The esoteric art of healing through sonic vibrations and beyond
- Published on Saturday, 08 April 2017 23:36
Sound Healing 101
The esoteric art of healing through sonic vibrations and beyond
While all music holds the potential to heal, there is reserved a special category – often filed under the more esoteric fringes – that is specifically created for the intent. ‘Sound Healing’ as it is known, along with its own band of sound healers, is a broad sonic field that is as vast as it is deep, which also makes it hard to define. From the spiritually guided musical tuning system by Aleksi Perälä to meditative gong bath conducted by Stroboscopic Artefacts founder Lucy to the plethora of 432Hz-tuned songs on YouTube – is the genre identified by the instruments, effect or intent?
To go deeper into this rabbit hole that is coloured by an obsession with frequencies, binaural beats, vocal acrobatics and mystical instruments, we first take a trip back to where it all began: the ancient cultures.
Sound healing is not musical, it’s vibrational
The Egyptians regarded vowel sounds as sacred and were known to conduct sonic-based ceremonies while their patients visited healing temples to undergo ‘dream sleep’ incubation with music therapy in small reverberant cells. Elsewhere, archaeologists have found that ancient sound chambers such as the Hypogeum Hal Saflieni in Malta and Newgrange in Ireland demonstrate extraordinary acoustic properties. In particular, it was discovered that sound at these chambers resonates or echoes at the specific frequency of 110 Hz, which is also the pitch of an average male voice.
EEG tests that detect the brain’s electrical activity show that at 110 Hz, the human brain temporarily switches from left to right brain activity, the side of creativity. Other experiments are also showing that 110 Hz tends to stimulate certain brain rhythms associated with trance-like states. As one delves further into sound healing, one soon realises that frequencies are the foundation, and generally guided by the following formula:
Frequency + Intent = Healing
Fundamentally, we are all made up of atoms vibrating at different speeds. As sound healers believe, not only do specific organs vibrate at different frequencies, so do our thoughts, emotions and even scents. Because sound travels through the vibration of particles, having a sound source vibrating at a particular frequency and guided by a specific intent can help to move us into more beneficial states. Given that humans are also 65% water, we become great sound conductors for vibrational healing.
Take the tuning fork for example – an instrument that is used in sound healing treatments to help tune our bodies back into harmony. Therapeutic methods including tapping the tuning fork and placing it on strategic acupressure points on the body to release subconscious blockages or also for example, having a tuning fork in ‘C’ and another in ‘G’, (256 Hz and 384 Hz in scientific pitch), placed at either ear to create the special interval 3:2 or the Perfect Fifth, which is known to have a balancing and harmonising effect. Songs such as ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ feature this interval. Tuning forks further come in a variety of exotic tones that can serve to activate your pineal gland or cleanse your chakras.
Other instruments that frequently come into play in a sound healer’s arsenal might be Tibetan or crystal singing bowls, didgeridoos, shaman drums, rain sticks, gongs and also their own voice in the form of chants or overtone singing. The gong has a special place in sound healing because it covers the broadest spectrum of tones among all the instruments. More poignantly, it is said that all ego shatters at the sound of the gong.
It is important to differentiate that sound healing is really less about Classical ideas of melody or harmony, but more about creating beneficial vibrations or energy states for a room or person. According to ‘What is Sound Healing’ by Lyz Cooper, discordant sounds are no less healing as they can serve to challenge and ‘break up’ tension in the body. An effective sound healing session would be one that clears away competing energies, rebalances and retunes, strengthens your inner resonance, and imparts calm to the mind.
Binaural beats and brainwave entrainment
Taking us more up-to-date in the field are binaural beats, monaural beats and isochronic tones, which belong to the class of brainwave entrainment. The proposition is that the neurons in our brain communicate via electrical impulses, which form the bedrock of our thoughts and even how we behave. These electrical impulses or brainwaves pulse at different frequencies during different states. Beta for example (12 Hz – 27 Hz) is the state of mental focus and concentration. Alpha (8 Hz – 12 Hz) is the state of relaxed alertness or ‘flow’ while theta (3 Hz – 8 Hz) is associated with deep meditation or heavy relaxation and so on.
Binaural beats is a way in which we can entrain our brainwaves to our desired states through sound. By playing different tones in each ear through headphones – for example 100 Hz in the left ear and 110 Hz in the right – our brainwaves become synced to the difference of 10 Hz, or alpha after an estimated 6 minutes.
The ancient Solfeggio scale
A special scale of frequencies, known as the ancient Solfeggio scale used in Gregorian chants is also revered for its healing properties. The Solfeggio scale comprises six original frequencies that feature pure intervals between every note that are also mathematically related and better aligned with the universe’s naturally occurring patterns. In this scale, the note A4 is tuned to 444 Hz as opposed to 440 Hz, which is the common western temperament tuning standard today. One of the frequencies, 528 Hz, is called the love frequency and purportedly even supports DNA repair. John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ is written in 528 Hz, and is also the title of a controversial book by Dr. Leonard Horowitz.
While music therapy is now widely recognised as an allied health profession and ultrasound commonly administered in physiotherapy, the far-out field of sound healing still remains lacking in rigorous research, peer reviews or institutional support. Which also means to say – to each their own. For what it’s worth, sound like any other modality is a powerful vehicle that can be used for positive aims. To the begging question – do they actually work? I would think twice about throwing down thousands of dollars in the hope of a miracle cure based on good vibes, but as a conscious inner tuning practice you can purposefully utilise to serve others, sound healing has helped to create shifts in my life that have certainly led to happy and harmonious outcomes.
by Debbie Chia