The power of sound and music

A few posts ago, I wrote about the Incredibly Sensitive Human.  In that post, I described how as humans we are consciously aware of our environment through our many senses.  A post today on the CBC showed a copy of Kurt Cobain’s Top 50 albums:

I am a big fan of the late Kurt Cobain – particularly songs from MTV’s Unplugged in NY.  While I won’t say he had the best voice and nor was he the best guitar player; his combination of raw, insightful lyrics and his ability to convey emotion through his guitar and singing style really resonates with me.

The CBC post got me thinking about the power of sound and music.  While writing my book, I recently completed a chapter on this very topic.  In my research for this chapter, I came across this TED talk with Julian Treasure:

In his talk, Julian describes the four ways in which sound affects us.  He provides some interesting statistics on sound.  One stat, for which I can find no reference, is “each year 200,000 people in Europe die from unhealthy sounds”.  Whether this statistic is accurate or not, it still does make me think about how sound can negatively affect our health.  Julian provides some practical ways to bring healthy, natural sounds into our lives.

Continuing in my research into sound and music, I investigated a type of sound known as binaural beats.  Binaural beats are essentially two frequencies (two pitches) that are played simultaneously.  Say for example, one pitch is played at 500 Hz and the other at 490 HZ, the theory is that these two frequencies give a resultant frequency of 10 Hz.  According to brain wave entrainment theory, binaural sounds can be used to stimulate the same brain wave.  Since alpha waves are 8-13 Hz, 10 Hz is right in the middle.  Alpha brain waves are said to be are brain waves when we are relaxed and calm but awake.  I have been using binaural sounds to stimulate Delta waves to assist with my meditation – it is really quite amazing.  Lots of free sites to listen to binaural sounds on the web.

I recently started my own Top 50 list of my favourite songs.  I am analyzing these songs for both rate and key.  I am trying to determine whether my choice in my favourite songs is driven by an underlying subconscious predilection for pitch of music or rate.  Stay tuned (punny…I know) for the results.

On a much more practical note:  Have you ever noticed which songs you play when you are happy or when you are sad?  I have found that I can use music to change my moods.  If I am feeling sad or down, I may choose music to suit my mood and then I may consciously over the next 2 or 3 songs, change the music to more upbeat music – it works quite well for me.  Since music has a deep connection to memory, I need only to play some music from the 80’s and I am instantly transported to dance floors wearing jeans with the bottoms rolled up, deck shoes with no socks and a pink Lacoste shirt with the collar flipped up; I have a good laugh at my goofy self and move on with the day.

Maybe today is a day when you are feeling blue.  Why not start with a song that matches your mood and then bring it up with songs from your past – particularly effective if you find some music that triggers some good memories where you can laugh at yourself.




  1. It would be fun to have everyone share their top 50 music list. And to categorize the songs according to mood!

  2. Good idea!

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