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Frontiers of Soundwork

It has been said, “…How will we know where we are going if we don’t know where we have come from?” To facilitate a little perspective on the ever emerging field of soundwork, I have compiled a brief history. Time does not permit a complete compendium of the history of sound… Kindly forgive any omissions.

If you would like to suggest significant contributors or events that I have missed, kindly email me at Joshua.Leeds@ThePowerOfSound.com.

Thank you.

Ancient cultures knew about the power of sound long before the term science was coined. The spiritually wise men of India knew that the world is sound. From India’s Vedic scriptures comes the term Nada Brahman — “the primal sound of being” or “being itself.” Even four thousand years ago, India’s scholars and religious leaders understood that we live in a state of vibration from which sound derives and on which sound has profound influences.

Philosophers and prophets of old shared a common belief in the divine origin and nature of sound. In ancient philosophies and religions, sound (vibration) is the lead character in creation myths. The genesis of the universe — or, thinking locally, our planet Earth — is ascribed to the “Word” or the “One Sound.” Cutting across historical, religious, and political lines, Egyptians, Hebrews, Native Americans, Celts, Chinese, and Christians all have spoken of sound as a divine principle.

The roots of this belief in the power of sound can be found in the ancient cultures of the Ethiopians, Hopi, and Aborigines, as well as the temples of Greece and Rome. Many of the musical philosophies of Pythagoras have withstood the test of time.

In The Secret Power of Music, however, David Tame states, “Almost three thousand years before the birth of Christ, at a time when the music of European man may have amounted to no more than the beating of bones on hollow logs, the people of China were already in possession of the most complex and fascinating philosophy of music of which we know today.”

The Chinese dynasties compared music with a force of nature and held it in that level of awe. “The Chinese understood the power within music to be a free energy, which man could use or misuse according to his own free will.” The rulers and their philosophers believed that in order for their citizens not to misuse music — and for all to benefit from its optimally beneficent use — only the “correct” music could be played. Beyond entertainment, Chinese emperors believed moral influence was the major effect of music that they needed to control. And revere and harness the power of sound they did, for four and a half millennia, until the Ch’ing dynasty (1644-1912).

Worldwide, powerful shamans cured disease and mental anguish by coaxing evil spirits into leaving their victims through the power of chanting. Today entire villages, from Africa to Alabama to the Arctic, continue to drum, sing, or dance themselves into states of spiritual ecstasy.

The entire planet vibrates to the rhythms and sounds of music. No matter how primitive or advanced, music plays an inclusive and vital role in every country. It is an inescapable part of life: of spiritual ceremonies, social celebrations, child rearing, armies marching off to war, initiations, funerals, harvests, and feast days.

Read: Summary of Significant Soundwork Events Since 1787

1787 Chladni Plates. The technique of showing the lines of nodes on vibrating metal plates by strewing sand on them was developed by the German physicist Ernst E. F. Chladni (1756-1827). The first mention of the technique is in his book Entdeckungen ueber die Theorie des Klanges, published in 1787. Until the twentieth century the standard method of setting the plates into oscillation was drawing the rosined hairs of a violin bow over the edge of the plate, which was normally clamped at its geometrical center. Today we place a loudspeaker above or below the plate, and adjust the driving frequency until the plate goes into resonance, and the sand on the surface moves toward the nodes.

1822 The term SONAR refers to Sound Navigation and Ranging. As early as 1822, Daniel Colladen, a Swiss physicist, had successfully used an underwater bell to accurately determine the speed of sound in the waters of Lake Geneva. Lord Rayleigh in England published in 1877 the famous treatise The Theory of Sound in which the fundamental physics of sound vibrations (waves), transmission and refraction were clearly delineated. He was the first to describe sound wave as a mathematical equation, forming the basis of any theoretical work in acoustics. The real breakthrough in echo-sounding techniques came when the piezo-electric effect in certain crystals was discovered by Pierre Curie and his brother Jacques Curie in Paris, France in 1880.

1839 A phenomenon know as binaural beats was discovered by German researcher, H.W. Dove.

1877 On the Sensations of Tone, written by Hermann Helmholtz, published in Germany. “…One of the world’s greatest scientific classics. It bridges the gap between the natural sciences and music theory and, over a century after its first publication, is still a standard text for the study of physiological acoustics — the scientific basis of musical theory.”

1915-1995 Robert Monroe (Major researcher of binaural beat frequencies).

1920-2001 Alfred Tomatis (Ground breaking sound researcher and creator of the Tomatis Method, including filtration/gating).

1948 Start of extensive study of ultrasonic medical imaging in the United States and Japan. Sergei Y. Sokolov at the V.I. Ulyanov (Lenin) Electrotechnical Institute proposed in 1928, and a few years later demonstrated a through-transmission (sound) technique for flaw detection in metals. The resolution of the experimental devices which he fabricated was however poor and could not be used at a practical level.

1950 National Association for Music Therapy founded in America.

1957 Dr. Alfred Tomatis receives recognition from the French Academies of Medicine and Science, entitled The Tomatis Effect (The voice can only duplicate the sounds the ear can hear).

1960s Helen L. Bonny, Ph.D, a music therapist, develops The Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music (GIM) in Maryland.

1967 Hans Jenny, a Swiss doctor, published the book Cymatics — The Structure and Dynamics of Waves and Vibrations, as a follow-up on the original work of German physicist, Ernst E. F. Chladni (1756 -1827).

1969 IBAC – International Bio-Acoustic Council was founded in Denmark “with the object of promoting international participation throughout the entire field of bioacoustic activity.” What is Bioacoustics? Animal bioacoustics is the study of sound in non-human animals. It includes within its scope acoustic communication, sound production mechanisms, auditory anatomy and function, sonar, acoustic tracking, and the effects of human-made and environmental noise on animals.

1972 Therese Schroeder-Sheker pioneers the Chalice of Repose Project (musical thanatology) which aims to lovingly serve the physical and spiritual needs of the dying with the delivery of live prescriptive music.

1973-75 John Beaulieu discovers BioSonic Repatterning (tuning forks) while sitting in an anechoic chamber for five hundred hours, listening to the sounds of his own body.

1977 Manfred Clynes publishes Sentics — The Touch of Emotions, an exploration of how emotions are communicated in daily life, music and the arts. It is a revolutionary, new scientific discipline which studies the biologic basis of communicating emotion.

1978 Paul Madaule, a protege of Tomatis, opens Tomatis Centre in Toronto – the first in North America.

1980 The first Lithotripter (Litho = stone; Trip = to break) was produced by the German Aircraft manufacturer Dornier. Since then more than 4 million patients have been successfully treated worldwide for removal of kidney, bladder, pancreatic, and ureter stones. This is a non-surgical method, using acoustic wave bombardment disbursed through water.

1981 Fabien Maman begins a 1.5 year experiment with biologist Helene Grimal of the University of Jussieu in Paris to study the effect of sound in human cells.

1982 International Society for Music in Medicine (ISMM) is created. First symposium is held in Germany.

1986 Olav Skille (Norway) publishes the Manual of Vibroacoustics.

1987 Fabien Maman begins The Academy of Sound, Color and Movement and begins teaching courses internationally. This is the first major integrated curriculum for the study of therapeutic sound.

1987 The first International Symposium for Vibroacoustics held in Norway.

1992 Don Campbell begins The Therapeutic Sound Schools, first integrated study of soundwork in USA.

1993 Research known as the Mozart Effect is published by Shaw, Rauscher, et al, at UC Irvine. College students scored significantly higher on spatial-temporal reasoning tasks after listening to the first ten minutes of Mozart Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major (k.448) compared to other students under control conditions.

1993 R. Murray Schafer (The Soundscape: The Tuning of the World) creates The World Forum for Acoustic Ecology (WFAE), as an international association of affiliated organizations and individuals, who share a common concern with the state of the world soundscape as an ecologically balanced entity. Members represent an interdisciplinary spectrum of individuals engaged in the study of the social, cultural and ecological aspects of the sonic environment.

1993-1998 Five International Sound Colloquiums – the premier American event gathering researchers, musicians and health practitioners to explore the therapeutic applications of sound and music – are held in New England and Colorado.

1997 Francis Rauscher’s Pre-School Study shows that children receiving six months of piano keyboard training improve on spatial-temporal reasoning by 30% more than children in control groups

1997 The Mozart Effect (D. Campbell) is published. Soundwork hits mainstream America.

2000 Rauscher experiment shows that long term listening (12 hours per day over 2 months) to the Mozart Sonata (K.448) by rats lead to improved learning performance (vs. rats in a control group) in a standard, complicated spatial maze.

2002 John Beaulieu and the Neuroscience Research Institute at State University of New York conclude the primary method that causes music to act as a relaxation device occurs primarily via the nitric oxide molecular signaling system.

2002 With support from the International Foundation for Music Research, The Royal Institution of Great Britain in London hosted a symposium called the Musical Brain on July 12, 2002. The conference brought leading music researchers from the UK and North America together to present latest research and evolving insights into the new field of music and brain research. Presentations addressed music and its relationship to cognition, childhood development, medicine and psychology.

2005 THE NEUROSCIENCES AND MUSIC – II From perception to performance LEIPZIG May 5th-8th, 2005. This conference is conceived as the follow-up to two previous meetings on the relation between Music and the Neurosciences: The Biological Foundations of Music, New York Academy of Sciences, May 2000 and The Neurosciences and Music, Venice, October 2002.

2005 The Board of Directors of the MIND Institute (Music Intelligence Neural Development) announces generous grants and contributions for 2004 totaling $1,234,098, an annual contributions increase of 35% over last year. Of significance are the following major gifts: $100,000 from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation for the Institute’s Data Driven Education research project; a second gift in the amount of $50,000 from American Honda Foundation for development of the Institute’s Fifth Grade Math+Music curriculum and software, making their cumulative gift to the Institute a generous $100,000. Cisco Systems Foundation made a year-end grant of $50,000 for sponsorship of two schools using the Math+Music program. Major gifts were also received from first-time donors Citicorp Foundation and JP Morgan Chase Foundation.

2005 Researchers at the Charite University Medical Centre in Berlin release results of study that finds that living or working in a noisy environment could increase a person’s risk of heart attack.

Note: This is an evolving summary of noteworthy soundwork events. Kindly pardon any omissions.

© 2010 Joshua Leeds. All Rights Reserved.

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