Excerpts from a major Article on Sound Healing in the Summer 2013 Issue (No. 124) of Kindred Spirit.
James is interviewed along with three other practitioners:
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God”. This profound statement in the New Testament is the ultimate basis for the power of harmonious vibration as a great healing force in the world. The Word is still a mystery but scientists are drawing closer to its reality. In a recent article in The Independent (30 April 01) it was reported that scientists have recorded the music of creation using an instrument that can, in effect go back to the origin of creation. They have detected harmonic notes, minute ripples of sound that became the seeds of matter forming stars, galaxies and solar systems. Thus the beginning of our existence was through vibration. The very word ‘vibration’ begins with the symbol V which, when repeated, actually represents sound waves. That a fundamental vibration created our world is alluded to in Genesis where God created through his voice - “And God said, ‘Let there be light and there was light.” The simplest definition of creation is ‘movement’ but not just random movement but vast multi-layered patterns of vibration which physicists would call ‘frequencies’ or rates of vibration.
What is vibration which when made audible as in music becomes sound? It is the pull of two opposing forces in the universe for without opposites creation runs down. On the one hand is the force we call ‘stillness’ as found in meditation, for example. Yet however deep this stillness movement can still be detected. On the other is the force that moves outward (as in e-motion) and desires to take action and endlessly create new things. This interplay is the source of all vibration which encompasses both the audible and inaudible worlds.
On this basis every human being is the offspring of the original Word which contains all possibilities. We are riding on the crest of this fundamental vibration and if we could feel its full impact at all times we could be fully realized persons - person = per sonare =through sound. There is a school of Indian philosophy that, in fact, states that the nature of consciousness is pulsation or throb. That is why the sound of AUM given to us by the Hindus and pronounced as OM is such a sacred vibration. It represents the beginning (Alpha) and the end (Omega) and the many (the wide open mouth of O = the universal self) and the one (the closed mouth of M = the individual self). In Latin we have OMnes meaning ‘all’ and from ‘all’ we have the sacred sounds of ALLah, ALLeluia and even ALLow.
If the universe is this finely tuned multitude of vibration frequencies, then using the principle of ‘as above, so below, each of us is the same. An example of this is the propeller. When at rest we see four individual blades but when it is at full speed we see what looks to be a solid object. So to move to a higher dimension of existence is to vibrate at ever higher frequencies. This is the nature of the universe. Then the essence of sound healing is the re-tuning of the human instrument, correcting at whatever level those frequencies which have become weakened or gone out of tune. This is done on the basis of resonance, be it sympathetic vibrations or the power of forced resonance. Basically, whatever part of us that is ailing can be awakened by harmonious sound sources and remember at what frequency it should be vibrating. This can occur at the physical level (from cells to muscles to organs), the subtle level (changing negative psychology) and the causal level (create permanent positive changes in one’s nature). It is no accident that doctors tell us that we are in ‘sound health’ or ‘of sound mind.’ The medical profession is, to some extent, using sound therapy. For example, the application of ultrasound in the treatment of sciatica. At a higher level spiritual teachers initiate people into meditation through the sound of a mantra. Here the creation of vibration works in reverse. First there is the form (the mantra) which then it turns into a wave and finally into a pulse.
What are the practical ways of using sound for healing? Listening to music for there is no question that everyone who does is practicing sound therapy. People’s choices of listening depend on the very nature of their sound frequencies. Music is not just something that goes into the ear. It impinges on the entire bioenergetic field (aura) and if there is incompatibility with the music it will be rejected. Singing, best done collectively, has positive transforming effects but it is not specifically directed so its effects are not particularized. Natural voice workshops are certainly on the increase as the desire for the unity of community grows.
The deeper levels of sound therapy come through primarily Eastern traditions using singing bowls, crystal bowls, tuning forks and the human voice in the form of toning, chanting and overtoning. There is also the controversial field of cymatics , pioneered in the UK by Dr P G Manners, which uses electronic sets of frequencies that correspond to different parts of the body. Of all these approaches the most practical is the use of the voice, an marvelous instrument we have been given at birth. It was not given just for communication but also for healing. Each vowel, consonant, pitch, modulation and overtone can find its place within us. There is a secret power in language such that if all the world ceased speaking all our energy levels would sink dramatically. Naturally, in speech it is all fleeting and random as we move from syllable to syllable. Working with vowels and consonants in a conscious and deliberate way in the form of single sounds, mantras, chants and overtones (which are the vitamins and minerals of the sound) will empower them to do healing work. For example, we use the word ‘who’ quite frequently but who would ever think it was a so-called sacred sound. Yet the Sufis describe this sound spelled HUU as sacred and regularly intone it in their ceremonies. It is a name of God and a sound of purification, especially when the H breath sound is emphasized. It subtly expresses our divinity in the expression ‘Who am I? - I am HUU.
One area of vocal sound therapy taken for granted is natural, emotional sounds. When we release our emotions in sounds, we are sending vibrations to particular parts of the body and also to the psyche. Laughing, groaning, keening, sighing and humming. The greatest of these is laughter. Everyone likes and needs to laugh otherwise comedy would have no point in the world. Why is it contributing to positive health? Primarily because it consists of the spiritual H sound - the power of the breath and some sort of vowel depending on the personality of the individual. Often you can see where people experience themselves by the type of laughter. Just make a vigorous HUH sound from your belly over and over again and you should find that a burning sensation appears in the head. That is a powerful energy, one that stimulates the glands, particularly the thymus, as it rises upwards. And the medical establishment has confirmed that laughter can boost the immune system among other things.
Toning can be directed to specific organs of the body and to the chakra system itself. An effective system for the organs has been brought to the West by Mantak Chia and it employs movement with the simplest of sounds. Movement in a similar form to Tai Chi and Chi Kung is always complementary to healing vibrations because it encourages the release of the sound and can even direct it to particular places. This Taoist system uses SSSS for the lungs, WOH for the kidneys, SSHHH for the liver, HAW for the heart and WOO for the spleen, all done sub-vocally. Within the Tantra Yoga tradition is found a profound method for harmonizing the chakras through toning. Its basis is the sound of AM. In English it is the equivalent to beingness in I AM. What directs the power of this sound are the consonants of L.,V, R, Y and H for the first five chakras. Thereafter OM is intoned for the sixth and the seventh is considered to be beyond sound but not beyond vibration.
The power of the resonating voice is a gateway to opening up higher mind, the source of what is called ‘channeling.’ All creative work is channeling because the person realizes that the ideas are arising from some special source. It seems like an act of transcription, just listening and then doing. There are all sorts of negative tendencies in the mental sphere that are blocking clarity of thought and they filter down and affect the physical body. Mantras are the antidotes for this as they cut a pathway through the dark side and actually dissipate what undermines our true self and its potential. The structure (vowel/consonant combinations) and repetition of the mantra, whether intoned out loud are like the tools that polish diamonds. In this case the diamond is the soul.
Using sound as the medium for healing is within the grasp of anyone
who wants to open up through the voice. There is no need to become a
trained singer. It has nothing to do with a beauty of tone and everything
to do with vibratory power. There are special singers whose sound is
not cultivated but who lift us up with great emotion - singers like
Edith Piaf and Billie Holiday. So much about healing lies in intent,
that desire to transcend what limits us at every level. Vibrational
medicine in whatever form is the future. Never mind mapping out all
our genes. Let science find a way of determining all our frequencies.
Just as the overtone patterns of the voice are unique to each person,
just like fingerprints, so too are the overall frequencies. The practice
of sound health is literally under our nose - in our vocal cords, etc.
In the use of the secret magic of vowels and consonants, applied with
intent and knowledge, we have a tremendous force for healing body, mind
HOW DOES SOUND HEAL
It has to be taken as given in the field of sound therapy that the physical, subtle and causal bodies of a human being are also regularly vibrating sources with their own set of frequencies. From the cellular level through all the layers of the auric field, including the seven principal energy centres all is in variant conditions of wave motion. Thus the health of an individual is directly related to the degree to which any physical or subtle aspect is vibrating at its optimum rate. This could range from sluggishness on one end to over stimulation on the other. In either case the energy is out of balance or better still, out of tune.
So the object of sound healing is to return that which is out of balance in its frequencies to its optimum rate or at least moving towards it.. More than likely it will be an ongoing process because the energy field, the chakras (representing our psychology), the organs, muscles and cells of the body will usually not hold to the applied sound. Just as pianos need regularly tuning or how instrumentalists are adjusting their tones as they play. Essentially this is achieved through what is known as sympathetic vibration. That is to say, all the frequency aspects of ourselves, however dormant or distorted, have the potential to respond inherently to the influence of those frequencies sounded within their vicinity. They will literally be in sympathy with what they perceive and attempt to vibrate with the applied sounds.
A fundamental part of our energy field are the chakras and with these we have two vocal systems to bring an attunement in them. The first is Eastern and is found in the tradition of Tantra Yoga. It is a series of bijas or seed syllables which can be used mantricly (3) What is implied is that the power of these vocal sounds intuited by the ancient seers is in sympathetic vibration with the chakras. That the very structure of seed sounds without any regard for what vocal tone is produced is sufficient to awaken these energy centres. That is to say, what actual tone is chosen to produce the seed syllable is immaterial because the chakras are responding to the frequencies emitted by the consonants and vowels that form the seed. Similarly, a Western system of vowel sounds corresponding to the energy centres has emerged over the years, first in the USA, through sound healers. The choices are not universal and variants are to be found. A question arises: How can both systems be valid and yet different? This writer has no simple answer to this. Perhaps there are different “doorways” into the chakras. Whatever the case both systems do make a definite impact and what makes them so useful is that persons can heal themselves, Furthermore, the more the chakras are in harmony, the more the rest of the body responds. In this way it might not be necessary to have sounds for the actual physical body.
Having said this, there is yet another system of vocal sound with added movements that are directed at the organs of the body and it emerges out of Taoism and Chinese medicine (4). It employs four vowel sounds (OH, OO, AW. EE) and two sibilant sounds (SSS, SH). It can be presumed that sympathetic vibration is operative in these sounds inasmuch as the seers who created the sounds chose different ones for each organ. The principle is that the stress put upon an organ is due to overheating. The objective is to use the sounds and movements to release excess heat from the membrane surrounding the organ, cooling and cleansing it and returning it to its correct temperature.
The other great source for harmonious wave forms are musical instruments, primarily non-Western: gongs, bowls, didgierdoo, for example. The gongs are an interesting example of diverse sympathetic vibration, A gong gives off a complex multiplicity of frequencies as it permeates our energy field. So the field and our physical body has many choices to draw upon. The gong is a kind of overall stimulant comparable to taking a multi-vitamin supplement. Hence treatments with a gong are often called “baths.” It is a non-specific energizer. However, this is not the view of Don Conreaux,(5) the most well-known purveyor of healing with gongs. Following on from Hans Cousto’s theory of planetary frequencies (6) Conreaux has had manufactured gongs that are attuned to all the bodies of the solar system including our moon. In turn, he has made a correlation between the gongs and five of the chakras.
Bowls nowadays are of two varieties: the metallic ones of the East, e.g., Tibet (7) and crystal ones (8) created in the West. The metallic ones containing an amalgam of seven to nine metals give rise to a richness of overtones, ideal for the healing process. The crystal ones emit purer tones with far less of the overtones. In either case the specifics of their healing sounds to resonate sympathetically with the condition resides both in the intuition of the person giving the treatment and the one receiving it. It is the uncanny ability of a practitioner to determine which bowls will be effective based on what the root problems are. On the other side the person being treated intuits which bowls are having an affect. Often there can be a sense of aversion as the sound penetrates into the region where it is needed. Because this aspect of the person has for so long been “out of tune” it is uncomfortable to have it shaken up by the incoming sound that is attempting to retune it.
There is one other sort of instrument for healing which is not exactly “musical” and that is tuning forks. These are the same shape as used by piano tuners except much larger (3-6 inches long) and thicker and usually made of aluminium. The ones designed by the polarity therapist John Beaulieu (9) are an interesting case in point. The tunings use, as a starting point, the so-called Earth ring calculated at 7.83 cycles per second. However, he has rounded this figure off to 8 so using the principle of octave doubling the system is simply based on 1. This fundamental is not significant because the healing properties of the forks are actually based upon the simple ratios of intervals found in the overtone series. The idea here is that the sound of two forks enter the nervous system through the ears and send a proportional signal to the cellular level. The cells are resonated because they are vibrating to their own overtone series and are “listening” for the corresponding proportions that exist in them. This is sympathetic vibration using simple ratios such as 3:2, the perfect 5th, e.g., C to the next upper G.. There are other tuning fork systems designed by sound therapists Arden Wilkin(10) and Fabien Maman (11) as well as the recently deceased kinesiologist Alan Sales(12). The latter believed he had discovered through muscle testing resonant frequencies for the seven chakras and had forks manufactured on this basis.
Finally, there is the application of sound through electronic means. The best known instrument for this was invented by Peter Guy Manners (along with others in Europe) and he called it a cymatic instrument borrowing the word "cymatic" (Greek for "wave form") from the Swiss acoustics researcher Hans Jenny. Five sets of frequencies each are given for all parts of the physical body as well as psychological states and are adminstered directly into the region in question by an applicator. To this day, it has never been revealed how the frequencies were determined and why there should be five in a grouping. P G Manners, now deceased. kept it secret all his life. We also know nothing of his success rate with his patients at his Worcestershire clinic. . However, his disciple Christopher Gibbs (13) has written a book on the subject, soon to be published and it might shed some light on the subject. More research is being conducted by the producers of the new Cymatics instrument in the USA (14).
Ultimately it is our individuality which determines which methods and frequencies will assist us in the healing process. At a sound healing conference in Santa Fe in 2006, one of the leading figures in the field Don Campbell began his keynote address with this statement: “We have to remember at the outset that no one form of sound therapy works for everybody.” In many ways vibrations are having an effect on all the dimensions of our nature: listening to music, tuning in to the sounds of nature, singing, pouring out all our own natural sounds (laughing, crying, humming, groaning, sighing, wailing, etc.) and then all the approaches aforementioned. Those of us within the field of sound healing would like to feel that it is the way of the future and we will call it as Dr. Gerber has in his great work on the subject: Vibrational Medicine (15)
1) Overtones are frequencies embedded in a fundamental tone that are higher than the perceived sound and appear in a definitive proportional sequence.
2) Peter Guy Manners was a pioneer in the field sound healing. He practiced in England for many years and presented lectures around the world. His original Cymatics instrument originally used cassette tapes so that it was even possible to put music into the body with the electronic applicator. See Christopher Gibbs No.13..
3) See my book The Healing Power of the Human Voice published Inner Traditions (Healing Arts Press) www.soundspirit.co.uk
4) Taoist Ways to Transform Stress Into Vitality by Mantak Chia, Healing Tao Books, Huntington New York, 1985.
5) Gongs of our Solar System (CD) www.myterioustremendum.com
6) The Cosmic Octave by Hans Cousto. LifeRhythm Publications, 1987
7) See the work of the Tibetan bowls master Frank Perry www.frankperry.co.uk
8) Sounding the Mind of God by Lyz Cooper, founder of the British Academy of Sound Therapy. O Books, UK 2009. www.healtthysound.com
11) Tama-Do The Academy of Sound, Colour and Movement. www.tama-do.com
12) Ragg Tuning Forks manufactured by Granton Works, Sheffield. www.granton.co.uk
13) He was assistant to P G Manners at his clinic and has carried on his work both in Kidderminster and London. For information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
14)See www.cymatherapy.com based in Atlanta, Georgia
15) Vibrational Medicine: The Handbook of Subtle-Energy
Therapies by Dr.
For at least the last thirty to forty years we have had two groups of practitioners who use sound as their basis for healing. Their approaches both diverge and overlap. The way they receive their training is quite different. Yet each group, the music therapists and sound therapists so-called, actually has something to impart to each other through both their rational and intuitive minds. For a start both use musical tones with a discernible frequency as the basis for their practice. In ancient times it was understood that musical tones, i.e., regularly vibrating sounds emerging from the voice and instruments consisting of plucked or bowed strings or being blown through, had specific physical and emotional effects on body, mind and spirit. It would be difficult to call the ancient’s practices either music or sound therapy. Music is sound but sound, of course, is not always music. Music is some form of organized, regularly vibrating sound structures, even if that organization is nothing more than three tones as in Vedic chanting. Eventually, music, as Rudolf Steiner noted, could be reduced to a single tone because contained within it are an infinite array of overtones. The tone is its own form of organization. Nowadays we are well aware of this phenomenon through the practice of overtoning as revealed to us by David Hykes, Jill Purce, Michael Ormiston and the like.
A case in point are the ancient Greek modes (scalar forms) as discussed by Plato. In the Republic he states unequivocally that each of them conveys a particular emotional feeling and gives specific examples.. And that they can be used to alter a person’s behaviour. Very important in this is exactly how the tones were tuned. That knowledge has been lost. It is not the same to play these modes on modern instruments because the fineness of the tunings is missing. To what extent were there fixed compositions and/or pure improvisation remains speculative. The ancient Greek approach is very much akin to what we have today in the ragas of Indian music with its fine tuning of the micro intervals or shrutis. Within classical Indian music there are schools of music therapy of long standing.
In our own time music therapy became a major subject of study when Michigan State University and the University of Kansas offered it beginning in 1944. . Musicians working within a framework of Western music could earn degrees in music therapy. In England two schools of music therapy were established. The most famous, developing in the 1950s and 1960s, was that of the pioneers Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins. Its essential basis is the piano to this day. The other, called Analytical Music Therapy, was created in the 1960s by the cellist Juliette Alvin and developed by her student Mary Priestley It was housed at the Guildhall School of Music where they continue to train music therapists. . In the 1970s Helen Bonny in the USA invented a therapeutc process of interlocking music and psychology called Guided Imagery Through Music. She took her lead from the forward looking, self-actualising psychologists Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow.
Lying outside academia there developed a separate field of sound therapy and healing in the 1970s and 1980s. It began primarily with the voice and the earliest known practitioner was the American Laurel Elizabeth Keyes. Her book Toning: The Creative Power of the Voice is still in print and has been updated by another key figure Don Campbell who, over the years, has been highly instrumental in bridging the gap between music and sound therapy. His classical training as a musician has enabled him to understand the healing power of sound in its widest sense. His book The Mozart Effect remains the bible for anyone who wants knowledge about both fields. Yet another figure of significance is Jonathan Goldman who has placed the use of sound and vibration at the forefront of the many healing modalities available today.and created the first Sound Healers Association. In the UK it has been Jill Purce who has pioneered the voice as the ultimate healing instrument, drawing from the great traditions of the East. All those who have achieved some status as UK sound therapists/healers owe her a debt.
The growth of the sound therapy field has followed three lines: 1) the use of the voice as a self-empowering instrument 2) the use of non-Western instruments and/or original acoustic instruments (Tibetan bowls and bells, crystal bowls, tuning forks, gongs, didgierdoo and the like), and 3) the use of technology, working with the Cymatics and Tomatis electronic instruments, for example. In the first two cases, practitioners sometimes study Eastern texts and scriptures and/or actually work with Eastern gurus to gain insight into their sound healing methods. They understand that healing means to bring wholeness to an individual. It is not just a matter of correcting the tensions of the physical body. Practitioners also have to use their intuitions and experiment with the sounds, especially if they are adapting traditions. They have to come to a consensus within themselves of what is actually efficacious . For example, the use of vowel sounds with the chakras growing out of the work of Jonathan Goldman in the 1980s and the development of various forms of tuning forks with different frequencies such as those as John Beaulieu. What they all have to acknowledge is that no one form of sound healing methods work for everybody.
The essential practice of the sound healers/practitioners /.facilitators is administering small packets of sound into the energy field of persons. The premise is that all aspects of a human being - physical body, non-local mind, the auric field, the chakras and the soul consist of frequencies which are not vibrating at the ultimate and correct rates for that person. That the application of the sounds will cause a resonance such that a re-tuning of whatever aspect is effected. The choice of the sound frequencies is both rational and intuitive. Rationally, a healer could use particular seed syllables for the chakras from an Indian tradition which, descending from the rishis, have stood the test time of time.; but how they are applied is usually decided intuitively. . In the case of Beaulieu’s tuning forks, there is both the rational and the intuitive. While the frequencies are derived from the overtone series, categorizing the tone combinations into the four elements, as he does, is intuitive. .Clearly, although the sounds produced are “musical”, what is produced is not music even if listened to without intent for healing. For example, putting on a recording of a continuous sound of a gong.
The second point about the field of sound therapy is those drawn to it are largely not physically or mentally disabled. Here the definition of “physically or mentally disabled”is someone who is officially statemented as being so for legal purposes. Of courses, it will always be difficult to draw a line about what constitutes being disabled. From the highest level we are all so. The Tomatis method of music/sound therapy is often used with children with autism It falls between two stools. Is it sound or music therapy? Music because it uses pieces of music, largely Mozart and Gregorian chants, but sound therapy because the music is radically modified by electronic means.
Most people who would use a sound therapist or practice sound therapy on themselves usually are simply in some recognizable state of physical and/or mental stress They have an intuition that fine vibrations can have a definite effect on their state of being, returning them to a state of balance and consequently leading them into deep meditation. Ultimately, they approach the issue of their health spiritually. They recognize that being bathed in fine frequencies is a refinement of their being and thus the path forward, Thus it becomes a matter of self-empowerment..
The training of music and sound therapists is a distinguishing feature
of the two groups.
So, essentially, music therapy studies amount to graduate work. This requirement is a barrier to those musicians whose temperaments are well suited to working in a therapeutic field and are sufficiently “musical” whatever that might mean. The fact that they lack official music training should not hold these people back. This writer has led workshops at Goldsmiths College, London for those who have an interest in entering the music or sound therapy field. Most are surprised to learn that a degree in music is the entry point for a career in music therapy.
For the sound therapist, up until recent years, there was no official way of breaking into the field. They need not even be musicians although it helps if they are musically sensitive and have a reasonably good voice. Those of us who began in the 1990s or even earlier had to find our way through different kinds of research and experiment and then have the confidence to put our approaches forward. Now a sufficient body of knowledge has been accumulated so that actual schools of sound healing have emerged. In England four have been established: The British Academy of Sound Therapy (Lyz Cooper, founder), The College of Sound Healing (Simon Heather, founder), the Academy of Tim Wheater and Chloe Goodchild‘s school known as The Naked Voice.
Those coming out of these schools, even with their certificates, will most likely not be able to enter the domain of the music therapists. That is, hospitals, hospices, mental institutions, nursing homes and the like. One kind of institution might be open to them - prisons. However, it should be noted that the governors have complete autonomy and can decide what they want or do not want in their prisons at any given time.
In the end it is the concept of “healing” that matters.
While the approaches and credentials of music and sound therapists are
different, at another level they merge if the result of their practices
is “healing”, that is, bringing, however small, a unity
between mind, body and spirit. Something of this is, more than likely
,being achieved even in the extreme cases of an autistic or Down’s
syndrome child. For music therapists who deal with these situations
cannot go just by their training. They, too, have to apply their intuition
and become pioneers. It is high time that a dialogue between the two
groups be established so that they come to know their common ground.
Conferences such as Resonance: A Festival of Sound Healing at Hawkwood
College this year could lead the way.
TONES, FREQUENCIES AND THE CHAKRAS
Harry Oldfield who has pioneered what he calls electro-crystal therapy uses the principle of resonance through sending frequencies through crystals into a person‘s energy field.. In an interview with Kindred Spirit he was asked specifically if the frequencies for the chakras vary with each person. He answered that he uses a broad frequency range for each chakra as it is not individual to the person. Like myself he views the increasing number of “petals “ associated with the chakras in Indian philosophy as the basic indicator of rising frequencies,
Dr. Valerie Hunt of UCLA has done studies on the chakras and the human energy field. She has measured the bioelectrical energy variations in areas of skin corresponding to the positions of the chakras. She has taken readings for brain waves between 0 and 30 cps, muscles going up to 225 cps and the heart going up to 250 cps. This latter figure is quite close to the frequency of middle C in music (more on this later). Her readings were, like Harry Oldfield, in a broad frequency range. Overall the band of frequencies from the first to the seventh chakra was between 100 and 1600 cps. In musical terms this is a 4 octave range.
In a similar vein researchers at the Heartmath Institute measure the vital force energy field which they label as the ‘L’ energy. Their primary hypothesis is that energy and information are the same thing, that everything that exists has energy, energy is full of information and stored info-energy is what makes up cellular memories. Furthermore, the heart is the primary generator of info-energy and thus is central to our system’s recollection of its life - its cellular memory. They understand the chakras to be transformers and relay stations used by the heart to communicate info-energy to the body’s cells. As with Dr Hunt to some extent they have measured the normal frequency for the heart region as 250 cps, roughly our middle C.
The English kiniesologist Alan Sales believes that he has determined the frequencies of the chakras and has encoded them into tuning forks. In his article in Positive Health he does not reveal what methods he has used in his practice to come up with his frequency choices. They consist of a scale of tones beginning on C and move step by step upwards to a B as follows:
C D E F sharp G sharp A B
It is an unusual scale not found in Western music although if the A were taken to be the keynote, it is an ascending melodic minor scale beginning on its third note. Emotionally it feels unsatisfactory as the heart interval (from the root tone to the heart tone) is C to F sharp, a clear dissonance which, at one time, was known as the “devil’s interval.” Later on we will examine another tuning fork system which has assisted my chakra toning work even though these forks are not coordinated to the chakras.
The most natural system within acoustics is that of the overtone or harmonic series. It is produced in variant forms whenever we speak or sing and it is very much present in all tone-producing musical instruments. One of the early pioneers in sound healing was the American Randall McClellan who produced one of the first books on the subject - The Healing Forces of Music: History, Theory and Practice. It should be required reading for anyone embarking on practicing in the sound therapy field. In the book he gives eight reasons why the major scale, a favored one for many sound practitioners using the voice, is unsatisfactory. In this I am in agreement as will be seen shortly.
One of the reasons given is that the fourth and seventh scale degrees of our major scale (with C as the keynote, the tones F and B) cannot be derived from the harmonic series. His proposition is that a correlation between tonesand chakras must arise out of a natural order, namely the overtone /harmonic series. So he has correspondences between the 2nd to 8th harmonics and the seven chakras. He states that his choice of A as the keynote for the systemhas no particular reason. Perhaps it can be rationalized that A is the note to which musicians tune in Western music. Here is McClellan’s layout.
Chakra Harmonic number Tone name
Crown 8th A
The fundamental tone of this series is an A an octave below the root chakra A. So these tones lie in the 2nd and 3rd octaves of the series. Very satisfying in the layout is that the heart has the colour tone of the major, the C sharp. Without it we would not know whether it is major or minor. McCllellan states that persons can develop two octave ranges in their voices and thus reproduce this overtone series. Nonetheless the average untrained voice will find this difficult. If the series began on the low F which I use in my toning of the chakras, it might just be possible for some. This would give the tone A for the heart, the musicians’ tuning focus. I would suggest that McClellan start this series on A flat so that the tone for the heart would become the middle C which the Heartmath people have put forward.
For the purpose of using the voice as a resonator for the chakras, musical scales, being compact and adjustable for vocal ranges, seem best in the toning process. Almost everyone can produce a scale of eight tones starting anywhere from a F below the middle C of the piano (an octave lower for men’s voices) to middle C itself. It is rare to meet tone-deaf people on vocal sound healing workshops.
The prime candidate among the musical scales for the Westerner is the major scale which has been at the centre of Western music for only 350 years or so.. This scale is not universal, not even within European music. For example, Scottish bagpipe music is characterized by the use of a mode known as the Mixolydian. This mode is almost a major scale but its seventh note is lower by a semi-tone, e.g., in the C major scale the seventh note would be B flat, Looking more widely, Indian musicians do recognize the major scale but only in a theoretical way. In practice they always alter the tones creating their myriad raga forms. Such ragas employ scale material of between five and seven tones and the ascending and descending form of the scale can be different. Vedic chanting consists of only three tones.
The case is similar for the natural minor scale also known as the Aeolian mode. This scale is more widespread than the major as it is found in the music of many indigenous peoples. The natural minor beginning on the tone A is the preferred scale of the pioneer of toning for healing L E Keyes. She chose it simply because it fits most voices very well and does not involve the use of any sharps or flats.
The sound healer Kay Gardner, now deceased, chose an intriguing seven note scale for toning the chakras which relates to McClellan’s idea of natural order and, to some extent, Sales.. It is known as the overtone scale because it corresponds to the harmonics which appear sequentially in the 4th octave of the overtone series. As follows:
C D E F sharp G A B flat
As with Sales and his tuning forks we have the highly dissonant interval of C-F sharp between the root and heart. It is a question of whether these intervals matter between the fundamental and those above. The B flat for the crown chakra with its relationship to C at the root emotionally draws the B flat on a downward path rather than upward, a phenomenon very often observed by traditional Western composers
The choice of the simplest major scale beginning on C (no sharps or flats) is formative and too logical. Yes, it is the first scale anyone learns who studies music because there are no sharps or flats and thus easy to attain. But what of those learning transposing instruments? When clarinettists play a C major scale, it is actually in sound a Bb major scale. Similarly, a French horn player’s C major scale is actually in sound F major and so on. Furthermore the centrality of the tone C, although significant because of the emphasis placed upon it, is not the tone to which orchestras tune. The orchestra sets its store on A above middle C which, at least in England, is fixed at 440 cycles per second.
There are other reasons why the C major as a chakra toning scale, offered by a number of vocal sound healers (Ted Andrews, for example), can be questioned First of all it has to be remembered that the rising scale is a psychological tool which gives persons the feeling of the increasing whirl of the chakras and thus a sense of uplifting themselves to a higher dimension of existence. Although there are seven tones in this scale to correspond to the seven principal chakras, there is no sense of completion or rising to the next level. When listening to an ascending major scale, step by step, the return to the next higher C, the eighth tone an octave above, has to occur to feel that completion. In this way, psychologically, we have arrived at the beginning of that next dimension. To arrive on the tone number 7,i.e. B for the crown chakra and leave it there without moving the final semi-tone to C is wholly unsatisfactory. And then there is the practical consideration that the vocal range of the C major scale can be somewhat high for some voices. It is easier to begin on the A below as given by Keyes or even lower in a relaxed range of sound.
The choice of a scale for toning the chakras for this workshop leader is known as the pentatonic. This was intuited step by step and not all at once. The first question to be answered was what tone will be the starting point. The sense was that somehow the tone C had a role to play but not as a starting point for the root chakra. But where? We Western musicians have used it as a tone of centrality. And what is the point of centrality within us? The heart, naturally and so that is where the C was placed. Later I discovered that Valerie Hunt had, in her research, measured the heart’s frequency as going up to 250 cps. Furthermore, the research at the Institute of HeartMath in Colorado has reported that the heart’s normal frequency is 250 CPS. Now this frequency is quite close to middle C on the piano, roughly 261.6 CPS. However, if our tuning system was based on C=1 CPS as the central tone, then rising up through the octaves (multiply by 2) our middle C comes to 256, very close to IHM’s measurement. In his time the visionary Rudolph Steiner proposed that our Western tuning system should be based on A = 432 cps. Proportionally, this tuning would, in turn, make the C =256 cps.
What would now be the next step? For this I turned to the polarity therapist and sound healer John Beaulieu who has designed tuning forks for healing based on the overtone or harmonic series. Because he treats his patients according to the elements of earth, water, fire and air through analyses of their voices, he categorized three of these elements in accordance with interval types. As follows:
Perfect 5ths/4ths Air
In this system there is no distinction made between major and minor 3rds., 6ths and between major and minor 2nds and 7ths. The earth element is treated separately and, instead of two forks creating these intervals, single low forks are used. Beaulieu has offered no rationale for these categories but I am in agreement with his choices.
Now in the elemental correspondences with the chakras in Indian tradition, the heart is linked with air. So, using the Beaulieu system, the heart interval down to the root would be the primary air interval, the perfect 5th or C down to F. Having F as the foundation tone has a great precedent in the history of world music. For hundreds of years the music of enlightened ancient Chinese civilizations used the approximate frequency of F as their foundation tone. To some extent F is a foundation tone in Western music inasmuch as it is usually given as the lowest note for writing for the bass voice of a choir.
Assigning F to the root chakra also means assigning it to the earth element of the root. If we equate the earth element with Nature itself, then we could turn to a piece of classical music which so powerfully expresses that Nature. Beethoven’s 6th symphony, the “Pastoral.” which he set quite firmly in the key of F major. For me it is a intuitive and strong connection.
I had assumed that now that I had the two key notes F and C. It was just a matter of filling in the rest of the scale tones. But there was a problem. It is four places up in the chakras between root and heart but, in a normal scale, it is 5 tones up between F and C (f g a b c). Then a light dawned and I asked a fundamental question as did Randall McClellan. Why a major scale? Are there not other sorts of scales? And the answer came. What is the most universal scale found in music all over the world? The answer is the 5 tone pentatonic scale which, coincidentally, has remained the fundamental scale for traditional Chinese music. And, referring back to McClellan, its tones can all be found in the overtone series. As there are just four tones between the F and C in the pentatonic, the C will correspond to the heart. As follows:
F (root) G (sacral) A (solar plexus) C (heart) D (throat) F (brow) G (crown)
Here, by the brow centre, the next dimension has already been reached, symbolized by arriving at a new octave with the upper F. And we move even deeper into that dimension with the succeeding G of the crown. Also this sets up a relation between the root and brow chakras, both being F an octave apart and the sacral and crown chakras, both being G an octave apart. Practically speaking, this set-up is easily produced in the voice by both men and women and this is so important for working with untrained voices.
Finally, I have found the letter names of the notes could stand for the qualities of each of the chakras as well:
At the outset of this article I was unequivocal that there are no definite correspondences between chakras and set tones. What I have intuited about using the pentatonic scale beginning on F is not an absolute. It is not the answer, only an answer. Within me it feels right for toning the chakras for the reasons given. It is important that those who work with therapeutic vocal sound find their own intuitive solution that will psychologically facilitate the ascent to a higher and purer consciousness.
Andrews, Ted: Sacred Sounds: Transformation through
Music & Word. Llewellyn Publications (USA), 1992.
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