Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Magic of Sound: Produced, Engineered & Mixed

Whether you believe that the universe was started by a big bang or created by the voice of God saying, "Let there be light," I think we can all agree that sound was one of the very first things in history. The sound that emanated from setting the speed of light and bringing the elements forth out of nothing had to have been massive. Will scientists catch up to it as they go deeper and deeper to the outer edges of space and hear that sound still ringing in the rafters of the cosmos? Someone with more knowledge than I would have to answer that question.

Ever since that first sound, other sounds have been used for one reason or another. Our ancestors learned that a certain grunt or yell produced an effect on the people around them, and language was born. Music came on the scene when people learned to hit rocks or tree limbs and behold, it was pleasant! It soothed their emotions and communicated in ways they could not. Sound drew them together as a people, brought progress, and even empowered shamans. Humans have always sought for power through sound, whether by an "abracadabra" or the sound of a gong.

Sound is vibrations in the form of waves at certain speeds or frequencies that can be heard if in the range of our auditory faculties or perhaps felt if it is not. Elephants produce a low frequency sound that can be felt in the chest but not heard. My son's car stereo produces a thump-thump that can sometimes be felt as a "pain in the rear!" Sound waves can shatter glass or show us what our babies look like in the womb. Sound is a powerful tool, and because all matter is energy comprised of vibrations at the atomic level, sound vibrations can affect matter, whether harmoniously or chaotically. No wonder that we have always looked for ways to use sound.

We are even using sound as weapons. The new generation of weapons are non-lethal acoustic weapons that use high-decibel noise to cause pain or infrasound to cause unbearable nausea. Sickening sound is no stranger to the citizens of Kokomo, Indiana, where what has come to be called the "Kokomo Hum" has caused some residents to flee.

Throughout history, sound has been produced for specific effects, such as the sound of bells, gongs, and chimes. Feng Shui teaches that the way to increase chi is to hang wind chimes in entryways. Chinese fireworks were also exploded at certain times in an attempt to maintain the flow of chi. Shamans used strange sounds or special words in rituals. Drums were a well-used instrument of power with their driving beat. Aborigines in Australia played special sounds within the didgeradoo's drone to call their warriors to battle or to send other secret messages.

Music is a pleasant sound of choice for most people. It has been used in worship, to affect moods, and to enchant from the beginning of time. The Bible documents David playing the harp and singing to lift the depression of King Saul.

Today, every cruise boat going down the Rhine River plays the Lorelei song as they negotiate the bend at the Lorelei rock. Lorelei was a mermaid that legend says sat, combing her blonde hair and singing her siren song, on top of the cliff. She was said to lure unsuspecting river boatmen to their deaths on the rocks below.

Since the end of the 18th century, a lot of research has gone into the effects of music in healing. Music has literally played a part in healing ceremonies since antiquity.

For the past 300 years, musicians have used what is called the "equal tempered tuning scale," but it has not always been so. The ancients used just-intonation where chords and intervals were produced in their purity or exact mathematical ratio. Mozart and others composed in just-intonation. Many have lamented the departure from pure tuning. Read about the history of tuning at Historic Music Tuning Problem, Just Intonation.

As I write this article, I'm listening to a CD entitled, "Delusion of the Fury" by Harry Partch (1901-1974). Harry Partch was a pioneer in the creation of music on instruments of his own design that were capable of playing notes in a 43-tone scale using just-intonation. He built such instruments as the Chromelodeon and the Quadrangalis Reversum. Upon first hearing his music, one might think that the elephants of Thailand were playing it. However, once you listen for awhile, you realize something important about it. It can be felt in your physical body in such a way that modern music is not.

The sound of the church bell is one of the most recognizable sounds in the western world. Since temples and cathedrals are built over known energy vortices, some believe that the buildings transmit sound vibrations from the bells, sacred songs and chants along these energy lines and may have a positive effect on the magnetic field surrounding the earth.

The German philosopher, Goethe, once said, "Sacred architecture is frozen music." One Japanese group has been studying the mystical symbols carved into the cubes of the stone ceiling in Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland. It is thought the cubes are part of a musical notation system that recorded a melody of great spiritual significance.

Plato instructed his students to activate these ancient buildings by maintaining what was known as perpetual choirs which sang and chanted sacred songs continuously twenty-four hours a day according to times and seasons. Ancient Great Britain had perpetual choirs as well located in Glastonbury, Stonehenge and Llantwit Major in Wales. China had a perpetual orchestra whose purpose was to energize the energy grid. These perpetual sounds were thought to ward off evil and disasters and transmit spiritual power throughout the land.

In an article written by Dr. Karen Ralls entitled "The Spiritual Dimension of Music," she discusses examples of music from the Celtic Underworld and writes that fairy harpers, the songs of mermaids, the power of the saint's bell, the singing of angels in Heaven, and musical trees were said to produce powerful effects in Celtic tradition. Read this fascinating article at Ancient Quest.

What might the ancients have known about sound? In Paul Devereaux's "Places of Power, Measuring the Secret Energy of Ancient Sites," he documents his research into the phenomenon surrounding ancient stone circles. Part of his study is an investigation of the testimony about audible sound heard coming from standing stones at certain times such as dawn. He notes that writers in antiquity documented these sounds including sounds emanating from statues used as oracles.

Perhaps another reason that sound affects us is because our cosmos may be one grand melody. While Pythagoras discovered the mathematical basis of musical harmony, Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) took this a step further and found that planetary movements correspond mathematically to musical tones which he believed sounded a continuous celestial song.

How receptive are physical things to sound? In his book, "Messages From Water," Dr. Masaru Emoto shows us photographs of water crystals after they are frozen. He first subjects the water to various types of human emotions or music. Then he freezes it and photographs the frozen crystals. He has found that water that has experienced beautiful music or positive words and sounds undergoes a molecular change into harmonious geometrical forms when frozen. The molecular change from negative words or chaotic music results in ugly crystals. Thus, he has proven what he calls "Hado," meaning "wave" or "move," and that our daily language literally moves physical matter whether positively or negatively.

Perhaps a lost chord or words of power are "out there" somewhere, the missing sound in the great symphony of life, once played or once said, but now forgotten. However, I suspect we'll need to start searching for that great powerful sound much closer to home. In the Bible, James says, "If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man."

Happy Hado to you!

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