OUR BODIES ARE AFFECTED BY THE VIBRATIONAL
QUALITY OF OUR SURROUNDINGS
©1983 Mark B. Anstendig
The Anstendig Institute has concluded tests that prove that we are affected by the quality of the vibrational influences around us and that these influences determine the quality of our experiences.
One's hearing and one's voice are the two physical functions that, for similar reasons, most clearly reflect the state of one's physical being: i.e., the condition of one's whole body determines the character of both. With the voice, the whole body determines the quality of the flow of one's breath (smoothness and evenness, etc.) and the condition of one's vocal cords (tense or relaxed, etc.). With our hearing, the body has to reproduce sounds before we can hear them. We hear the vibrating of our own body--not the vibrating of the sound source and the body must be able to vibrate freely enough to reproduce all the qualities of the vibrations from the sound source if we are to hear those qualities (nuances, intensity, etc.). Furthermore, our bodies cannot be vibrating differently from the sound vibrations (more coarsely or unevenly) or we will not hear the sounds as they were produced by the sound-source. We will hear a mixture of the qualities of the sounds from the sound-source and the qualities of the vibrating of our own bodies. In other words, the qualities (nuances) of the sound vibrations from the sound-source will be changed, i.e., distorted, by the vibrating of our own bodies before we hear them. In hearing, singing, and speech, the body must reproduce nuances--receptively in hearing and actively with the voice. But no one's body can reproduce a nuance that is finer than it itself is vibrating. Thus, it is impossible to hear fine nuances if one's own body is vibrating more coarsely than the nuances. One will, of course hear something, and that will be a falsification that is more coarse than the original nuances, which means one will hear a completely different expression than that contained in the original sounds.
Hearing is the most complicated and delicate of all known processes. The sound has to originate at the source and be transmitted to the hearer. The hearer's body has to register and reproduce the sound, the body has to reproduce the expressive contents of the sounds as a flow in time, the hearer has to notice the sound and the expressive content, and the hearer then has to mentally process the impressions caused by the sound. Light vibrations pass easily through the transmitting medium (air, water, glass, etc.) without changing or disturbing that medium and are then taken in by the eye. They essentially have no effect upon the body except through reactions within the eye itself that subsequently cause reactions in the body (eyestrain, etc.). Not so with sound vibrations. In order for sound vibrations to be transmitted, the whole transmitting medium (the air or any other sound-conducting element) has to vibrate in the patterns of the sound-source and the body has to measurably vibrate in those patterns. To merely hear the sounds, it would be enough for just the hearing mechanism within the ear to vibrate in the sound- patterns, but to hear nuances and expressive content (voice inflections, emotions, etc.) the whole body has to vibrate in the patterns of those nuances (as a sequential flow in time). The physical process necessary in order to hear involves physical phenomena of a much greater magnitude than those necessary for sight, even if only the inner ear reproduced the sounds (sound waves are much larger and more powerful than light waves). But the tests of The Anstendig Institute have found that the whole body plays a determining role in the manner in which we hear sounds and that it particularly affects how we experience the sounds.
There are two basic aspects of hearing which The Anstendig Institute has termed the "experiential" and the “informational”.1 The experiential is the physical aspect of hearing: the actual physical registering of the sounds, the conscious perception of the sounds, and the experiencing of the expressive content of the sounds. The informational is the mental processing of what has already been heard, i.e., understanding what has been said, recognizing words or melodies, liking or disliking what one hears, etc. In reality. the experiential aspect of hearing is the actual act of hearing. The informational aspect depends on having already heard something and can only follow the actual act of hearing (it usually follows so quickly upon the act of hearing that it seems to occur simultaneously with it). This is the key to understanding how we hear. Hearing is the physical act that includes only those physical phenomena that happen simultaneously with the registration of the sound by the body. Hearing in itself necessarily occurs before and is independent of any mental processing of that which is registered. That includes the sounds themselves, the conscious noticing of the sounds as they are registered, and the emotional nuances of the sounds. Sounds can simply be heard and experienced without any mental activity beyond noticing them as they occur in us. Hearing something does not in itself include any mental processing of what is heard or experienced and, in fact, the informational aspects of hearing are usually a distraction from what one is hearing, especially with sounds such as music that demand full concentration over a period of time. That is because most people's minds are limited to being able to concentrate on only one thing at a time, i.e., either their thoughts or the progress of the music.
The experiential aspects of sound (the expressive nuances, the emotional content) are the more difficult to hear because our bodies have to reproduce the quality of the expressive content as a flow in time in order for us to experience it. Thus, the expressive content of sound, particularly the finer emotional nuances, are those aspects of sound that are most difficult for us to hear and the most easily disturbed and degraded by the physical states of our bodies. Nuances can be fine or coarse, the difference being in the size (the magnitude) of the changes in the sound vibrations that convey the nuances. In conveying a subtly fine, delicate emotional quality these changes in the sound vibrations as they flow in time will be minute in size and demand a high degree of personal physical refinement for our bodies to register them so that we can hear them. Any coarseness of body will keep the listener from experiencing those nuances. Therefore, to hear all aspects of sound, particularly those of fine music, takes nearly complete relaxation and every bit of a person's undistracted attention. The slightest mental distraction or physical disturbance will destroy our ability to hear fine nuance and to experience the emotional content.
Since our hearing and our voices are capable of registering the most subtle differences in our physical states, they are the faculties that most readily demonstrate the effects of the quality of external influences on us.
While most people are normally oriented towards some observation of what is around them, most are not oriented towards self-observation. With basic, scientifically proved meditative techniques that are now used in such fields as stress reduction, one can achieve an extraordinary degree of sensitive self-perception as well as perception of the outside world. In our tests, most subjects were familiar with some such techniques and were encouraged to use them.
For test purposes, a repeatable, clearly recognizable test object has been impossible before The Anstendig Institute perfected the possibilities of equalizing the program content of recordings so that they sound the way we are used to hearing them live. Because no meaningful live sounds can be repeated twice in exactly the same way, recordings must be used if one wants a repeatable test object. But, as a reference for test-purposes, the recorded material has to sound the way people are used to hearing it in real life and unequalized sound-reproduction is distorted both by the reproducing process and by the peculiarities of our hearing. A comparison test using unequalized recordings would be comparing one distortion to another distortion. With recordings it is impossible to hold two distortions of the same sound next to each other and directly compare them. Therefore our hearing can only perceive the differences between an undistorted sound that we are familiar with and a distortion of that sound. We cannot perceive clear differences between two distorted forms of a sound without an undistorted reference sound. That is because our memory for sensory perceptions is undependable and our hearing tends to accustom itself to the characteristics of what we are hearing, to accept the distortions, and to stop noticing them.
With music that has been equalized so that it sounds natural one has a dependable test object for use in observing changes in people's hearing in various states and situations. Recordings that include voices are excellent test-objects because we are most familiar with the sounds of voices and can readily recognize when they are distorted (for this reason they are also easier to equalize). The music must be of a vibrational fineness in which the nuances lie at the extreme of our perception and recorded performances of that fine a quality must be carefully sought out. For its tests, The Anstendig Institute has made tapes of such performances that can be played for long periods of time without interruption.
In controlled situations, our subjects were given time to familiarize themselves with the expressive content of certain music under ideal circumstances. Then, another listening session was held, often on another day, in which the same music was equalized and played long enough for the subjects to calm down and enter into the emotional experience of the music. The session was then interrupted and the subjects were exposed to typical, every-day, erratic influences in our lives (usually a typical, unevenly-running auto or a public establishment such as a busy, keyed up restaurant that uses bad background music). After returning to the listening room it was always noticed that:
1) the equalization that was necessary for the music to sound natural had changed, and
2) although the subjects heard the notes, they could no longer perceive the expressive content of the music as before, if at all.
What the subjects did perceive expressively was always a falsification of the original, i.e., they usually experienced an entirely different expressive content (emotion) than they had experienced before when they were relaxed and had settled into the flow of the music. In other words, their relative sensitivity to the various frequencies (the equalization) had changed and their ability to register nuances had changed, i.e., the nuances were falsified in that they were less able to register the finer nuances. The period of time needed to get back to hearing correctly was always much longer than when they began listening after avoiding erratic influences. Often, particularly after riding in erratically-running automobiles, it was impossible to get back to the original quality of perception and some subjects could actually observe that their bodies continued to vibrate in the patterns of the auto (a generally difficult condition to perceive without a suitable steadily and evenly vibrating comparison, which the music provided for those people).
The erratic states noticed by our subjects were always experienced as unpleasant and particularly distressing because they had a reference object, the music, with which they could compare and evaluate their physical condition. The reason for their distress was that they were unable to hear and experience the qualities of the music which they knew well and longed for. This state of being is very difficult to comprehend. Few people have experienced it because a repeatable, natural sounding test-object upon which one can measure one's experiential reactions is new to the field of hearing.
Distinct states of nervousness and unease were experienced by our subjects that were clearly noticeable because the subjects had as a reference, the fine, calm state they had been in when first listening to the music and could thus notice the difference. Without the music as reference, they would have more difficulty noticing those unpleasant physical states and would not have realized their cause. That is, of course, the reason why the effects of erratic vibrational influences are not noticed as such. During these periods of unease, none of the subjects felt capable of performing demanding, concentrated, physical work of a fine or delicate nature. Some were asked to attempt simple, but demanding physical work, such as sewing, drawing, etc. All subjects found their ability to do fine work was impaired, and one artist has sketches that actually show the erratic rhythmic patterns of his movements after riding in a car that ran unevenly.
Our tests have shown that exposure to erratically vibrating influences degrades and even destroys one's ability to reproduce, perceive, and experience the experiential aspects of sound. Some examples of influences that strongly affect our hearing are badly running autos, the vibrating of erratic machines, badly played music (especially music with less than impeccable rhythmic quality), erratic noise, and very particularly, other people who are agitated, upset, or otherwise more keyed up than the subject. Of all machines, human beings have the greatest potential for truly erratic, uneven vibrational characteristics: because human beings can act according to conscious decision, they have the capability of moving and acting in erratic patterns that are truly irregular and not in relation to the rhythms of their surroundings. Even if one were to attempt to program a machine to function unevenly, or if a machine develops a fault that makes it seemingly vibrate erratically, there is always a distinct, overriding pattern to the irregularity that is determined by the characteristics of the machine, of the fault, and the force driving it. But, with a human being, conscious action and the time-lag necessary to put the impulse to act into motion allows a possibility of true irregularity of rhythm (i.e., with no repeating patterns) that is impossible elsewhere in the perceivable universe. Thus, human beings have the potential of being the most erratic of all known machines and quite often they are.
The quality of our subjects' voices and their ability to control their voices were also affected by erratic vibrational influences. Everyone noticed some difference in their voices, but those trained in voice production clearly noticed that the resonances of the voice changed markedly, the voice did not "speak" with the same resonant freedom and fullness, and the quality of nuance they were able to achieve with their voices was distinctly and frustratingly coarser.
The results of our tests indicate that:
1) our hearing, i.e., the physical registering and noticing of sounds, is affected by the quality of the vibrational influences around us;
2) our voice is affected by, and reflects the characteristics of, the quality of the vibrational influences around us;
3) since both the vocal production of sound and the process of hearing sound involves and is determined by the whole body, it follows that our bodies and all the functioning organs in our bodies, are affected by the vibrational influences on us;
4) in relation to the functioning organs of our bodies, the quality of the vibrating of each separate organ and the rhythmic interrelationships with which the organs function in relation to each other is affected by the quality of the vibrational influences around us .
The Anstendig Institute feels that these tests and their conclusions have bearing on many aspects of life from medical research and treatment to all artistic experience. Our findings show that the characteristics of the vibrations around us influence the way our bodies function and, in great measure, determine the most important qualities of our being: the manner, rhythms, and smoothness of our movements; our ability to concentrate undistractedly; some of our speech characteristics; how we hear; and our general feeling of well-being, for example. We are convinced that erratic influences on us play a role in many such new problems of society as the decline in precision and rise in the rate of defects in manufacturing (auto workers ride to work in their unevenly running cars and then have to sit down and do precision work), many of the odd physical states now plaguing society such as nervousness, mental diffusion and lack of the ability to concentrate, the decline in the quality of many of the performing arts, stress-reactions, and many social and criminal problems that arise from physical restlessness and unease. The Anstendig Institute feels that it is important for researchers to study the effects of erratic and non-erratic vibrations on our health and feeling of well-being, as well as on our physical and mental capacities, and that such research will lead to important answers to many as yet unexplained physical, mental, social, and technical problems that are currently troubling society.
1 See our paper "Hearing; The Informational and the Experiential.”
The Anstendig Institute is a non-profit, tax-exempt, research institute that was founded to investigate stress-producing vibrational influences in our lives and to pursue research in the fields of sight and sound; to provide material designed to help the public become aware of and understand stressful vibrational influences; to instruct the public in how to improve the quality of those influences in their lives; and to provide the research and explanations that are necessary for an understanding of how we see and hear.