"Sound is a uniquely potent form of energy medicine that entrains us to the vibrations of our own essence and that of the Universe. Sound is also the simplest, most direct route I know to achieve the sense of profound calm that allows us to move into that peaceful inner place, that I call our essence." — Dr. Mitchell L. Gaynor, M.D., Director of Medical Oncology and Integrative Medicine at the Strang-Cornell Cancer Prevention Center & author of Sounds of Healing
Sound is in the root of all existence. Consciousness as the universe is a vibratory dynamic system, and knowledge of sound encourages further exploration of the relationship between human and cosmic orders.
For centuries, the therapeutic value of music and sound were considered indivisible from their own nature. Specific sounds and music were played as a form of natural medicine. Music and chanting have been always implemented to induce, transmit, and transform diverse realms of perception (sensorial, emotional, cognitive), becoming one of the most effective mediators of emotional communication at an intra psychic, interpersonal, and transpersonal dimension of experience. Cross-cultural music has been always an essential part of community building, ritual, and to accompany life's passages.
Sound has been used as a gateway to transcendence, and the exploration of consciousness by shamans, yogis, mystics, composers, and scientists. The ancients in China and Tibet imparted a sophisticated knowledge of how to tune and combine the metal "singing bowls", bells and gongs together with chanting sacred syllables to generate a sonic vibration that could influence pulse rates and brain function. In India, and other ancient musical traditions, the music is based on the "tonic", a sustained tone or drone that gives a ground to the melody and in the spiritual level becomes a reminder of being protected by the "breath of God". The drone leads the musician and the listener into a state of contemplation, slowly clearing the mind to a state beyond thoughts and emotions.
Methods and rituals to access deep states of healing and to control outer forces of nature have been employed for thousands of years using the "low-tech" approach of what is today, a rapidly expanding science of high-tech applications of sound to expand consciousness and support therapeutic processes. As Dr Jeffrey Thompson states: "With far more sophisticated tools for measuring what happens in the brain during expanded states of consciousness, combined with more advanced tools for influencing the brain to travel to these states, we now have the ability to use our technological know-how to accelerate our own biological abilities and perhaps, our own evolution."
The Interdisciplinary Dialogue between Sound and Neuroscience Research
The fast growing public interest in sound and music therapies denotes a major shift in Western scientific and medical practices and a fruition of the development of consciousness studies. In Music Therapy, music is instrumental to assess and to access emotional states, creating an interactive and therapeutic container so that particular feelings can be explored.
"Sound is a nutrient for the brain and can either charge or discharge the nervous system. We can consciously use sound to enhance life", Joshua Leeds
Dr Tomatis ground-breaking work shows how sound through the ear and the skin can stimulate the brain functions, as a result, the definite work on the discovery of the phenomenon of acoustic brainwave entrainment — the ability to change brainwaves and sates of consciousness and emotions with sound and music — and its effect on hemisphere synchronicity, is making possible profound changes in the body that are measurable with mapping equipment (EEG), blood tests, and bio-feedback procedures. These methods involve digital technology, advanced sound instruments, as well as sound tables, and sound tracks in recordings. All these sound therapies work to cause the brainwave entrainment response, affecting directly physiological systems and our vital pulses (i.e.: pulse rate, brainwaves, heart rate, respiration, EMG papillary dilation, EEG, body temperature, endocrinal functions, etc).
Integrating interdisciplinary research and the insights on the use of sound in secular and sacred musical ecstasy with new research on neuroscience, and the use of sound in medicine, have important implications on musicology, music cognition, music therapy, and the study of consciousness. These advances may suggest widespread implications as new and more accessible methods to treat conditions like: ADD, chronic fatigue, immune system diseases, brain dysfunctions, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain, ways to cope with chemical intoxication, addictions, lessen pain, grief, anger, fear, and ease spiritual longing.
Rhythmically hypnotic, and repetitive pulses and vocal sounds are crucial for the healing process, that usually involves also movement. A single beat of a drum contains many frequencies an overtones which stimulates larger areas of the brain, more than a single frequency. Particularly, low frequencies pitches can be tolerated for a longer time, as a result of duration, more energy can be transmitted to the brain with a drum beat. The typical tempo of tribal drumming in an EEG measurements is close to a basic rhythm of an Alpha wave production (8-13cycles per second), the repetitive drumming produce an auditory driving of the Alpha waves leading to a trance like state that also can produce unusual perceptions.
In the course of illness the healthy flow of energy is constricted and creativity is diminished. Singing functions as a great barrier breaker. As the sound is made, it relaxes the mind, it harmonizes the perceptions, and unnecessary tensions find a release. Even one long note, or one syllable is enough to bring that "freedom" effect.
Jean Achterberg states that the finest sound medicine will be produce by those who take the best from the shaman and the scientist, and learn to travel through textures of experience and consciousness states.
The experience of music is multi-dimensional. We experience music with our skin, with our bones, with our body temperature, with our pulse rates. Music cognition (music as data) recognizes music as symbols affecting memory and the brain. We aim towards the phenomenon of musical embodiment and transcendence, while musical meaning stimulate psychological process. Music based therapies have the capacity to align auditory awareness, inducing different kinds of attention and trance-states that stimulate deep inner healing and a sense of spiritual liberation, devotion, reaffirming the belong-ness and preservation of the community.
The Benefits of Sacred Chant
Sacred chant is an integral expression of the healing power of the voice and the magic of tone. Chanting is an extremely satisfying sensory experience and can fill us with joy and love, purifying our senses and emotions, as well as our surroundings, leading us naturally to meditation, liberating a sense of divine light and happiness. In the physical level a balance of the brain functions takes place, sound waves and music in the form of electrical impulses impact the nervous system, and this in turn affects the heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension. The effect is a sense of relaxing and cleansing of the "whole", the body and the mind as one.
In ritual and shamanic music healing the embodiment of Divine presence is welcome. Sacred chant stimulates meditative states that aim to bypass and transcends vigorous emotions promoting serenity, relaxation, and wellbeing.
"Trancing is strenuously emotional while meditation aims to transcending emotions." (Rouget)
As the fabric of breath, vibration and emotion, the singing voice can affect the body and mind more efficiently than any other form of sound. Vocal sounds are a primary source of energy, both balancing and stimulating to the brain. Chanting releases harmonic energy and triggers a spontaneous identification with the sacred; a dimension of consciousness characterized by a healing release of boundless radiance, openness, and love.
Sacred sound travels through consciousness and can transform everyday occurrences into a mythical dimension through modalities of vocal expression and rhythmic entrainment.
"In the most ancient Tibetan mythological cycles, sound is considered to be the original source of all existence. Sound, which from the beginning of time has vibrated in ineffable emptiness, arises through mutations of light, and then differentiates into rays of various colors from which the material elements that make up the entire universe originate. The complete sound that comes from the fusion of the expressive force of the voice, the drum and the bell, is able to cut through that type of membrane that separates different layers and textural states of consciousness, creating an atmosphere strongly permeated with magic and spirit." Constantino Albini
Sacred chant is rooted in ancient melodic movements. In Indian music, those scales systems are called ragas, "that which colors the mind". These vivid tonal arrangements evoke specific spiritual qualities or states of being. The experience of breathing deeply, dwelling in one note, feeling the musical vibrations that revitalize the body, and blending one's own voice with other voices in essential harmonies, is deeply inspiring, offering rare glimpses of the sacred source.
The time is fast approaching when people will select their music with the same intelligent care and knowledge that they use to select their food. When that times comes, music will become the principal source of healing for many individuals and social ills, and human evolution will be tremendously accelerated." Corrine Heline
The Effortless Voice and The Practice of Droning from The Yoga of the Voice™, by Silvia Nakkach
In this exercise, you will allow for sound to follow breath, and voice to follow sound. Release a vocal tone through a relaxed and small lip opening, similar to humming (sounding like "Wuu"). Sustain your focus on that specific tone, sounding this tone over the subtle drone of an external instrument, such as a tamboura or a sound box. Chant just one or two notes, dwelling in that tonal space. Attune yourself to the awareness of tone, not yet exploring melody. You don't need to change, just enjoy duration, dwelling, vibrating with one consistent tone The drone is a continuous tone or harmony, usually created with the simultaneous sound of the tonic and dominant (Fifth), or the tonic and the Fourth. If played on strings, it will involve many other partial harmonies and sonorities. In chanting with a drone, we immerse ourselves deeply into the experience of opening the voice, departing from the root tone, diving into subtle undulations of the same tone, and wandering through transformations of timbre and texture. Sounding into the realm of somatic and emotional resonance, the phrasing is simple, calm, and knowing. The tone always returns "home," to the infinite tonal ground offered by the drone. Variation: use a variety of seed-sounds such as: Ah, E, Om, Ram, Bam, Yam, Lam, Tam. These sacred syllables are related to the embodiment of the divine qualities and the elements of nature. Duration: 5 to 10 min. This toning practice is recommended for enhancing deep listening, concentration, emotional clearing, and creativity.
Silvia Nakkach, MA, MMT, named by Utne Reader Magazine as one of forty cutting-edge artists that will shake the art world in the new millennium, is a pioneer in the field of sound and transformation of consciousness. Her innovative work is integrated in the comprehensive training, The Yoga of the Voiceâ¢. She is founder of the Vox Mundi School and the creator and coordinator of CIIS's Sound, Voice, and Music Healing Certificate program.