Perception of Noise and Music
We've often wondered why people have creative or meditative reactions to the "Tuned environments" we make as sound installations. From the first time we discovered it in Rome, all the various arguments stopped the instant we plugged in the "Traffic Mantra" and the social athmosphere became almost instantly harmonious. Visitors speak of meditative state, and healing, and wanting to write poems, and hearing traffic as "the ocean", and stress levels generally fall. The sonic atmosphere tends to color the perception of the emotional landscape of any given site. But why is this?  

Listening to a program on NPR on MUSIC THERAPY I found several interesting clues which might have important implications. The harmonically tuned traffic noise may be perceived by a different part of the brain than the dissonant noise of untreated traffic. If this is so in may mean the human physiology responds differently to this tuned sound as well.

Oliver Sachs- "well there seem to be a good many different areas [in the brain] dedicated to music: some of them dedicated to music, some dedicated to the perception of pitch, some to the perception of rhythm, some to the perception of dissonance- in general music perception, because it has such a widespread basis is very robust, and people who have damaged their brain can still be communicated through music, its robust."

 

Click here to hear the show on NPR's website via Real Audio. Go down the page to the button that says MUSIC THERAPY.

Oliver Sach statement is at 5:28