In our last blog we took a look at the origins of Human music and how greater levels of consciousness lead us to examine music for answers to questions about the universe we are part of and the nature of the divine. When great minds first asked these questions much of the math was in place to guess answers, but humanity lacked the technology needed to verify. Now, with modern technology, we’re going to take a look at what previous minds got right, what we have learned today and travel forwards in time to see what the future might hold.
In this blog we’ll reach some concluding thoughts on our initial questions: What is it about music that speaks to people on a universal level? We’ll also answer new questions that emerge on our journey into possible futures. So buckle up & lets go!
Music of the Spheres
Pythagorus and many others since believed the heavenly bodies emitted music, that the sun, stars & planets all made beautiful notes which we can’t hear. Of course we know now that all matter produces sound, audible or not and the celestial is no different. The difficulty is reading them. Sound waves don’t travel in vacuums, but other energy waves outside of audible frequencies do, including cosmic microwave background radiation, X Rays and Pulsars. By scaling up (or down) the energy waves emitted by planets (some times several tens of thousands of times) we can sonifiy them to produce audible sound.
This often has incredible results: Venus has a particularly powerful and beautiful resonance whilst the aurora of Saturn has a hair raising sound akin to the forlorn and haunting cries of a thousand Valkyries. The sounds of a pulsar are of particular interest for their perfect rhythm, they’re actually as accurate in their timing as an atomic clock making them the ideal metronome for our universal orchestra. Using some (a lot of) creative license, Mickey Hart, the drummer of LSD icons ‘The Grateful Dead’ has even created an album incorporating captured solar sounds entitled ‘Mysterium Tremendum’.
Pythagorus might have been right about the sounds made by celestial bodies and there certainly is a beauty to some of these waves, though it is often more dissonant and chilling than the sort of heavenly & orderly beauty he, and later proponents, had imagined. The reason for this could be our own disconnect from the kind of harsh realities of the universe. The human ear perhaps should be prepared to hide from the brilliance of Jupiter, or expect the dissonance and chaos that comes with Saturn if their name sakes are anything to go by! There could be another explanation for this apparent lack of appealing beauty in the solar system either: the methods of capturing and translating the audio aren’t as accurate as they could be yet; or that it’s simply a matter of time until the universe achieves its harmonious note or runs out of energy and reaches silence instead. It might also be our tendency towards increasing chaos..
Arranging the Orchestra
To understand how time might effect the blissful resonance of the universe that philosophers imagined, we can examine the phenomenon of ‘Spontaneous Self-Organisation’ and in particular that of ‘Self Organisational Fractal Theory’. If the latter is to be believed, then the universe isn’t sounding beautiful to us because it isn’t in harmony at this moment in time, but rather is somewhere on its journey away from or towards universal harmony. This is complex and I will try to explain it simply and to the best of my abilities. I may well be grasping at straws here that are yet out of my reach.. gulp.
Spontaneous self-organisation is an observable phenomenon whereby seemingly complicated constituent parts achieve a state of equilibrium, seemingly without any external intervention. What is more, the tendency of what is achieved is usually towards greater complexity and larger energy, often providing an end result that is more than the sum of its parts. Examples appear on all scales from the elemental particle level to the solar system, galaxy and even universe’s organisation. It also appears in biological and social nature, for example single celled organisms behave according to this principle and the human body ultimately is nothing more than the spontaneous self organisation of around 40 trillion cells and 40 trillion bacterium. Ant colonies or the organisation of our own social structures point to its occurrence in behaviour too where the sum of millions of individuals results in a complex structure that could not be consciously replicated by individuals alone. No one individual really understands how their society functions in its whole.
‘Self Organisational Fractal Theory’ takes things a step further and provides a hypothesis that would perhaps explain why we don’t have these harmonious notes yet and why we ourselves are also in a state of flux. Quoting from a key paper by Alexei Kurakin entitles ‘The self-organising fractal theory as a universal discovery method - “..is based on an alternative conceptualisation of physical reality postulating that the energy/matter comprising the Universe is far from equilibrium, that it exists as a flow, and that it develops via self-organisation in accordance with the empirical laws of non-equilibrium thermodynamics. It is postulated that the energy/matter flowing through and comprising the Universe evolves as a multiscale, self-similar structure-process, i.e., as a self-organising fractal”
In short, this is the idea that all process of organisation are scale-invariant (universal in all structures at all scales) and spontaneous. Life is governed by these exact same rules & this theory goes as far to suggest that life is in fact a state of organisation of non living matter. We could go further too and say as is thought and the behaviours of our species. This rule would certainly apply to sound too as a universal and as a reflection of matter, with all matter having its own resonant frequency.
One key feature of non-equilibrium thermodynamics is that entropy increases over time, which might explain the amount of audio chaos that currently exists when we attempt to sonify celestial bodies. A great arranging of an ever growing, every more complex orchestra is currently making something of a racket and yet to fall in line with the conductor or, perhaps, the universe is a lot more like Jazz than Pythagoras’ perfect notes.
Resonating with the Divine
What ties an opera singer & the detection of sub atomic particles? Resonance! A trained singer is capable of breaking glass, something you’re no doubt familiar with, but how they do it is amazing. By matching the precise resonant frequency of the glass with a sustained note, the amplitude of the motion within the glass (it’s oscillation) is increased continually to the point where the force causes the glass to shatter, usually at a weak point or flaw in the glass. Here we have a human being able to destroy, not the nature of the matter, but a physical structure, by generating sounds and this has been explored much further by Science. Don’t worry though, there doesn’t seem to be a frequency at which your head can explode, though vibrations at the human resonant frequency can cause nausea and discomfort!
It turns out, particles can also be detected as resonance. In 1925 Erwin Schrödinger modelled a hydrogen atom which functioned via oscillating waves at a set of natural frequencies with each representing a possible state of the electron orbiting the atom. He did this by using equations very similar to the kind that govern those of wind instruments. Music & Math here lead us to being able to begin to understand the nature of all matter & energy in the universe.
Even light, an electro magnetic energy behaves in this way, a particle called a photon is allocated to light in the quantum model and it too can be detected. Whats more is it appears that electrons use these photons to change their state. Light causes the electrons to vibrate in a higher state.
So all matter, all things, seem to be a buzz of sound & light to us, perhaps all of life, truly is a stage and we are perhaps not just orchestra players, but an Opera. In reality it is radio waves & light waves from the electro magnetic spectrum reacting with physical matter creating these effects. The effects are transmissible in a vacuum, but only with matter do they create the phenomenon we witness. In fact, in the absence of electromagnetic energy, matter may not exist at all, or exist in a state of potential & probability.
To help visualise this, we can think of Schrödinger’s famous theoretical cat. A cat placed in a vacuum (assume it’s fine there) with something that could kill it, and no method of witness to its state exists in two potential states of both alive & dead until it is witnessed. Our cat is representative of all matter in the absence of the electromagnetic energy. All matter exists in a state of non existence and existence: a state of potential awaiting this energy.
This energy is perhaps what we might call theologically ‘the creator’, the life giver, the divine energy, the Tao, ‘God’ or the amalgamation of fate and other forces that sit above human gods in many pagan traditions. Or it's simply an absurd, chaotic universe. For me I fail to see how absurdity and chaos, if it is absurd & chaotic, is anything other than a characteristic of the divine, not too indistinguishable from personifications of this in various cultural mythologies. The anthropomorphic chaos in Loki is an obvious example for readers.
So, its all vibrations man??
“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency & vibration”
- Nikola Tesla
In short, yes. It appears that our physical existence may have began as a result of, and is somewhat dependent on, the animation of electrons via vibrations caused by electromagnetic energy. Perhaps ancients imagining Thunderous sky deities giving life to man or fertilising the earth were on to something there, outlining a link I commonly point out between early religion as the first guise of Science through observation of nature.
Detecting tiny resonances has enabled us to discover subatomic particles & energy signatures. Our journey has enabled us to transmit radio signals to devices capable of replicating sound perfectly despite its original occurrence being miles away, even off planet. A remarkably under appreciated achievement taken for granted by many ignorant minds today.
Whats more, it seems that even the nature of our own consciousness may be related to this same vibrational phenomenon. Our consciousness can be witnessed as an electrical synchrony of gamma, beta and theta waves; part of the same spectrum we looked at earlier! But how does this come about? The Resonance Theory of Consciousness attempts to solve ‘the easy part of the hard problem’ of consciousness using physics & neuroscience.
The ‘easy’ part (and really there is a degree of humour with the use of the word!) is determining an evidence based hypothesis as to the mechanisms by which consciousness occurs.
A recent paper put forward by Hunt & Schooler in 2019 aims to build on earlier works of the 90’s in doing just that. They highlight that: All things resonate in some manner; that it is common for things in close proximity to start resonating at the same frequency; that all things show at least some degree of subjectivity or consciousness (panpsychism); achieving a shared resonance is what leads micro-conscious entities to combine into macro-conscious entities, often with a phase transition in the speed of information sharing resulting from that shared resonance.
To put this as simply as I may, this is the idea that consciousness is something that already exists universally in all things, at a rudimentary level and increases in its complexity as matter increases in its complexity via a process of synchronisation with resonance being the tool or symptom of this process. Our own consciousness then is a result of a process of synchronisation of increasingly complex matter via resonance.
This of course has some interesting implications. Perhaps all things have a degree of consciousness because the universe itself is conscious and is using a divine music, in the form of resonance to compose complex structures like ourselves to act as neurones and further the material complexity of the universe through our construction of elements and mastery of material sciences. Perhaps a singular universal entity flows through all existence, the same energy that burst out from the beginning of the universe, and started our great orchestral existence is comprehending itself through your eyes right now.
This is the ‘hard’ part of the question: determining philosophically or theologically what this means, if this is a soul independent from the physical matter of the body or simply a resort of physical processes with no implication of divine nature. This theory can be used to discount conceptions of gods in religious texts, or to suggest a probability of the existence of a ‘god’ of a different kind. This is something that will always be a question of faith, or the rejection thereof; even an atheist takes a position of faith in denouncing any spiritual implication.
In that regard, Taoism has the most scientifically verifiable view on ‘religion’ and for anyone interested in taking a look at how theology and evidence can find a common ground, is highly worth researching. It certainly isn’t at odds with the kind of thought that emerged in the pagan west, and like those philosophers, many Chinese thinkers of this school highly promote the value and importance of music in achieving synchronisation with the divine energy. It also ties in well with the Vedic tradition in India.
Are we at risk of losing our vibe?
If our very being is so strongly connected to vibrations, it’s perhaps unsurprising that alongside the internal mechanisms for our circadian rhythm, the brain is incredibly effective at encoding music. The same areas of the brain light up when listening to music as they do when we are having sex; it is emotional and it is gratifying. Music can give the brain a connection to emotion; to reality; to time and to other human beings.
This inbuilt ability means we are open to take advantage of sound to communicate and this seemingly universal ability to attach feeling to sound could pave the way for us to better listen to the world around us, but there might be a problem: too much junk noise.
A lot of the ‘junk noise’ we are exposed to is akin to the repeated dropping of a set of pans in regard to the jarring and disruptive nature of such noise. If it were to be a one off noise, we would jump at it or find it irritating or displeasing. But what about when it is inescapable? It becomes a constant and annoying background the brain filters out as well as it can, though this still seems to have an effect.
If our consciousness is indeed a result of synchronisation of resonant frequencies, it might make sense that a continual blasting of excessive noise at abrasive mixed frequencies might cause a reduction in consciousness. Perhaps it also contributes to a decline in the state of tissue health too by causing our complex, resonant structures to deteriorate..
A large Dementia study conducted in Denmark in 2017 reported a significant rise in Dementia cases where the participant was exposed to long term road traffic noise. Noise pollution in Europe is considered the second largest threat to public health after air pollution. I would argue that soil/food and water contamination should be second, but regardless around 25% of the population of Europe alone is exposed to noise pollution in excess of 55db.
On the opposite end of the spectrum silent meditation has been shown in a number of studies to be connected to a decline in dementia. This is likely part of a plethora of reasons that studied populations of Nuns & monks show a significant reduction in this disease (amongst other diseases) compared to the general population.
Sound, vibration & resonance alone isn’t responsible for the human experience, the electro magnetic waves make it possible as we discovered earlier. It turns out that those conductors of our orchestra are greatly disturbed by the use of screens, particularly in the first hour of waking. They cause disruption to the Theta, Beta & Gamma waves that create our consciousness, exhausting our potential for the day. Again, on the other end again, morning meditation or exercise is shown to improve cognitive function throughout the day.
Noise is one thing, but what about invasive music? Jingles, catchy ear-worm songs, shops or annoying neighbours all see us bombarded with music. Lets face it, these tend also to be unimaginative, repetitive and far from beautiful. Does that have an effect on us too? In short, yes. Excessive consumption of music effects our dopamine systems, damaging our ability to find motivation to complete tasks, to delay rewards and to concentrate. This contributes to a lazy consumer society without the mental energy to work hard on achieving our long term goals, to being healthy by avoiding short term gratification or to think about the big issues effecting humanity: in other words it contributes to a lower state of consciousness.
On the other end again, intentional listening to & creation of music has been linked to positive mental & neurological health! Another kind of meditation makes use of intentional vibrations like drum beats, chanting, and other instrumentation to meditate, though this isn’t studied and I’m limited to my remarks, I will see anecdotally that many find this beneficial and healing.
On this basis, we might want to learn to dial it all down, cut out the noise and find silence. From there we can learn to listen to our universe again & create from that position in the same kind of environments our ancestors did. But we’re only going forwards, not back, so let's look at where we might head!
Where can the future take us?
In all honesty, we’re up against it. The balance of probability is that this trend towards more chaotic noise & lower consciousness will continue, at least for the majority without intervention. BUT we are self aware human beings and capable of turning this around, moving instead to resonating in frequency with the divine(?) universe.
It’s not just monks that are pursuing this goal, but scientists too! If the technology that’s invented is used for the good of the people, in accordance with nature as opposed to being used for profit only goals, we might have a bright future ahead.
Building on success with music therapies, and therapies for those deprived of senses we are in the early stages of using vibrational technology to improve the input the brain can achieve through our senses. Haptics form a large part of this, aiming to use touch senses to translate vibrations into other senses. Most technology around haptics is focused at making computer-human interactions more realistic. For the most part that will make for more sensory bombardment in the Metaverse and other such future traps for the human consciousness. But there is a silver lining. If used responsibly this technology will help in improving surgical procedures; help to carry out remote operations, for example drone, submersible or space work that might be too dangerous or too small scale for an operator without the use of touch feedback. It could also help to provide sensory feedback to the deaf or blind (think digitised braille) or to restore touch to prosthetic limbs. But that’s only the easy things..
As we begin to understand changes in vibrations & frequencies outside of the audible range, it might be that haptics can be used to expand our ears, allowing us to feel sounds and vibrations outside of our range. We could for example develop early detection systems for incoming dangers; for awareness of noise going over a certain decibel; to feel changes in air quality that might put our heath at risk; for doctors to be able to scan their hands over a patient’s head and feel in their hands a change in resonance that might be an early indicator for dementia; or for simply improving our orientation and interaction with the world to be able to feel flows of energy: to feel the music of the divine universe.
Achieving such a future would require incredible computation to give us accurate sensory input. Recent breakthroughs in quantum computing & the first successful trial of quantum internet (which took place in the Netherlands earlier this year!) is seeing us well on the way to having the ability to communicate and compute instantly. Once we compute correctly how to read and calculate the world around us in vibrations it will be possible to gain accurate detection of all matter via the same universal rules of resonance, if we assume the theory discussed to be correct.
Of course it is possible to allow machines to wholly carry this future out, in the absence of our sensory involvement in reality, but where does that leave humanity? If our tools experience reality whilst we don’t? Plugged into the Metaverse with these technologies only used by humans for gratification and removal from true nature? This would be absurd! To make humanity redundant and stuck out on the side lines, allowing AI and a handful of gatekeepers to gain vastly superior knowledge and power is a real and present danger, as outlined very publicly by the likes of Elon Musk in recent years. It’s crucial as these technologies develop, they do so as tools for humanity and we remain in the driving seat, without destroying the ‘vibe’. Perhaps we must continue to be the conscious conductors of our world and use the detection of the universe to become in tune with it.
If we can become more in tune with vibrations, what will we achieve in the future? The ability to understand and incorporate the nature of all matter and energy by expanding our complex consciousness in tune with the resonance of the universe will remove all limits outside of natural laws.
Are we to rely solely on technology to tell us what we’re capable of feeling organically though? I think there could be tremendous benefits of having mathematically quantifiable answers so we can better communicate, but it shouldn’t be a substitute for our own intuition or for our own interpretation of the vibrations we feel. Humanity has arisen as part of this fascinating conscious order and we must continue to connect & observe it rather than continue on this reckless path of noise and over dependence on technology. It is the biological that is in tune with nature, we must not create inorganic racket that lowers our consciousness.
The future doesn’t have to be artificial and bleak, it can be biological and full of beautiful music, using technology only in accordance with this. To me it stands to reason that it must be organic matter that has followed this process of assembly through increasingly complex universal consciousness that hears the call of the universe and observes it through expansion of our minds. It can not be an external computer alone, how can the universe access such noise? It is us who must grow and observe, using technology only as a tool, not as a lazy solution whilst we entertain ourselves to death in an artificial reality masking a din of junk noise. We can instead choose to dance to an ancestral beat, a universal metronome as old as time itself and make our own compositions inspired by nature. We ought too, be making sure we’re not creating so much racket that we can’t hear the whispers of the divine.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this 2 part blog! It was certainly a lot to get through! As always, please remember that I am an amateur in this topic, simply aiming to inspire you to go on and learn more about things I find exciting! If you want to join the conversation, catch me on the Descended from Odin app!
As you can imagine, these articles require a lot of research and time to write, I contribute them freely in the hope of advancing human thought and communications and I am entirely reliant on the support of readers! If you’d like to buy me a coffee to support my writing and poor achey brain, it is greatly appreciated. I take mine black with a scoop of creatine!