The principle of entrainment states that powerful rhythmic vibrations from one source will cause the less powerful vibrations of another source to lock into the vibration of the first source. Nature always seeks the most efficient state; it takes less energy to pulse in co-operation that in opposition.
Scientific Research into Sound
In the 18th century Ernest Chladni, a German physicist, found that when a violin bow was drawn vertically across the rim of a metal plate the sound waves produced created patterns in sand sprinkled on the plate. Different musical tones would cause the sand particles to move into geometric patterns.
In the 1960s Hans Jenny, a Swiss scientist, spent over ten years conducting experiments to discover the effects of sound waves on materials placed on metal plates vibrated with sound. Materials such as glycerine, mercury, gel, powder and iron fillings were used. He photographed the patterns created.
He found that low frequency sounds produced simple geometric shapes in the materials. As the sound frequency was increased, these simple forms would break up and more complex patterns would appear. The sound 'OH' would produce a perfect circle. Jenny came to the conclusion that sound creates form and that the entire human body had its own sound made up of all the sounds of its cells, tissues and organs.
In 1974, Fabien Maman was working as a professional jazz musician. He noticed that certain musical keys had an energizing effect on both the musicians and the audience.
Fabien worked with the French physicist Joel Sternheimer. Sternheimer had discovered that elementary particles vibrate at frequencies in accordance with musical laws. They found that body tissue, organs and acupuncture meridians each have a musical note.
A few years later, Fabien met Hélène Grimal, a senior researcher at the National Centre for Scientific Research in Paris. They devoted a year-and-a-half to study the effects of sound on normal and malignant cells. Using drums, gongs, flutes, guitar, bass and a xylophone, they investigated the effects of sound on healthy blood cells, haemoglobin, and the 'Hela' cancer cell from the uterus.
They found that even at 30-40 decibels the sound always produced noticeable changes in the cells. As the sounds progressed up the musical scale there would be an 'explosion' of the cancer cells at a certain frequency as the sound travelled outward from the centre of the cell to its outer membrane. The experiment yielded the most dramatic results when the human voice was used.
Fabien says, 'Near the end of the scale, usually around the seventh interval, the cancer cells exploded. It appears that the cancer cells were not able to support a progressive accumulation of frequencies.'4 'The healthy cells appeared supple and able to freely receive, absorb and return the energy. In contrast, the cancer cells appeared inflexible and immutable in their structure.'
In experimental sessions on actual cancer patients, the music produced equally astonishing results. Female volunteers with breast cancer were taught to tone the whole scale, using a violin to keep a base note for 21 minutes at a time. They spent 31/2 hours a day doing this for a month. One woman's tumour disappeared completely.
Fabien Maman took healthy blood cells and played a xylophone to them. He photographed the changes in the electromagnetic fields around the cells using Kirlian photography. Subjected to a chromatic scale of frequencies, the slight difference of a half tone would produce a completely different shape and colour in the energy field of the cell. He found that the note 'C' made them longer, 'D' produced a variety of colours, 'E' made them spherical and 'A' (440Hz) changed the colour of their energy field from red to pink.
In his next experiment, Fabien took a sample of blood from a person's finger. He then asked the person to sing the seven notes of the major scale to their own blood cell. With each note, the cell's energy field changed its shape and colour. When the person sang an 'F' to their own blood cells, the cells resonated perfectly with the voice, producing a balanced, round shape and vibrant colours of magenta and turquoise.
He says, 'The cells are completely bathed in light and alive with full resonance, clear evidence that this 'F' is the fundamental sound of the singer… Fundamental sound can be very helpful for the physical body through its harmonising and regenerating effect at the cellular level.'
From his experiments, Fabien concluded that, 'In the human voice there is an added element which cannot be found in any other instrument… The human voice carries its own spiritual resonance… This difference, evident from the photographs, is what makes the voice the most powerful healing instrument – particularly when the person needing the healing produced the sounds with his or her own voice.'
Jim Oliver says that the body responds to sounds that we cannot hear. He says, 'We put the selected sounds exclusively into a pair of headphones and put them on a client's ankles. They responded to the sound even though their ears could not hear the sound. Once you vibrate a part of the body the blood cells carry this resonance to the whole body very quickly.'
A Japanese scientist, Masaru Emoto, wanted to find a way of scientifically evaluating water quality. He decided to freeze samples of water taken from different sources to compare their crystalline structure. When pure water crystallizes it forms a pure crystal; would contaminated water also form a pure crystal?
Water was placed in petri dishes in a freezer for two hours, then placed under a microscope and photographed at a magnification of 200-500 times. Although the crystals that formed were all unique, the crystals from water of the same source were all similar in shape. Over a four-year period his team took 10,000 photographs.
Tap water from Japanese cities generally would not form complete crystals. Tap water from London formed no crystals at all. Spring water generally produced the most beautiful crystals, as did water from holy places such as Lourdes.
Masaru Emoto's next experiment was playing music to water. He placed distilled water in between two speakers and played one piece of music fully at normal volume. Then he froze the water.
Classical music produced beautiful crystals of slightly different colours. Healing music, a Tibetan mantra and folk music also produced beautiful crystals. Heavy metal music produced a pattern that looked like a crystal that had exploded into a thousand pieces. Japanese pop music produced ugly square-shaped crystals rather then the normal hexagonal ones.
Since our body is made up of 70% water, Masaru Emoto's work demonstrates that we are constantly being influenced by the sounds around us and by the information stored in the water we consume.
Music as Medicine
Don Campbell, in his book The Mozart Effect, shows how music, particularly Mozart's, has all kinds of beneficial effects for human health. Scientists suggest that listening to Mozart helps us to improve our powers of concentration and enhances our ability to make intuitive leaps, by organizing the firing pattern of neurones in the cerebral cortex.
The foetus prefers Mozart and Vivaldi to other composers. When pregnant mothers listened to Mozart and Vivaldi, the babies' heart rates invariably steadied and kicking declined. Rock music 'drove most foetuses to distraction' and they 'kicked violently' when it was played to their pregnant mothers.
Slower tempo music slows our breathing rate. The human heartbeat will tend to match the rhythm of music. Listening to Pacabel's Cannon, for instance, at around 64 beats per minute, the rate of a resting heart beat, will slow our breathing rate and heart rate and change our brain wave pattern from beta to alpha. Music will also calm our nervous system and affect metabolism.
The pitch and rhythm of music influence the limbic system, affecting our emotions. Scientists concluded that preferred music 'may elicit a profound positive emotional experience that can trigger the release of hormones, which can contribute to a lessening of those factors which enhance the disease process'.
Music is now used to reduce the pain and anxiety of patients undergoing dental treatment and surgical operations. In a study of 59,000 patients, 97% of patients stated that music really helped them to relax in the post-operative situation and during surgery in regional anaesthesia.
In his research, Dr Mike Lewis found that classical music works on the whole brain, whereas pop music affects only one side of the brain. He says, 'I recommend that those who are looking for a peak experience try classical. Mozart is a great place to start, but it is a question of trial and error, find what works for you.'
Dr Tomatis found that a child traumatized by an enraged or screaming adult learns to survive by shutting out these noises. Once the hearing shuts down the child will find it hard to learn.
This explains why some people can sing in tune while others consider themselves 'tone deaf'. It is impossible for us to make a sound unless we have heard that sound or note before. I have found from experience in teaching voice work that once a person's hearing is reawakened then they can begin to hear what is sung to them and can then accurately copy this sound.
Toning is defined as – 'to make sound with an elongated vowel for an extended period'. Toning with other people creates a feeling of unity. It also helps us to release stress and repressed emotions. Regular toning and humming helps to re-energize the body and restore health to the mind, body and spirit.
Toning has a neurochemical effect on the body, boosting the immune system and causing the release of endorphins. Toning assists in good breathing and posture. The muscles of the digestive system are massaged and stimulated by regular toning. Toning has also been effective in relieving insomnia.
Alfred Wolfson was a German-born singing teacher who was plagued by the sounds of artillery and human agony that he experienced as a soldier in the trenches in World War I. Wolfson cured himself of aural hallucinations by singing the terrible sounds that haunted him. He went on to develop a therapeutic method that was based on using the voice. He taught his students to make spontaneous noises, including those of animals, birds and even machines.
Using Jung's concept of the anima and animus, Wolfson taught that by extending the vocal range through singing exercises, one could contact the opposite polarity within oneself, thereby integrating the psyche and healing a variety of psychological and physical conditions.
Laurel Elizabeth Keys, in her book Toning the Creative Power of the Voice, says, 'A whiny weak voice will suck in negativity, attracting lingering illness like cancer, asthma, allergies, tumors, rheumatism and arthritis. No healing will be possible until the person reverses their tonal pattern.'
Laurel discovered toning by accident. One day her body became filled with a sound so great that she had to express it. 'Each time I toned, my body felt exhilarated, alive as it had never felt before, a feeling of wholeness and extreme well-being.'
Dr Tomatis discovered the power of chant after visiting a monastery in France. The new abbot had stopped the monks chanting. The Benedictine monks normally chant for six to eight hours a day. The abbot believed that the Gregorian chant served no useful purpose and that without it they could recapture that time for other things.
The monks had been chanting in order to 'charge up' themselves, but they hadn't realized what they were doing. As the days passed they became more and more tired. A procession of doctors came to the monastery over a period of several months. They changed the monks' diet and sleep patterns but the monks became more tired than ever.
When the abbot called in Dr Tomatis in February 1967, Tomatis found 70 out of the 90 monks 'slumping in their cells like wet dishrags'. He reintroduced their chanting immediately. By November, almost all of them had gone back to their normal activities, their prayer, their few hours of sleep, and their arduous work schedule.
Principles of Sound Healing
The principle of entrainment explains how sound healing works. A harmonious sound projected at a person who is in a state of disharmony will eventually bring them into resonance with the harmonious sound. Our atoms, molecules, cells, glands and organs all have a vibrational frequency. Sounds from outside our body will stimulate sympathetic vibration in the molecules and cells of our body.
The sound wave created by a person singing or playing an instrument will carry information to the receiver of the sound. We all know that a song can be sung with a loving intention or an aggressive intention. When a mother sings a lullaby to her child, the child feels the love in the mother's voice and is rocked to sleep. At a football match, fans sing aggressive chants directed at the opposing supporters and their team. Here the intention is to intimidate.
When two objects have similar vibratory characteristics that allow them to vibrate at the same frequency, they form a resonant system. When a 'C' tuning fork is struck, another 'C' tuning fork close by will also begin to vibrate. For healing to occur there must be a resonance or rapport between healer and patient.
Jonathan Goldman in his book Healing Sounds says, "When we have learned techniques for harmonic toning, the human voice is able to create nearly every frequency, at least within the bandwidth of audible frequency." Jonathan offers the simple formula, "Frequency plus Intention equals Healing." If we can find a pure sound frequency coupled with a pure intention then healing will occur. When our body receives a pure tone our muscles will relax and tension will be released.
When working with a person in a sound healing session I use my voice to scan over their body. I find that my voice will 'break up' over areas of their body where there is pain, disease or poor function. I then administer sound healing through my voice using different tones, vowel sounds and harmonics until the imbalance is cleared. I use healing songs, prayers and mantras. I will also help a person find their fundamental sound.
I use a wide range of sound healing techniques to treat all conditions. These include combining my voice with instruments, using sound in combination with bodywork, encouraging the person to express their pain through sound, using tuning forks and different musical intervals.
Dissonant intervals can be used in sound healing to help a person to get in touch with painful emotions. When the dissonance is resolved by sounding the interval above, the person listening will experience a feeling of release, lightness and joy. If the person has experienced deep trauma, I will often chant the person's name to call back their spirit.
Sound healing can be combined with other healing therapies such as massage and bodywork. After a sound healing treatment most people report a feeling of deep relaxation and an improvement in the function of mind and body. Structural imbalances in the body will often correct themselves during the sound treatment.
1. Goldman Jonathan. Healing Sounds. Element Books. Shaftesbury. p30. ISBN 1-85230-314-X. 1992.
2. Tomatis Alfred. The Conscious Ear. Station Hill Press. New York. ISBN 0-88268-108-7. 1991.
3. Jenny Hans. Cymatics, Volumes I and II. Basilius Presse AG. Basel. 1974.
4. Maman Fabien. The Role of Music in the Twenty-First Century. Tama-Do Press. California. p61. ISBN 0-9657714-0-7. 1997.
5. Maman Fabien. ibid. p90.
6. Maman Fabien. ibid. p56. Photograph reproduced with permission from Fabien Maman.
7. Campbell Don. The Mozart Effect. Avon Books. New York. pp242-243. ISBN 0-380-97418-5. 1997.
8. Maman Fabien. ibid. p20.
9. Maman Fabien. ibid. p80. Photograph reproduced with permission from Fabien Maman.
10. Maman Fabien. ibid. p81.
11. Oliver Jim. Notes from CD Harmonic Resonance. The Relaxation Company. New York. 1995.
12. Emoto Masaru. The Message from Water. HADO Kyoikusha. Tokyo. ISBN 4-939098-00-1. 1999.
13. Emoto Masaru. ibid. pp77,87. Photographs reproduced with permission from Masaru Emoto.
14. Campbell Don. ibid. p23.
15. Campbell Don. ibid. p15.
16. Campbell Don. ibid. p73.
17. Harvey Arthur. Music in Attitudinal Medicine. in Campbell Don ed. Music: Physician for Times to Come. Quest Books. Illinois. p189. ISBN 0-8356-0668-6. 1991.
18. Lewis Mike. Why Music Heals Your Mind. Interview. Sunday Express. p51.21 May 2000.
19. Joudry Patricia. Sound Therapy for the Walkman. Steele and Steele. Dolmen. Canada. p7. ISBN 0-9691687-0-5. 1984.
20. Campbell Don. ibid. pp92-93.
21. Campbell Don. ibid. pp102-103.
22. Keys Laurel Elizabeth. Toning the Creative Power of the Voice. DeVorss and Co. California. pp10-12. ISBN 0-87516-176-6. 1973.
23. Wilson Tim. Chant the Healing Powers of Voice and Ear. in Campbell Don ed. Music: Physician for Times to Come. Quest Books. Illinois. pp12-14. ISBN 0-8356-0668-6. 1991.
24. Goldman Jonathan. ibid. p94.
The website for the UK Sound Healers Association offers a wide range of Sound Healing Resources – www.uksoundhealers.co.uk
The water book by Masaru Emoto can be orderd through Hado Publ BV, Prinsenstraat 55, 2316 HK Leiden, The Netherlands.
Jessica Turner said..
very nice post. Music is the best way to swing your mood. Whenever you are feeling alone or sad feelings come out music will heal your emotions easily it will refresh your mood very nicely.
Thanks & Regards,
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I have been involved with music since birth. I play the piano/organ and trumpet. I can relate to this article and I find the results very interesting. I do know one thing: when I leave church or orchestra practice, I always feel better. Always. I can't imagine life without music.
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