The Sound, The Space, The.Listener
Cymatic Water Sound Image produced by Alexander Lauterwasser
Sound is the primary imprint.
In a human fetus, the inner ear is completely developed at just four and a half months from conception. It has been shown that the primary function of the ear in this early stage of development is to charge the brain with electrical potential. Sound vibrations are transformed by the ear into electrical impulses that stimulate synaptic growth and development, toning and tuning the nervous system. The sound of the mother’s heartbeat creates a steady rhythm that the heart of the child can entrain with and be supported by. Along with the heartbeat, our mother’s voice is the first sound that our brains learn to recognize. That recognition and familiarity create a sense of safety and bonding within the womb that helps ground and steady us after the birthing process – the child placed on the mother’s chest, where it can feel her heartbeat and hear her cooing, immediately feels at home again. It’s no surprise then, that our systems are remarkably sensitive to the sounds around us. We are built of and tuned by sound, guided into this world by sound, and continue to take cues from sound for the duration of our lives. Our ears can perceive over ten octaves of vibratory information, while our eyes can see only one. Even our skin can be thought of as an extension of the ear, another way of feeling and interpreting vibration. It would not be unreasonable to say that Sound is the primary way in which we come to know and interact with our environment.
Built for sound!
It is this receptivity, this deep connection that we have to vibration that makes sound such a powerful tool for fostering health, well-being, and transformation. Sounds that are coherent and harmonious have a calming, balancing effect on our nervous system, and can be used to induce relaxation and states of being normally achieved in profound meditation, trance, or during sleep. Sounds that are incoherent or inharmonious can have a disruptive effect on our nervous system, leading to anxiety, stress, and upsetting the natural rhythms of our body.
Knowing all of this, one may ask:
“How are the sounds in my daily environment affecting my mental, emotional, and physical systems? What cues am I receiving, and how are they affecting my life?”
The Resonance Center is an idea that was born as a result of asking these questions. Through research, direct experience, and interactive feedback, we’ve witnessed how Sound can educate, inspire, harmonize, and ultimately transform lives for the better. Drawing from ancient knowledge as well as years of personal experience with acoustically resonant environments, instrument makers, and their remarkable instruments, we are discovering the common principles employed to achieve profound positive effects. It is our intention to use and share these principles in a clear, intuitive, and effective manner.
There are three basic components that determine how sound affects us:
• The sound itself – what is producing it, how it is produced, its harmonic quality
• The space in which the sound happens – size, shape, proportion, building material
• The listener – ability to focus, receive, and interpret the vibrations
The theme that best expresses the effective use of these three components is coherence. When these three elements are united in a mutually supportive way, they become exponentially more effective than they are on their own. The sound, the environment, and the listener become a singular process, an unfolding event.
Cymatic Water Sound Image produced by Alexander Lauterwasser
We use instruments that have a high incidence of coherent harmonic relationships. Because they are made of a variety of natural materials, like stone, clay, metal, or wood, they have different harmonic profiles and generate diverse perceptual effects. For example, some are often described as “celestial” or “airy” while others are “haunting” or “profound”. The human voice, perhaps the most harmonically rich and complex instrument of all, is also central to our work.
The use of a resonant chamber serves to expand the impact of each instrument. A space shaped in certain proportions amplifies and enhances harmonic frequencies, as well as increasing their sustain. When a sound is made in an open field, the sonic waves travel away from the source and their energy quickly dissipates. Inside a resonant chamber, the sonic energy reverberates, enhancing its depth, richness, and increasing the length of time that it is available to be experienced. A wide spectrum of harmonics is revealed and is given prolonged life, allowing the brain and body more time to receive, interpret, and respond to the vibrations.
We prepare participants by encouraging them to listen with their whole being. This kind of receptivity engages one of the human body’s most amazing properties: its tendency to self-harmonize. In a state of receptivity, mental and physical vibrations gradually become less and less agitated, allowing deeper states of being, or brain wave states, to be experienced. Many meditation techniques are based on this principle. Certain monks for example, use singing bowls to meditate because they have found that listening to a sound helps them enter a receptive state.
Cymatic Water Sound Image (SoundStone) produced by Alexander Lauterwasser
Now let us combine those three elements to illustrate a potential experience in a Resonance Chamber:
Although it is quiet inside the chamber, you can feel a certain undeniable presence. You can almost hear the potential for sound that is hanging in the air. You are asked by a Sound Guide to begin singing a tone, and so you do. You’re a little shy at first, but the guide is very supportive, and the rounded walls of the space are inviting and somehow comforting. The chamber is quickly filled with the vibrations of your voice, which are bouncing from wall to wall and enveloping you in a cocoon of sound. You smile, as childhood memories of playing with an echo return to you. As you continue to tone, you find that your cocoon lets you experience the sounds that you are creating over a much longer period of time than you’re used to. Your voice also sounds pleasantly round and full. It is so nice in fact that you begin to listen more deeply, appreciating all of the nuances that make up the sound. What at first sounded like a single tone now sounds more like a combination of dozens of different frequencies, like threads woven together into a beautiful tapestry. There is so much rich detail to explore that you close your eyes, immersing yourself entirely into your listening. You become aware that in order to keep producing these long tones, you’ve started to take deeper breaths, and it feels good. You feel yourself relax a little. From this more relaxed state, you begin to hear even more detail in the sound. In the middle of your smooth, flowing quilt of vibrations, there are a few little snags, some threads that aren’t weaving well with all the others. You continue to tone, noticing the snags, and gradually become aware of a part of your throat that feels a little tight. It feels like that tightness is what is producing one of the snags. As you become aware of that, the tightness begins to relax, and you can hear that snag in your sonic tapestry begin to smooth itself out. Now that the snag is gone, the overall tone sounds better, fuller, more open. It’s the best you’ve heard your voice sound. This encourages you to keep going, to keep allowing your body to make these micro-adjustments. Your chest relaxes, your diaphragm becomes more engaged, your spine straightens a little. By the time you are ready to stop, your voice has taken on a completely different quality, and your body feels very relaxed and energized. Although the chamber is quiet once again, you can still feel the energy buzzing through your body. You feel deeply refreshed, centered, and at peace.
Water Sound Image (the Hang) by Alexander Lauterwasser
Although the example above illustrates an experience that someone might have while producing a tone vocally, a similar process can occur whether you are toning, playing an instrument, or experiencing vibrations produced by someone else. The body will naturally make adjustments in order to create a more harmonious, coherent relationship between itself and the sound waves around it. Ultimately, this work is about creating sensory fields where extraordinary experiences can take place. Experiences may differ from person to person, and instance to instance. New applications will reveal themselves with time and practice.
We have just begun to scratch the surface of the potential benefits for this work, and what we’ve seen holds a great deal of promise. By providing a direct experiential link to the forces that shape our consciousness and our environment, Sound can help enhance our mind-body connection and facilitate the process of entering into relationship with a greater reality.