Music of the Spheres:

Why do so many people enjoy combined sound-light shows in clubs, stadiums and meditation centres throughout the World? How does sound affect the body? Why is there a correlation between music and mood? Is sound/light frequency part of a greater universal phenomenon affecting us all? In an attempt to answer these questions, we need to look first at some facts and some background information: 

The Ancient Greeks and Romans knew of the amplification of sound, evident in their creation of amphitheatres. These sites, often cut into the sides of hills, would enable actors and singers to be heard much more easily.

Singing teachers often inform students  how they can use their own body's natural amplification by 'projecting' their voices from their head, throat, chest, or stomach; each part resonating a progressively lower pitch. If you use a similar principle, tuning a sound to the frequency at which the head, throat, chest or stomach resonates, it is possible feel the corresponding sound in that part of the body, as well as hear it.

If you play a piano note or a guitar string near to another string instrument, the corresponding note on the other instrument will also sound 'sympathetically' (resonant entrainment). If you have a synthesizer, it is possible to tune a note to the natural frequency of a room, and become bathed within the room's all-encircling sound, as if within a giant speaker, as the resonant 'standing wave' amplifies itself almost exponentially.

It has been discovered that prehistoric cave drawings are more frequently found in the parts of caves with the best natural echoes. Also, ancient stone-age burial sites have been shown to have chambers which resonate at frequencies roughly equivalent to the male baritone. There is growing speculative evidence that the ancients were possibly using sound for some ceremonial purpose. The question is, why?

All bodies resonate to sympathetic frequencies, and so do we. If you stood on a large (room-sized), thick metal disc and someone hit it with a sledge hammer, unless you bent your legs to absorb the shock, the wave produced might induce quite severe pain. (I KNOW this, having previously worked in the heavy fabrication industry). Warmongers have used the blast of airwaves in explosions to immensely powerful effect.

It has been known for centuries that music and sound frequencies affect the 'mood' of the mind and body. The volume, frequency and duration can have great impact. Fast music can cause the heartbeat to attempt to catch up with it, whereas slower music can have the opposite effect. Single sound frequencies can have remarkably pleasant, or devastating impact upon our body and psyche. Sitting with others, and creating the sound 'Om' in unison with the out-breath can be an amazingly relaxing and invigorating experience. 

The Human body is a rhythmic body. The pulse of blood as the heart beats and the lungs breathe, dance almost undetected in a dynamic unity. Brain activity produces, and is affected by, the frequencies of alpha, beta, delta and theta waves. The different components of our DNA have their own set of frequencies.

The quick answer to why these things might be, lies in the principles of physics. Each of us and everything around us, are particles oscillating (vibrating) in space, and just like magnetic fields attract other bodies, we too are effected by the vibration of other bodies. There was a craze in the 1970's of taking eggs to rock concerts and turning them into hard 'boiled' eggs by placing them next to the loudspeakers, literally shaking them solid, such was the impact of the sound upon them.

If we were to look for links in the subject of vibration, waves and frequency, we would turn up some remarkable details indeed. This is not intended to be a physics lesson, and for those who do not know a little bit about this already, I apologise if you get a little lost. I will attempt to make it comprehensible.

It is notable that both sound and light can be arranged into mathematically determined octaves. Most of us are aware of the 12 semi-tones, (seven [major] white and five [minor] black) on the keyboard of the Western chromatic scale. Similarly, the colours of the rainbow can be divided into seven [major] colours.

In sound, lower notes have longer, slower wavelengths (frequencies) whereas higher tones have shorter, faster wavelengths, and this is also true of light. The correlation between the vibrations of sound, light and heat has long since been recognised as part of a continuum of frequencies known as the spectrum of electromagnetic waves. These are usually measured in cycles per second (Hz or kHz).

Within the electromagnetic spectrum, the lowest frequencies (100-104) include a broad range of induction heating waves which overlaps the range of electric power lines (101-103). As we move higher up the scale we shift into radio waves (104-1012). We then move into the spiral of light frequencies which move upward from the infra-red (1012), into visible light (1014), and higher still into the ultra-violet spectrum (1015-1017). These in turn move beyond the range of Human detection into x-rays (1017-1018), gamma rays (1018-1022), and cosmic rays (1022-1025) respectively. The visible octave of colour can be viewed as merely one (compound) note within a broader octave of the electromagnetic field.

Scientists have known for some time that the planets give off low frequency chimes and whines, perhaps based upon their relative mass, orbital speed and composition, amongst other factors. It is recorded that the Earth has a wave frequency of between 53.1 and 54.7 minutes (that's low!).

Interestingly, these frequencies of the macrocosm are in the range 20 octaves below Human hearing (infrasound), whereas the tone of the atom (microcosm) is 20 octaves above it (ultrasound). These '20' figures are even more remarkable when we remind ourselves that Human hearing spans between 20 hertz to 20,000 hertz (20 Hz to 20 kHz). Of course the planets and the atom (with it's protons, electrons and nucleus etc) do appear remarkably similar (but not the same), with their respective orbits.

The tones generated in the macrocosm, rather like the tones from an orchestra, can be seen to be in a dynamic 'symphony' traversing the expanse of the universe. It is at this point that Bode's Law comes into the story.

It was discovered by Titius, (popularised by Bode) c1766-72, that all the known planets in the Solar System displayed a mean orbital distance of around 2:1from the inner-most planet, Mercury. What this means is that the Earth is twice as far from Mercury's orbit as Venus, and Mars is twice as far from Mercury as the Earth, and so on. This is largely of curiosity value, but can this correlation be mere coincidence and, if not, what does it mean?

Of course, when this was discovered, there were gaps in the theory because not all the planets known today were known then. The locations of previously unknown planets (Neptune and Pluto) have since been plotted using this law. It has been found that the ratio is not exactly 2:1 in every case, but because of the vast distances involved, the percentage difference is near enough to be maintained at 2:1 by some people (see table below).
	           Distance from the Sun in Astronomical Units (AU)
      Planet            Titius-Bode Rule     Actual
      Mercury                 .4               .39 
      Venus                   .7               .72 
      Earth                  1.0              1.00
      Mars                   1.6              1.52 
      Ceres (asteroid belt)  2.8              2.77 
      Jupiter                5.2              5.20 
      Saturn                10.0              9.54 
      Uranus                19.6             19.18 
      Neptune                 -              30.06 
      Pluto                 38.8             39.40  (now declassified)
      Planet X (prediction) 77.2	    -

The ratio 2:1 is the same ratio as the octave and so it could be said that the planets form a chain of octaves with each other. When over time, the planets' orbits align in varying and repeating natural conjunctions (straight lines) with each other, they could be viewed as forming a series of very slow cosmic 'chords'. The rhythmic order of these chords could be something akin to the 'poly-rhythms' found in all kinds of music from early 'Voodoo' rhythms, to 70's Electronic music and modern Dance music.

The notes trip in and out of sync as they repeat and align themselves, and this has been known to produce complex rhythms often with hypnotic effect. For example a planet or note value of 4 and one of 5 will re-align every 20 (4*5=20). If you add another value, say 3, the realignment will be every 60 (4*5*3=60). At different points, different notes/planets will re-align, hence the complexity.

Therefore, if we are at all affected by the alignment of the planets, as astrologers and mystics would have us believe, far from being able to predict that John Smith will win the lottery, perhaps we are all impacted upon in a largely similar manner by their low-frequency waves as they move in and out of sync?

More reading: Johannes Kepler (1572) Pythagoras (580 BC)

On a similar note (excuse the pun), but a less grand (!) scale, are the pseudo-oscillations experienced during the practice of Hemi-syncing, the notion of synchronising the two hemispheres of the brain by using 'binaural' beats. These are in fact not beats at all but simple, pure sine waves, (usually set below 1000Hz), played into each ear via headphones, at a slightly different frequency to each other. The difference between the tones is experienced as 'beating', or oscillating in and out of phase against each other. The greater the difference between the two tones, the slower the resulting oscillation.

For example, if a sine wave of, say, 300Hz is played in one ear and a wave of 308Hz is played in the other, the brain attempts to bring the minute difference (8Hz) back together. The effect of this attempt at synchronisation is claimed to help induce altered states of consciousness, as well as to improve general brain activity and increase spatial dexterity. Playing an instrument like the piano, for example, where spatial co-ordination is required in order to play a separate melody and harmony with each hand, has also been known to aid this.

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