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Julian Treasure: “I Wish You Sound Health”

I’ve just watched Julian Treasure’s presentation on TED.com called “Shh! Sound health in 8 steps”. He covers a lot of territory in just 7 minutes and 15 seconds. It’s rich material. He begins with a Hindu saying “Nada brahma,” one translation of which is, “The world is sound.” Well that captured me immediately of course. It is interesting to think that when we don’t like to look at something we can close our eyes or turn away. If we don’t like the taste of something we can stop eating it. If we don’t like the tactile feel of something we can stop touching it. But we can’t really ever stop hearing sound. Our ears don’t shut like our eyes. We are hearing even when sleeping. Julian claims that noise is becoming a major problem in the European Union. They are now correlating it to a 25% decline in health and quality of life. Even more frightening is it is resulting in death – noise kills 200,000 people per year in the European Union. That is shocking and then not shocking. I am noticing for myself that I am becoming increasingly impatient and irritated by unnecessary or excessive noise in my environment. It is invading my peace, my sense of calmness, and my sense of being connected to the world around me. I am noticing that it is not possible to find silence in the city. But I love the city.

It turns out one solution is seeking silence. By the way, this is not absolute silence as that is next to impossible to create. Even if you were deaf, your body would sense and become increasingly attuned to sound vibrations and be aware of sound. For a remarkable and stunning example of the body hearing sound see the TED.com presentation by world famous musician Evelyn Glennie. She just happens to be profoundly deaf. Watch and listen to the video here.  Evelyn Glennie: How to Listen

The more sensible and achievable solution is looking at the kinds of sound you have in your environment.

I’m happy to say one of those is music.
Another obvious one is  nature. He calls this WWB: Wind, water, birds — stochastic natural sounds composed of lots of individual random events. All of this is very healthy.

Another solution you see all around you is the practice of blocking out external noise with sound you like –  That’s your iPod with some earbuds or headphones. But this is fraught with all kinds of problems, the biggest being people are suffering from hearing loss due to playing music through their headphones too loudly. 16% of US youth are now suffering from hearing loss. Are we creating a generation of deaf people? See the video for some good recommendations on reducing the pitfalls of listening to headphones.

Those are some of the highlights and the best thing to do is watch and listen to the video right now (isn’t it interesting how when you suggest someone watch a video we talk about “watching” it but not “listening” to it)

Here is a list of eight things Julian Treasure suggests you can do to improve your sound health. The first 4 are passive and the last 4 require some action or intention on your part. Notice that an Under the Piano session provides both 3 and 4.

  1. Ultrasound: we’re very familiar with it from physical therapy. It’s also now being used to treat cancer.
  2. Lithotripsy – saving thousands of people a year from the scalpel by pulverizing stones with high-intensity sound.
  3. Sound healing is a wonderful modality. It’s been around for thousands of years. I do urge you to explore this. There are great things being done there, treating now autism, dementia and other conditions.
  4. Music, of course. Just listening to music is good for you, if it’s music that’s made with good intention, made with love, generally.…There are all sorts of types of music that are very healthy.
  5. Listen consciously …  It’s a whole new dimension to your life, and it’s wonderful to have that dimension.
  6. Get in touch with making some sound. Create sound. The voice is the instrument we all play, and yet how many of us are trained in using our voice?
  7. Get trained. Learn to sing. Learn to play an instrument. Musicians have bigger brains — it’s true.
  8. Take a stewarding role for the sound around us. Protect your ears? Yes, absolutely. Design soundscapes to be beautiful around you at home and at work. And let’s start to speak up when people are assailing us with the noise.

Julian Treasure also has another great presentation on TED.com called The 4 Ways Sound Affects Us.

For more information on booking an Under the Piano session visit http://www.UnderThePiano.ca

To attend the upcoming Amicus Music Duo concert, Beauty In the Beast, on October 21st visit  http://beautyinthebeast.eventbrite.com/

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Csilla Moffat October 1, 2010, 11:11 am

    You never cease to amaze me -thank you so much for all of this invaluable information. I agree that we are not able to get away from sound but we can train ourselves to sift out what is not pleasant to our ears or our sensibilities.

  • Craig October 1, 2010, 11:47 am

    Thanks for visiting Csilla. Since we last chatted I’ve had an enormous breakthrough in understanding and experiencing “why” I do what I do. I’d love to share with you about that some time. Or you can read my “About” page.
    Yes, we can train ourselves to sift out sound but another aspect Julian is pointing to is stewardship and demonstrating a love and appreciation for silence and bringing that conversation to the noisy world around us and inviting them to create more silence in the world. What would that be like. Living in a city that is quiet or has spaces that are quiet for that specific reason.

    I’m noticing when I go to coffee shops, the refrigeration units often make a huge amount of unpleasant noise. What would it be like if manufacturers of fridges took on making silent fridges? One example of something that can make a difference.

  • Sheila October 7, 2010, 5:49 pm


    I am excited to see the world tapping into the “noise” factor. Noise has always been a factor in my life as I have abnormillay acute hearing and often have felt frustrated by what I deem as noise pollution.

    Thank goodness for your wonderful music that brings peace and calm into the world.

    See you in November


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