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Sound Therapy

Sonic Boom - the case for this alternative therapy is sound

by Michael Braunstein

The Mozart Effect

Research gets pretty modern when it comes to the musical end of things. Studies show plainly that music really does have qualities that "soothe the savage breast." One of the foremost researchers is French physician Alfred Tomatis of the French Academy of Science and Medicine. His research and that of others shows what all reasonable people already had accepted as fact. Music can relax you. It can lower blood pressure. It can decrease heart rate. It can help with insomnia.(cf. Mannheim Steamroller again.) And some music has been shown to increase IQ. Author Don Campbell has written a book called The Mozart Effect that highlights some of the effects of the sound we call music.

Researchers at University of California, Irvine found that listening to Mozart prior to taking scholastic exams improved test scores significantly. And the current hot thing in hospital neo-natal wards is playing classical music for newborn infants. Tennessee, Georgia and Florida are among states that now provide classical music CD's with the other freebies each new mother receives when she leaves the hospital.

Research says the preferred style of music to enhance intelligence is Baroque. Baroque music is a form popularized in the 17th and 18th centuries. If you're not a music scholar, the best way to associate it is to think of Johann Sebastian Bach. As composers go, he is considered the primary force behind the form. Others are Handel, Haydn and Mendelssohn. But if you just wanted to pick one popular classical composer (is that an oxymoron?) one could choose Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Mozart's music is from that period and was often found to be the most effective.

Even the Journal of the American Medical Association has gotten into the act. The June 16, 1999 issue published research from Case Western University showing that relaxation therapy (like hypnosis) and classical music played through earphones, used independently or together, reduced pain symptoms in 500 patients after major abdominal surgery. Studies at St. Agnes Hospital in Baltimore show that critical care patients require lower amounts of sedatives after listening to 30 minutes of classical music. Another JAMA article supports the use of classical music and the principles of feng shui (though not specified) in the health care environment.

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"I don't know if I can go as far as that crystal bowl stuff." So said a physician I was speaking with one morning. As we sat in his office, soft music playing from the speakers, we were discussing a workshop on alternative therapies for chronic pain that he was hosting the next weekend. In other words, he is a liberal-minded, forward-thinking practitioner who recognizes the healing power of the body as a form of energy and respects the alternatives to conventional therapy.

"That may be a little too far out there for me," he said. I had been talking to him about a group of people who use a set of seven very large crystal bowls to perform a healing therapy. The premise is that the sound emanating from the ringing bowls was tuned to the frequencies of the chakras, or energy centers, that we all have.

"Wait a minute," I said. "We're sitting here in your office and you have soft music playing because you believe it has a soothing effect on your patients. Muzak® systems do the same thing. Music is generally considered to be able to affect mood, productivity, alertness, lots of things. And what is music? Just a grouping of tonalities and rhythms. And you believe in the physics of the body; that systems function with identifiable energies and frequencies, just like we see with EKG's and EEG's. Why would the frequencies and tones resonating from these crystal bowls have any less effect than music? And why not more? I don't have to convince you. You already believe that sound has an effect on the body. Why are you playing music here right now?"

"Well," he said, "When you put it that way, I guess it does make sense."

"Music hath charm to soothe the savage breast, To soften rocks or bend a knotted oak."

- William Congreve

Of course we know the power of music, the power of sound. Sound has an effect on our bodies, just as all energies do. It always has. Coherent, aligned tones in a pattern that can be discerned by the intellect are often called music. Random, unpredictable square waves are often called noise. Usually music is considered to have a beneficial effect and noise to have an annoying effect. (But the role has been known to reverse - cf. Mannheim Steamroller.)

Music is just part of a bigger picture called sound. Actually, sound is everywhere. There is no getting away from it. I remember in the very stillest moments of pre-pre-dawn, sitting quietly in my house on the very top of the Hollywood Hills, looking down over Los Angeles. There was a sound. The city had a dull pulse to it that was never still. It was almost palpable. (It may have been. Low frequencies at high energy levels have been used in military experiments to kill test animals. Subsonics can turn internal organs to mush. Judging by cars pulling up to stoplights with subwoofers blaring, the first organ to go is the brain.)

Underlying all existence is sound. It is not always perceived by the ears, but is there none the less. Some call it a primordial sound. The current of energy that is the fabric of universal existence may be a sound. After all, whatever is the "big bang" anyway? It may have been louder several billion years ago, but it still exists today.

Sound is part of the electromagnetic spectrum. That is, sound is energy. It's the part of the energy of the universe that can be detected by our ears specifically and our body in general. Light is what we call the bandwidth of energy that is detected by our eyes. It is crucial to remember that light is not limited to what we can see. There's infrared, ultraviolet and other bandwidths that we know about but can't see with our eyes. It would be folly to think that we are unaffected by those other frequencies of light. Or have you never had a sunburn?

Too often we forget that this whole experience (life) is connected. We tend to compartmentalize in our attempts to understand something that we don't really need to understand. So we think sound is for ears only. It isn't. Our whole body experiences sound. And now people are remembering that sound has a place in the healing arts.

Sound is more than music. Sound has healing qualities too. That's where the crystal bowls come in. The energy that is a human being is complex and operates at different frequencies. They change and modulate. That is scientific observation, not opinion. When the Omaha group Crystal Hearts leads a meditation, they use seven over-sized, perfectly tuned crystal bowls to send forth a resonant tone. When those sound waves resonate with the frequencies of our own bodies, there is interaction. What comes from the bowls' ringing, is a coherent and pure tone, the sonic equivalent of a laser. In an esoteric sense, the tone can re-align the energy that interfaces with our bodies, at the points known as chakras. If modern science can evaluate that, "Yes, it's true, music does have a healing affect," then why would it be a stretch to consider that the pure tones of a resonating frequency would do anything less?

So significant is Dr. Tomatis' research, there are now over 250 therapy centers worldwide that use his learning methods to help children with autism and learning disabilities. Tomatis also researched the effect that toning or chanting has on the body. Being French, he investigated Gregorian chant. What he found, and other research has supported, is that the actual performance of sound-making chants has a therapeutic affect on the body. The frequencies produced by a person's vocalizations are perfectly tuned to have an effect on their own body. Our own chanting of "om" for example, is frequency-specific in the perfect amounts to affect our own body. In fact, different chants can be found to have different effects. High frequencies can energize and other characteristics can soothe. One form of sound therapy involves toning with our own name. When we sing or chant our own name, we are working on many energy levels at once. The sonic envelope resonates from our vocalization throughout our body on a physical level. And the naming can work on an attachment on the emotional one.

In a story so strange it could merit an Oliver Stone screenplay, a San Diego physician developed a way to cure cancer, received the support of major movers in the medical field, including the dean of the USC medical school, then had his discovery discredited, destroyed, and ended up allegedly murdered in a nursing home.

That is the story of Royal Rife. Rife was a doctor who, in 1932, unveiled what was called the Rife Resonator. Rife had found that bacteria and viruses resonate at a basic frequency. He called it their electromagnetic signature. By bombarding the viruses with a frequency harmonic to the primary, he could eliminate them. Doctors from around the country came to laud his machine. It was considered a medical miracle. But over time, his machine was stolen, his laboratory burned down, and one of his cohorts murdered in another arson. Rife himself ended up institutionalized and some say he was murdered by a valium overdose. (I said it was a strange story.) The conspiracy is blamed on the pharmaceutical companies in wanting to keep such a successful and beneficial machine off the market. (That part isn't so strange.)

Whether Rife's story is true doesn't matter. It's not held up as fact but to provoke thought. If we are only now beginning to realize the therapeutic use of sound in this culture, what if we actually gave it as much attention as we do the many drugs we spend billions of dollars on each year? Just to get a drug approved by the FDA costs about 300 million dollars. What if we used just one of those budgets to support therapies that we are now beginning to admit do work and have worked for centuries.

The therapeutic use of sound has gained purchase on the escarpment of the monolith of modern medicine. It is but a toe-hold.

Be well.

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Michael Braunstein is Executive Director of Heartland Healing and certified by the American Council of Hypnotist Examiners in clinical hypnotherapy. He graduated from the Los Angeles Hypnotism Training Institute and was an instructor at the UCLA Extension University for 11 years.

Heartland Healing is devoted to the examination of various alternative forms of healing. It is provided as a source of information and not as medical advice. It is not meant as an endorsement of any particular therapy, either by the writer or by Heartland Healing Center, Inc.

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