Sound has the power to move us. Whether it be a single listener or hundreds all at once, studies have shown that sound can stir human emotions and elicit specific reactions. Composers, engineers and sound designers have been discovering and implementing core principles of sound for years, knowing their effect on the mind, body, soul, and human behavior.
Major and minor chords elicit specific emotions. Think of those Halloween horror movie soundtracks that make you feel anxious about what’s about to happen on screen. Meanwhile, specific sound frequencies have been found to demonstrate healing qualities that are able to settle the mind and the body. Certain rhythms, when repeated to the listener, can actually slow one’s breathing and heart rate through the principles of entrainment. And anyone who’s ever left the volume cranked up before playing a song and cringed at the blast of sound that comes through the speakers knows that decibel levels can impact how and what we hear from the same sound.
As sound technology advances, audio professionals are learning new core principles, using them to move us in entirely new ways. They’re also applying these principles to help shape the future of wellness, healthcare, retail and even the workplace. Made Music Studio in New York City, for example, is one of the leading innovators and experts in the science of sounds and has been designing immersive soundscapes for its clients since it was founded nearly 25 years ago in 1998. Research conducted by Made Music Studio notes that there is an 86% correlation between the sound of an event or experience and the desire to return to that space. According to Made Music Studio, that correlation happens at a subconscious level.
Sound frequencies are at the center of the latest developments in sound research and innovation. New research is revealing how different sound frequencies (measured in Hz) can mimic and induce electromagnetic activity within the brain. For those outside of the scientific realm, Hz is a standard international measurement, representing the number of completed cycles per second. It is used as a measurement of sound, electromagnetic radiation, computing and other electrical technologies. For sound, think of it as the number of times a sound wave is able to repeat itself in one second.
Brain studies, often conducted via electroencephalography (EEG), show that the brain is able to map its electric activity. This reveals new scientific discoveries that are fueling breakthrough innovations in sound. The human brain is essentially an electrical device, with different tasks and emotional states generating different electromagnetic frequencies. By better understanding various brain states and the frequencies they generate and respond to, scientists and sound designers alike are retro-engineering patterns to promote various states of brain activity.
One brain study currently underway is seeking to better understand the effects of the Schumann frequency (which occurs as 7.8 Hz and happens to correlate with the brain when it is in “flow” state) and how it can benefit workers in an office setting. Auditory beat simulation is also demonstrating promising results for treating anxiety by getting the brain into the Theta frequency range (4-7 Hz). This brain state has shown the ability to promote a feeling of overall well-being among study participants.
Another fascinating study, recently conducted by Dr. Glen Rein, Ph.D., was done using a Solfeggio frequency (528 Hz). Solfeggio frequencies have been widely used in sacred music for thousands of years and are based on the karmic chakras. In vitro experiments were conducted to determine DNA light absorption following sound stimulation. Audible sound waves at 528 Hz were played from a diversity of music genres and were found to create resonance in DNA with healing effects. What’s fascinating is the impact of the different genres:
• Rock: -1.8%
• Classical: +1.1%
• Sanskrit mantras: +5.8%-8.26%
• Gregorian chants: +5%-9.1%
While the implications of this study are still being determined for broader uses, the fact that sound is powerful enough to demonstrate clear scientific impacts on DNA—the building blocks of all life—is an exciting finding for the future of sound applications, particularly those in the field of sound design and engineering.
Sound, and the science behind it, is truly amazing—and there is still much to learn. As new research continues to unlock our understanding of sound, its applications and how we experience it in our everyday lives will only continue to expand. The potential impact of future sound technologies cannot be overstated, and one can expect that these emerging technologies will revolutionize entertainment, healthcare, retail, the workplace and beyond, which we’ll explore in greater detail in future articles.