Sound Pollution

I am writing this on the day of the Royal Wedding. Some neighbours are playing amplified music in their garden at such a loud volume that it has penetrated into my study through closed windows. The music is not to my taste and, yet, my brain cannot help but engage with it. This is interfering with my ability to concentrate on what I am writing. I feel invaded, angry and stressed. Such is the power of music.

The more time I spend working with sound and music, the more convinced I am of its power. Although sound healers utilise this power to bring about beneficial results, it needs to be more generally acknowledged that the opposite is equally true: careless, inconsiderate use of sound and music is pollution and, like all pollution, it is harmful.

 An Unsound Journey

This has been brought close to home at the last two Sound Journeys, which both suffered from unwanted music coming from outside the hall. In the case of May’s Sound Journey at Great Missenden, the proximity and scale of the noise pollution from the fun fair forced me to cancel the Sound Journey. This was certainly not something I did lightly, so what made me take that decision?

First of all, I knew that the deep bass, repetitive beats and intermittent sirens would have initiated brain stem responses that would have raised heart rate, pulse, blood pressure, body temperature, skin conductance and muscle tension – not what we had an mind for an evening of relaxation. The noise would also have affected the body through the process of entrainment. This is a natural phenomenon whereby a weaker vibratory pattern will change to align with one that is stronger. For instance, brainwaves of students will largely oscillate in harmony with – or entrain with – the lecturer. Likewise, a healthy organ will have its molecules working together in a harmonious relationship with each other and will be of the same pattern. If different sound patterns enter into the organ, the harmonious relationship could be upset. If the foreign sound pattern proves to be stronger than the organ, it can establish a disharmonious pattern in the organ, bone or tissue and this is what we call disease.

Sound is a potent force that communicates directly with the unconscious as well as the conscious body/mind. The intention and performance of the musician, the musical elements of the composition, the frequency range used and the timbre of the instruments are all carriers of information. According to Torkom Saraydarian:

“From whichever centre a piece of music originates, the corresponding centre of the listener will gradually synchronise its vibrations to the originating centre. This is how contamination works.”

So, ultimately, I could not, with any shred of responsibility, invite people on a sound journey, open them up to receiving sound on all levels, with the very real possibility that they would have been wide open to receiving something that would have been harmful.

But what about less extreme cases, or when avoiding the noise is not an option? Is there anything I can do right now to mitigate the effect of the noise from my inconsiderate neighbours? After all, if a vast majority of illnesses are caused by stress, then by stressing about it, I am making myself ill.

In Music and Sound in the Healing Arts, John Bealieu offers two approaches to coping with environment noise. The first method involves voice and body movement. He suggests that we let our voice imitate the sound and let our body by moved by the sound. For example, a car horn suddenly honks and we notice that our body tightens. Our mind is cursing the driver and are emotions are held in. This is similar to touching something hot without letting out a sound. He says, therefore, that instead of holding the sound, jump back from the car, allowing your body to unwind the tension and then allow your voice to make a loud spontaneous “honk”! Its got to be worth a try…

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