The Way Sound Affects Us

Have you ever walked past a store with thumping music, so loud that it vibrates your eardrums while you are still on the sidewalk? We all love to listen to music, some of us with the volume set to 10, but are you actually enticed to go into the store?
9 times out of 10, a person who could be a potential customer simply walks away because of the music inside.  If you've ever asked yourself why we psychologically gravitate toward pleasant sounds while avoiding the unpleasant noise around us, look no further than Julian Treasure.  Treasure chairs the Sound Agency, a company that advises big businesses on how to harness the power of sound.

Our world is a noisy place, whether you are listening to construction on your way to work or relaxing at the beach with gulls flying overhead.  For the most part, people have learned to tune out the sounds that surround us, but unconsciously we always have a reaction to the noise in our environment.  Treasure's business focuses on the human response to sound.  How we react to noise, no matter if it is pleasant or annoying, is hard wired into our consciousness.  If you were to play the sound of crickets or birds singing, your response is most likely going to be relaxation.  When you hear footsteps behind you or the sound of a chain saw, your first instinct is going to be to run away!  Treasures theorizes that unpleasant sounds, especially those that invoke fear, can induce a physiological response that will bring on hormone secretions, raise your heart beat, and alter your breathing.

Yet another way that we react to sound is shown in our psychological response to music.  We've all been to concerts that have really moved us, or listened to a song on the radio that takes us away to another time and place.  Music is a powerful force in this way.  For example, if you associate a certain song with a sad period in your life and it plays on the radio unexpectedly after you haven't heard it in 10 years?  You will be transported back to that time, and in some cases the emotional connection is so strong you can practically see and smell things that are long gone.

A third way that Treasure feels that sound effects us is cognitively.  He advocates individual offices for employees that would normally work in an open floor plan with cubicles.  The sounds of others working, talking, and carrying on with their business can be so distracting that productivity drops significantly.  Treasures' advice? If you can't work in an individual, quiet office, bring headphones to minimize outside disturbances.

The last way that sound affects us is behaviorally.  Treasure states that we naturally move away from annoying noises to an environment of more satisfactory noises.  If we are in a room in our house where we can really hear the traffic from the street, our response may be to never try to work, read, or sleep in that room.  Some can 'tune out' outside noises to the point that they can avoid distractions anywhere, but it's a rare person who can minimize all outside sound.

Our four responses to sound work not only individually, but in a business environment as well.  Treasure recognizes the intrinsic value to developing a conscious awareness of the sounds around us, and works with companies to bring their customers to that level.  According to Julian Treasure, being aware of what surrounds us is the first step to good health and even better productivity.

Need to lose weight? Music should be your new best friend

Every January 1st, people around the world make New Year's resolutions. 9 times out of 10, that resolution is to lose weight. Whether you are in tip top shape and want to trim down an extra pound or two, or you are 50 pounds overweight and want to create a whole new you, your goal to lose weight is the beginning of a journey toward better health. Unfortunately, the best way to lose weight is through exercise, and there are many people out there who do not find exercise to be fun. One way to jazz up your exercise program is to pop on your iPod and get motivated through the sounds of your favorite rock tunes, djembe beats or jazz classics. Even better, research has found that there is a connection between music and your brain's ability to exercise and lose weight. Music is there to motivate you, make exercise more pleasant, and can even assist in your weight loss.

Recent studies have shown that our bodies have what is called a 'Rhythm response' to music. As we exercise and listen to music that we like, our internal rhythm adjusts to the beat of the song. Because we adjust to it and match our movements to the beat, it motivates our bodies to persist and can actually increase our enjoyment. The rhythmic activity drives you to continue exercising by distracting you from that little voice that may say "Stop, I'm tired."

The rhythm response is tied to your hearts beats per minute (bpm) as well. In cycling, your exercise level is measured by the cadence of your spinning wheels. If you continue to spin at a high rate without a lot of rest, you are said to have a high cadence. The beat of the music can match and increase your cadence, thus pushing you to perform longer and harder than if you were not listening. When you hear a runner say that they were really 'in the groove' of the run, you can be sure that the music they were listening to helped them along.

Your body's rhythm response can create internal memories that can affect your eating patterns. If you listen to the same playlist around the house that you listen to when you are exercising, it can help distract you from activities you'd rather not engage in. For example, if you are making lunch and listening to a particularly motivating song, you might not be as tempted to pop food in your mouth as you are cooking. A song that really ramps you up and makes you want to get out and exercise might make you think twice about eating an entire chocolate bar.

Another reason that music can help you with weight loss? Music is always there for you. Unlike your jogging buddy who decides that 6 am is way too early to get up and move, your favorite songs are just an iPod and a set of headphones away. The thought of music may be enough to get you out of bed and moving each morning, which can contribute greatly to your weight loss.

There is a reason that people respond to music in the way that they do: Our bodies are programmed too. Starting out on an exercise program? Grab your iPod and get going on your way to a new and healthy you!

Taking primitive instruments to the next level: The Electronic Didgeridoo

Very few instruments can make the hair on your arms stand up in the way that a didgeridoo can.  Long and low tones escape the base as you blow into it, creating a musical sound that can't be replicated with any other pipe. Although not as popular in modern times, the didgeridoo is the world's oldest wind instrument.   A natural wooden trumpet that was traditionally fashioned from eucalyptus trees, the Didgeridoo is still widely used in traditional celebrations today.  Some modern didgeridoos are created from PVC pipe, and recently an electronic version was created with the help of blue tooth technology and a little computer know-how.

The type of materials used to create it as well as the length of the instrument affect the sound created by the Didgeridoo.  Long pipes produce low sounds, and short pipes are capable of more high-pitched sounds that can sound similar to birdcalls.  Using tubes of bamboo, eucalyptus, or teak that was hollowed out by termites or ants, ancient peoples were able to easily craft wooden didgeridoos.  As insects hollowed the interiors, no two didgeridoo's were alike and the instruments all had a different sound.  The mouthpiece is fitted with beeswax to create a seal when blowing.  Today's pipes are made either by hand crafters or machines, and most remain undecorated out of respect for ancient aboriginal ancestry. You control the sound of the pipe, as the player themselves can produce different sounds with a change in lip shape or breathing. Most didgeridoos are currently used in Celtic and Ska music.

Electronically Modified Didgeridoo Kyle Evans
The electronic didgeridoo takes the windpipe to an entirely new level.  Fitted with a blue tooth accessory and a wireless microphone, the user blows into the PVC pipe and transmits the audio straight into the computer.    The electronic didgeridoo looks more like a telescope or a rifle, and the pipe itself is fitted with toggle switches and push button switches enabling the user to adjust the sound and contrast of the pipe while blowing.  No longer do you need to huff specifically to create sounds, as the electronic didgeridoo adjusts the melody for you.  The sound is part Star Wars, part jungle, and it gives you a flavor of primitive music straight onto your computer.

To make an electronic didgeridoo, you'll need an advanced degree in electronic tinkering.  It's a pipe that is unique to the inventor Kyle Evans, the enthusiast who decided to take his PVC didgeridoo to the next level.   The electronic didgeridoo is proof positive that when technology meets primitive instrument, the results can be spectacular.

How to Become a Community Drumming Facilitator

Community drumming creates beautiful, spontaneous music that empowers the participants to facilitate society, foster spirit, and encourage well-being. They offer recreation, emotional relief, and spiritual manifestation through social interaction.  These events are typically held in places, like music stores, churches, parks, community centers, and attended by people from all walks of life -- young and old, beginners to advanced drum players.

Judy Piazza co-facilitates with The Agape Drum Ministry at the Bali Sacred Drum Festival.

This music-making experience is made simpler by a community drumming facilitator. She creates the freedom of the participants to express their music and emotions. A facilitator should understand the responsibility of service and the non-performance part of the drum circle.

An effective facilitator helps the members to focus on the objective and develop the quality and outcome of the drum jam. She should guide and encourage the participants to produce exciting in-the-moment music. She should also support the group in producing an improvised song and help each individual to achieve a better personal potential, shared happiness, and mutually dependent group dynamics.

A combination of excellent musical sense and rhythmical playing skills on a variety of instruments, competent group-building ability, and well-developed personality are also a valuable attributes of a facilitator. Successful facilitators develop these skills to achieve the purpose of a community drumming event which is to develop both the music and the sense of community.

Nowadays, it is not surprising that people from different backgrounds, such as business, social work, music, emerge to facilitate drum circles. There is also an increasing group of facilitators operating in different places, such as hospitals, prisons, and hospices. They use drumming as a tool for therapy.

Trained professional facilitators understand the necessity for empowering each person while the awareness of the whole group progress into a musical masterpiece. In most cases, a certain level of training is required to successfully facilitate a drum circle or community rhythm event. Those working in healthcare professions required in-depth education and certifications. Those interested in community jams, youth development or team building events can attend specialized intensive retreats to learn the skills and practice under a master facilitator.

The X8 Interactive Drumming Facilitator Training Program utilizes the Rhythm Play!™ process developed by Kenya Masala that gives you unique, proven, rhythm-based facilitation skills that deliver learning and ignite community drumming events.

Do you love your Rosewood Guitar? Guess where it came from

For some companies, the illegal harvesting of wood from protected forests is a big business.  Getting a low cost deal on a lot of wood means a huge profit in the pocket of the company, and no one in corporate America is going to argue about profits after the free fall that was and still is resulting from the economic recession.  In this light, it's not surprising that instrument manufacturers are under the microscope for the illegal importation of protected woods.  Most recently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service raided Gibson Guitars under the suspicion that they had imported Madagascar Rosewood illegally, therefore violating the Lacey Act. 

The Lacey Act was implemented in May of 2008 as a means of environmental protection for forests around the world, but also gives the US the authority to officially charge those individuals who violate this law.   The Lacey Act protects any plants or products made from plants that are imported into the US by requiring the importer to fill out a declaration of value.  This protection extends to illegally harvesting from protected forests, which is what Gibson is currently under investigation for.   Officers raided Gibson's offices and removed paperwork, computers, wood, and guitars in order to properly conduct an investigation.  The claim is that Gibson purchased Rosewood from Madagascar illegally, and re-routed the import of the wood through another country in order to get it into the USA undetected.

Madagascar forest
Deforestation is a serious problem in Madagascar.  The country is currently involved in a political crisis that is causing mass unrest.  It's unfortunate that so much turmoil is taking place in a country where over 80% of the species of plants and animals cannot be found anywhere else on earth.  Over 90% of the forests in Madagascar have been wiped out, and those left are under hefty environmental protection laws.  National parks are being shut down due to looters who are pillaging for rosewood and other prized woods. 

Rosewood is a highly sought after material in guitars.  It has a beautiful texture and a grain that makes it a visual stunner.  Some say that the tone and resonance of a Rosewood guitar is superior to Mahogany.  Given its popularity, it's no wonder that Gibson would be struggling to obtain it, although they have stated emphatically that they are simply part of a chain of purchasing and are fully cooperating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Gibson purchases from legal suppliers who are expected to follow all import and environmental laws when gaining their timber.  The Rainforest Alliance has also backed up Gibson by stating that they are fully compliant and serious about legal wood. 

Although the investigation is ongoing, it appears on the surface that the Gibson Company is going to be one of the first singled out to show the true power of the Lacey Act.  It's the hope of environmentalists everywhere that this law decreases the rate of illegal harvesting and shows corporate America that destroying the environment for the sake of sales is not only wrong, but has serious consequences for those who violate it.