The following is excerpted from The Humming Effect: Sound Healing for Health and Happiness by Jonathan Goldman and Andi Goldman, published by Inner Traditions.
An examination of the majority of spiritual paths and religions on this planet reveals an overriding belief that sound was the primary force of creation. Examples of this come from the Old Testament (“And God said, ‘Let there be Light’”) and the New Testament (“In the beginning was the Word”). It comes from many other traditions—Egyptian, Hopi, Mayan, Polynesian, and more—which all have creation myths that invoke the power of sound. It is said in the Hindu spiritual path that “Nada Brahman”—everything is sound. Even from a Western scientific perspective, we talk about the “Big Bang,” signifying that the creation of the universe was somehow sonic in origin.
Modern scientists, like our ancient mystics, tell us that everything is in a state of vibration, from the electrons moving around the nucleus of an atom to planets in distant galaxies spinning around their suns. From the very tiny to the very large, everything vibrates. As many of our modern physicists understand, energy and matter are interrelated. Thus, if all forms of energy are putting out a vibration, all that energy can be considered sound, whether we can hear it or not.
Sound is energy that travels as a wave. The wave enters our ears and travels through our auditory pathways into our brain, ultimately affecting our breathing, heart rate, and nervous system. We experience this wavelike energy primarily as a phenomenon that we hear. However, these waves also pass into our body, affecting us on a cellular level.
Sounds are measured in cycles per second, or frequency, as measured in hertz (Hz). Slow-moving waves of sound create deep tones. A sound with a frequency of 60 Hz, for example, is very bassy and low. A sound with fast waves, such as 1,000 cycles per second, would be a relatively trebly and high-pitched. The lowest note on a piano has a frequency of about 24 Hz, and the highest note is around 5,000 Hz.
Our range of hearing extends from around 16 Hz to around 16,000 Hz (or sometimes higher—young children, for example, can hear upwards of 18,000 Hz or more). However, just because we can’t hear something doesn’t mean a sound isn’t being created. As an example, our friends in the ocean, the dolphins, can project and receive frequencies upwards of 180,000 Hz—that’s more than ten times our best range of hearing.
Sounds with a frequency below the human level of hearing are called infrasound; sounds with a frequency above the human level of hearing are called ultrasound.
Knowing that all matter vibrates, we can move on to explore the idea that every object—including every organ, bone, and tissue in our body—has resonance, or a natural vibratory state. There’s been much speculation on how to determine the natural frequencies of a healthy organ. Some find that they are within the audible sonic range (between 16 Hz and 16,000 Hz). Others find that they fall well below this audible range or, like ultrasound, far above it. When the body is healthy and balanced, these vibrations are in harmony with each other. When the body is imbalanced, it is in a state of dissonance—the resonant qualities of its constituent parts are in disharmony.
One of the most extraordinary demonstrations of the effects of sound and resonance was conducted by a visionary Swiss doctor named Hans Jenny. Dr. Jenny’s seminal work titled Cymatics (a Greek word that means “wave form”), whose first volume was published in 1967, showed the effects that sound waves have upon different types of material, including water, pastes, and other liquids. Dr. Jenny placed these substances on a steel plate and vibrated the plate with a crystal oscillator, which produced an exact frequency, and then he photographed the effects. He photographed liquid plastic (a material similar to Silly Putty) that formed into an object resembling a sea anemone, and lycopodium dust (a material similar to talcum powder) that took on shapes resembling the cells of the body. Some of his most amazing photos were of water, which took on astonishing geometric forms, depending upon the vibrational frequency that was used.