To MP3 or Not to MP3? Sound Off
When I first started in this field, there were two mediums of playback-record albums (LPs) and cassettes. No, excuse me–there was another medium that went the way of the dinosaur in less time than you could say diplodocus, and that was the eight-track tape. But regardless, albums and cassettes were both analog. That was about 1980. Sometime towards the end of the 80s, digital recordings began to manifest–first as digital LPs and then as compact discs. The digital controversy in the sound healing community began about then: Were digital recordings as healing and therapeutic as analog recordings?
Some scientists and researchers tried to show that digital was indeed inferior and in fact was the opposite of healing. Digital technology improved. Records became dinosaurs. Cassettes soon disappeared from the scene. The point became moot; we became a digital world. It was either digital or nothing. Digital quality continued to improve. Then, a real bright spot in the sound world appeared–Super Audio–a medium that did not play back sounds sampled at a 44.1K (approximately 22,000 Hz). The reason for this sampling rate chosen for CDs was that since humans can not hear above this 22,000 Hz, any material above this rate was deemed irrelevant (though some speculate that there is important sonic information that we can perceive with our nervous system and energy field that is well above 22,000 Hz.). Super Audio was able to sample music at 64 times the rate of CDs. The implications were astounding for not only listening, but for healing. All those frequencies–the ones we couldn’t hear, but perhaps contained powerful and sacred energy–were present again.
Super Audio required its own playback unit and somehow, it never caught on. While it still exists as a medium for both recording and playback, its presence is negligible. Those who have heard it, know its power. But most never will. Enter the mp3. We are now in the age of “convenient sound,” where wallet size playback units that contain nearly all the music in the world are available. And who wouldn’t want that?
An mp3 file is compressed sound, which is the main reason why you can fit so much music in such a small system as an iPod. Mp3 files are about 1/10 the size of a CD file and achieves this through by reducing the accuracy of certain parts of sound that are deemed beyond the auditory resolution ability of most people. It seems our brains fill in the missing parts in terms of the sound.
It’s an auditory illusion, since the sound isn’t actually there, but most people don’t seem to care. It’s convenient and it’s easy. The question is: Do these parts of sound that are reduced in mp3 files contains important aspects of sound that may have great relevance in terms of the healing and transformational ability of sound? Or does the convenience of being able to access so many different varieties of therapeutic and transformational music outweigh the lower quality of the sound?
Are iPods hazardous to our sound health? Should we celebrate the easy access to the variety of worldly sounds available as mp3 downloads? Does the size of the frequency spectrum matter? Or is there something more that makes sound healing? I’d like to hear from you with regard to your thoughts on this subject.
Jonathan Goldman is an international authority on sound healing and a pioneer in the field of harmonics. He is author of Healing Sounds, Shifting Frequencies, Tantra of Sound (co-authored with his wife Andi), winner of the 2006 Visionary Award for “Best Alternative Health Book” and his latest The 7 Secrets of Sound Healing. He is director of the Sound Healers Association and president of Spirit Music Inc. in Boulder, Colo. Learn more at www.healingsounds.com or
By Jonathan Goldman, Healing Sounds