I asked the question earlier about when does sound become music, and I think it becomes music when it becomes something that we need. Whether that need be on an emotional level, a spiritual, an emotional or the physical level. I believe those qualities within ourselves define what is music, just as our physiology defines what is sound.
Music is important then, because it can give us what we need. In a very real sense, when I play music I am touched, I am made alive, I resonate harmonically. People in the vicinity (and I’ve watched this many times) become moved. This speaks to vibration, to resonance and to community. I think music is important because it creates community. Perhaps that is how music could be defined, as something that creates a certain inner-harmony, a sense of belonging to the spaciousness outside of mind, beyond mental/individual thinking, and into global thinking/feeling.
McClellan has something to say on this subject;
Music results from our biological, affective cognitive and spiritual processes…we respond to music on all four levels. Biological response involves body processes such as breathing rate and depth, heart rate and the like. Affective response involves emotion. Cognitive response involves aesthetic satisfaction and stimulation. A spiritual response is transpersonal in that we experience something transcendental. We feel a wholeness greater than individual awareness and a unity of universal forces and human experience. (p.32)
Music is important because it reminds us who we are. Sound is important because it informs us, quite literally and quite practically, and vibration is what brings all of these movements into being – indeed it is the primordial movement. I believe that noise distracts us from who we are, like advertising on television or the radio. It is a harsh experience, an invasive one, which prompts a certain withdrawal on the part of each person and a high level of stress, and possibly pain or numbing, on many levels. As Don Campbell says in Mozart Effect when describing a scene at a car rally.
The American Academy of Otolaryngology estimates that more than twenty million Americans are regularly exposed to dangerous levels of sound. Children are most vulnerable. Recently, I passed a domed sports arena that held races for “monster trucks” with giant tractor wheels. As the trucks were revving up their engines and speeding down hundreds of yards of track, the low frequency sounds were so loud and hideous that most of the children in the crowd of several thousand were weeping, screaming and and holding their ears…I would guess that the sounds exceeded 120 decibels; these children were literally being injured. (p.36) He also points out, in Mozart Effect that, in America, “an estimated 60 million Americans have hearing loss and a third of those losses are caused by exposure to loud sounds”(p.36)
There is a final thought I want to leave you with, and it comes again from McClellan’s The Healing Forces of Music;
Itzhak Bentov5 states that the atoms of our bodies vibrate at the rate of about 1015 c.p.s., that the molecules, formed of atoms, vibrate at the rate of 109 c.p.s., and that the frequency response of cells is 103 c.p.s., a step down in range of six octaves you arrive at the frequency of 7.8 c.p.s. Which some researchers have identified as being the frequency of the human body.8 If these calculations are correct, they may indicate that as the various systems of our bodies – and all matter as well – become denser and as they gain more mass, the natural frequency of the structure also decreases. Therefore the frequency of the nervous system may be of a higher rate than that of the organs. The organs, in turn, may be higher than that of the bone structures. (p.40)
Various experiments to explore the above quote were carried out at Cymatics Institute in Switzerland using a single drop of water, which was dropped onto a plate and subjected to various increased frequency rates. Here’s what they found; the shape and form of the water changed radically as the frequency of the sound was changed. As long as the frequency remained constant, the resulting shape of the drop of water was held indefinitely, and the chemical property of the water did not change. As the frequency was increased, a more ethereal appearance began to emerge, rendering the drop of water unrecognizable. In the final photograph, it can hardly be seen at all, yet it is still there. At each frequency change, the water kept its external form but within the water itself, the molecules continued to move. Further experiments with other liquids displayed exactly the same patterns of change. (p.40) If all of this is being monitored by a sonic/vibratory architecture of the cosmos, and that changes, then the following note from Dr. Guy Manners becomes quite interesting:
Is it feasible then, and is it possible that you and I – all of us in here – living in this dimension and perpetrating this sound which holds you in the shape and form that you are? It could be. And if the shape and the form, the vibration that is round this planet changes, we could all mutate? We really don’t know.7 (p.40)
Even though I have talked about sound in its mechanical sense, I have also alluded to another quality of experiencing that is, I am posing, occurring at the same time, perhaps on some other ‘level’ or consciousness. In his book, Music and the Mind, Anthony Storr makes an interesting reference to this, our ability (and inability) to perceive not only sound but bigger realities in general;
We all know there are sounds which our ears cannot hear, and colors which our eyes cannot see, but which can be perceived by other species or by special instruments. Dogs can respond to tones of very high frequency which the human ear cannot hear; infra-red cameras can ‘see’ objects which the human eye cannot. The limitations of our perceptual apparatus restrict our apperception of the world; the limitations of our cerebral apparatus restrict the ways in which we can think about it. The world may not only be stranger than we think it is but stranger than we can possibly imagine.
But Schopenhauer goes further than this. Even if our ingenuity enlarges our perceptual grasp, by inventing special techniques which enable us to incorporate the sounds we cannot hear and the sights we cannot see into our incomplete picture of external reality, we can never transcend the limitations imposed by our concepts of space, time, and causality. Schopenhauer, therefore, concluded that we could never perceive objects as noumena or ‘things-in-themselves’, as Kant called them. All we can do is register the ways in which they appear to us; that is, their ‘representations’ as phenomena in the external world.
But, if this is true, it must follow, as a correlative concept, that ‘things-in-themselves’ exist, and that they have their being in an underlying reality to which our categories of space, time, and causality to not apply. For it makes no sense to say that our perceptions are subjective or partial unless there is a reality that is supposedly objective and complete, even if we have no access to it.
However, the underlying reality postulated must be one in which objects are not differentiated; in other words, a unity. For abolishing the categories of space, time and causality necessarily makes it impossible to distinguish one object from another. Hence Schopenhauer’s vision is that ultimate reality is a unit – the unus mundus of medieval philosophy, which is both beyond our human categories of space, time, and causality and also beyond the Cartesian division into physical and mental. (p.128/129)
There is still the issue of teleology. Is sound teleological, i.e. Is there an inherent purpose in its movement, in its existence – a direction that it is headed in, regardless of its own sentient level, so to speak? Rudolf Haase, as edited by Joscelyn Godwin, in his paper Harmonies and Sacred Tradition, from the book Cosmic Music, points out the rather tellingly comprehensive picture of sound in life and raises the question that such symmetry must surely point to a teleology, by design. As he says;
Harmonic laws thus allow for interconnections between different areas, which since they often prove significant, cannot be dismissed as accidental or side effects. It is far more a matter of norms, structures, and forms occurring at the endpoints of evolutions: therefore in nature, we must designate them as goals or aims. This important fact necessarily gives harmonic research a teleological perspective. (p.92)
This is something that is interesting to ponder. My saying that sound and vibration is or isn’t teleological won’t affect its true reality, but my sitting with the question might affect my own. I offer it up as a thought, and a thought only, that sound is obviously here as part of our consciousness and part of our self-awareness and that all creatures that are able to participate in the world of sound are able to do so consciously, with self-awareness, at the point at which they have the capacity to hear and/or feel the vibration within themselves. I don’t doubt it, actually. Self-awareness is not unique to humans and neither is the capacity to process, and be fed by, sound and its inherent information, even as our individual and group processing systems vary.
One thing I do feel is that, through sound and vibration, certain information is being processed and communicated. The point at which vibration becomes sound is the point at which we become aware of it, but there is also other information going on via vibration, defined, purposed perhaps, by its frequency. Rather like the navy and military and even commercial radio stations using radio waves to communicate audio information, perhaps vibration and sound have a similar relationship to other kinds of information, to do with architectural and even soul sustenance, i.e. Physical and non-physical information – some of which we need to know (basic survival and relational information) and some which just occurs in spite of us.
I have included at the end of this paper, a brief outline of a company called Sonic Bloom, that has taken advantage of the properties of sound and vibration in order to facilitate the growth of plants and crops. They are a good example of how we can work with sound in order to reinforce growth and it is a way of recognizing patterns of relationship.
There is much more to discuss but at this point, I need to end, for now.