Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Magic of Sound: Produced, Engineered & Mixed

Whether you believe that the universe was started by a big bang or created by the voice of God saying, "Let there be light," I think we can all agree that sound was one of the very first things in history. The sound that emanated from setting the speed of light and bringing the elements forth out of nothing had to have been massive. Will scientists catch up to it as they go deeper and deeper to the outer edges of space and hear that sound still ringing in the rafters of the cosmos? Someone with more knowledge than I would have to answer that question.

Ever since that first sound, other sounds have been used for one reason or another. Our ancestors learned that a certain grunt or yell produced an effect on the people around them, and language was born. Music came on the scene when people learned to hit rocks or tree limbs and behold, it was pleasant! It soothed their emotions and communicated in ways they could not. Sound drew them together as a people, brought progress, and even empowered shamans. Humans have always sought for power through sound, whether by an "abracadabra" or the sound of a gong.

Sound is vibrations in the form of waves at certain speeds or frequencies that can be heard if in the range of our auditory faculties or perhaps felt if it is not. Elephants produce a low frequency sound that can be felt in the chest but not heard. My son's car stereo produces a thump-thump that can sometimes be felt as a "pain in the rear!" Sound waves can shatter glass or show us what our babies look like in the womb. Sound is a powerful tool, and because all matter is energy comprised of vibrations at the atomic level, sound vibrations can affect matter, whether harmoniously or chaotically. No wonder that we have always looked for ways to use sound.

We are even using sound as weapons. The new generation of weapons are non-lethal acoustic weapons that use high-decibel noise to cause pain or infrasound to cause unbearable nausea. Sickening sound is no stranger to the citizens of Kokomo, Indiana, where what has come to be called the "Kokomo Hum" has caused some residents to flee.

Throughout history, sound has been produced for specific effects, such as the sound of bells, gongs, and chimes. Feng Shui teaches that the way to increase chi is to hang wind chimes in entryways. Chinese fireworks were also exploded at certain times in an attempt to maintain the flow of chi. Shamans used strange sounds or special words in rituals. Drums were a well-used instrument of power with their driving beat. Aborigines in Australia played special sounds within the didgeradoo's drone to call their warriors to battle or to send other secret messages.

Music is a pleasant sound of choice for most people. It has been used in worship, to affect moods, and to enchant from the beginning of time. The Bible documents David playing the harp and singing to lift the depression of King Saul.

Today, every cruise boat going down the Rhine River plays the Lorelei song as they negotiate the bend at the Lorelei rock. Lorelei was a mermaid that legend says sat, combing her blonde hair and singing her siren song, on top of the cliff. She was said to lure unsuspecting river boatmen to their deaths on the rocks below.

Since the end of the 18th century, a lot of research has gone into the effects of music in healing. Music has literally played a part in healing ceremonies since antiquity.

For the past 300 years, musicians have used what is called the "equal tempered tuning scale," but it has not always been so. The ancients used just-intonation where chords and intervals were produced in their purity or exact mathematical ratio. Mozart and others composed in just-intonation. Many have lamented the departure from pure tuning. Read about the history of tuning at Historic Music Tuning Problem, Just Intonation.

As I write this article, I'm listening to a CD entitled, "Delusion of the Fury" by Harry Partch (1901-1974). Harry Partch was a pioneer in the creation of music on instruments of his own design that were capable of playing notes in a 43-tone scale using just-intonation. He built such instruments as the Chromelodeon and the Quadrangalis Reversum. Upon first hearing his music, one might think that the elephants of Thailand were playing it. However, once you listen for awhile, you realize something important about it. It can be felt in your physical body in such a way that modern music is not.

The sound of the church bell is one of the most recognizable sounds in the western world. Since temples and cathedrals are built over known energy vortices, some believe that the buildings transmit sound vibrations from the bells, sacred songs and chants along these energy lines and may have a positive effect on the magnetic field surrounding the earth.

The German philosopher, Goethe, once said, "Sacred architecture is frozen music." One Japanese group has been studying the mystical symbols carved into the cubes of the stone ceiling in Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland. It is thought the cubes are part of a musical notation system that recorded a melody of great spiritual significance.

Plato instructed his students to activate these ancient buildings by maintaining what was known as perpetual choirs which sang and chanted sacred songs continuously twenty-four hours a day according to times and seasons. Ancient Great Britain had perpetual choirs as well located in Glastonbury, Stonehenge and Llantwit Major in Wales. China had a perpetual orchestra whose purpose was to energize the energy grid. These perpetual sounds were thought to ward off evil and disasters and transmit spiritual power throughout the land.

In an article written by Dr. Karen Ralls entitled "The Spiritual Dimension of Music," she discusses examples of music from the Celtic Underworld and writes that fairy harpers, the songs of mermaids, the power of the saint's bell, the singing of angels in Heaven, and musical trees were said to produce powerful effects in Celtic tradition. Read this fascinating article at Ancient Quest.

What might the ancients have known about sound? In Paul Devereaux's "Places of Power, Measuring the Secret Energy of Ancient Sites," he documents his research into the phenomenon surrounding ancient stone circles. Part of his study is an investigation of the testimony about audible sound heard coming from standing stones at certain times such as dawn. He notes that writers in antiquity documented these sounds including sounds emanating from statues used as oracles.

Perhaps another reason that sound affects us is because our cosmos may be one grand melody. While Pythagoras discovered the mathematical basis of musical harmony, Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) took this a step further and found that planetary movements correspond mathematically to musical tones which he believed sounded a continuous celestial song.

How receptive are physical things to sound? In his book, "Messages From Water," Dr. Masaru Emoto shows us photographs of water crystals after they are frozen. He first subjects the water to various types of human emotions or music. Then he freezes it and photographs the frozen crystals. He has found that water that has experienced beautiful music or positive words and sounds undergoes a molecular change into harmonious geometrical forms when frozen. The molecular change from negative words or chaotic music results in ugly crystals. Thus, he has proven what he calls "Hado," meaning "wave" or "move," and that our daily language literally moves physical matter whether positively or negatively.

Perhaps a lost chord or words of power are "out there" somewhere, the missing sound in the great symphony of life, once played or once said, but now forgotten. However, I suspect we'll need to start searching for that great powerful sound much closer to home. In the Bible, James says, "If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man."

Happy Hado to you!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Who put the "Hob" in Hobgoblin?

Sometime ago, I took an unofficial poll of the members of a discussion group that I belonged to as to how many believed in the bogeyman as a child. The majority not only believed in the bogeyman but also had fear of him instilled into them as a form of control. Some bogeyman memories were quite cruel as well.

As a child, I not only had the fear of the bogeyman to contend with, but also I had monsters of my own invention. The most feared were the "Grabhanders," cold, ugly disembodied hands, which I was certain lurked around the sides of my bed at night. I believed the hands could grab my exposed feet, hands or other body parts not under the protection of the bed covers. I did not even want to think about what the hands might do after they grabbed me, so no matter how hot and sweaty I became, I always kept myself under those covers.

My beliefs were quite typical of all who have believed in invisible beings. Every race and group of people in history have believed in different kinds of them and kept those beliefs alive through their children. Passing them from generation to generation is what gave them power over us, and only in more recent times have we begun to come out from under those fears. The beliefs evolved into particular, almost real, characters with names, special attributes, and purposes. Allow me to present this brief list of some of those invisible beings from history:

Bogeyman - vague in appearance, shapechanger, usually a malevolent creature, although some are harmless. Bogeymen have no distinct habitat and can appear out of nowhere. They usually haunt families but have been known to become a friend and playmate for children. Bogeymen might have come from the word "bugis" which were pirates from Indonesia and Malaysia. Sailors told their children that if they were bad, the bugismen would come and get them. Over time, "bugis" became "bogey."

Fairy - probably a combination of the words "fae," friend and "eire," green, meaning "green friend." A fairy's appearance can be beautiful. They are said to bestow gifts upon newborn children. They can only be seen clearly by animals unless they use what is known as "glamour," which is the name of their power, to enable humans to see them. The Fairy Folk of Ireland are the Daoine Sidhe whom legend says were members of the Tuatha de Denann that decided to stay in Ireland after they were defeated by the Milesians. Their name means "people of the mounds" where they are said to live.

Other names for fairies include: Hag, a fairy from the British Isles. She's the personification of winter during which she is old and ugly, but she becomes younger and beautiful when the seasons change. Sprite, a creature around water and found only in serene and cool places. Their job is to change the colors of a tree's leaves in Autumn. Bean Sidhe or Banshee, woman of the hills. She foretells death by wailing. The phrase, screamed "like a banshee," comes from this legend. She is said to have long hair and be dressed in a gray cloak.

Elf, a supernatural being shaped as a human, either beautiful or ugly, and worshipped in trees, mountains and waterfalls. Names of some elves include: Fir Darrig, malevolent elf who plays tricks; Ghillie Dhu, Scottish elf who lives in birches; Urisk, Scottish elf who lives in remote pools and rivers; Apicilnic, knee-high "little people" whose presence is an omen of danger and who also steal children; Hedley Kow, shapechanging elf who played naughty tricks; and Mazikeen, winged elf-like beings.

Brownie, brown elves who live in farmhouses and other country dwellings in Scotland. Protective creatures that become attached to families. Children can see them. While their human family is asleep, they perform various labors for them.

Gnome, small creature that dwells under the earth, guarding treasures. Related to goblins and dwarves. They cannot stand the light of the sun, which turns them to stone.

Goblin/Hobgoblin, a grotesque variety of gnomes. Mostly playful yet can be evil and seriously harm people. Originated in France. Usually live in mossy clefts of rocks and roots of ancient trees. "Hobgoblin" is believed to be an abbreviation of "Robin Goblin," the name Druids gave to the first goblins when they entered Britain.

Leprechaun, small sprites believed to bring good luck and fortune. These are known as fairy cobblers because they make shoes for elves but not a pair of shoes, only one. Their name comes from "leith brogan," or maker of one shoe. Legend says they possess a pot of gold. A human may obtain it if they capture a Leprechaun. But capture is extremely difficult, and the captor may not take his eyes off of him for an instant lest he vanish.

Dwarf, small humanoids, half the size of a man. Skillful with their hands, they made beautiful and magical objects including Thor's hammer and Odin's magical ring. They live in caves, holes in the ground, and hollow trees. Can be hostile.

Heinzelmannchen, a friendly German dwarf or elf.

Ogre, large creatures who eat human flesh.

Troll, ugly creatures who live in caves and hunt after dark. Particularly fond of human flesh. Enemies of mankind.

Phynnodderee, a combination of the Scandinavian troll, the Scottish brownie and the Irish leprechaun. Drives sheep home and helps in the harvest if a storm is brewing.

Pixie, little people who are said to live in the downs and moors of Cornwall, England. Playful and like to steal horses and ponies and ride them at night.

Nymph/Satyr/Faun Nymphs are female spirits of nature represented as young maidens who rule over different parts of nature: forests; springs and rivers; ocean and sea; mountains; meadows; lakes; marshes and swamps; and valleys. The male counterpart of the nymph is the satyr (half human in the upper body and half beast in the lower, usually goat). The Italian version of the satyr is the faun.

Centaur, a creature with a human torso and head and the body of a horse. A follower of the wine god, Dionysus. Known for drunkenness and carrying off young maidens.

Green Man, pagan deity of the woodlands of Britain and Europe. Represents spirits of trees, plants and foliage.

I hope this list helps to explain the differences in these mythical beings. When my children were born, I decided that I would start a tradition of making sure they understood that all of the above (including Santa Claus and my own Grabhanders) were in the pretend world of make believe, although Hollywood can make them seem very real. It is a terrible thing to control a child with fear.


Encyclopedia Mythica

Heinzelmannchen by Definition by Ginger Gehres

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Candle Mystique

One day, while lighting a candle at work that we were using to provide fragrance for the Holiday Season, I stared with amazement at the curious invention that was now burning brightly before me. Who might it have been that came up with the idea for a candle? How do candles burn almost miraculously for such a long time without being consumed? I decided to investigate this beautiful, fragrant, and mysterious curiosity.

The name candle comes from the Latin candere meaning "to shine." Actually, very little is known about the origin of them. No one person is credited with their invention. Early Egyptians used "rushlights," which were torches made from reeds, peeled except on one side, with the pith soaked in molten tallow. Tallow comes from rendered cattle, horse or sheep fat. Historians credit the Romans with developing the wick candle.

How does a wick candle work? The wick is made of an absorbent material. The wick itself only burns long enough to melt the wax around it. It then absorbs the melted wax and pulls it upwards. The heat of the flame vaporizes the wax and it is the wax vapor that burns from that point on, not the wick. The vaporizing wax cools the wick and keeps it from being consumed by the fire. This process only requires a small amount of wax on the wick to keep the fire burning. The length and quality of burning depends upon the quality of the wax.

Getting the wax right was the heart of the matter down through history. Tallow worked for candles, but the acrid smell was unpleasant and it smoked. During the Middle Ages, beeswax began to be used. Beeswax candles burned clean but were so expensive only the wealthy could buy them.

Colonial Americans boiled the berries of bayberry bushes to produce a fragrant wax, but this was not practical because of the large quantity of berries required. Native Americans burned an oily fish called a "candlefish," in which they placed a wick. The candlefish was stuck on a stick.

Then in the 18th century, sperm whale oil began to be used. The first standardized candles were made from spermaceti wax. This substance was used until paraffin wax began to be produced from oil and coal shale in 1850. The discovery of the elements of tallow by Michel Eugene Chevreul led to the development of stearic acid, which was added to paraffin to make it hard and durable.

The actual development of the candle over the centuries seems quite ordinary in comparison to the reputation the candle has acquired. Not only were they the first light source mankind had, but candles also seem to radiate a message. I would venture to say that no one lights a candle without feeling something of its mystique, whether it be simply to illuminate the darkness or to promote romance or spirituality or soften one's mood. That solitary flame can stand for hope, enduring love or comfort. Magical qualities are also ascribed to candles. Wishes are made over them on birthday cakes, and they are also used for healing purposes in aromatherapy or to focus energy upon various purposes in what is known as "candle magick."

The word ceremony comes from the Latin cemonius, meaning "the person who carries a wax candle at public rituals." Due to the fact that candles were popular in various traditions and pagan worship, the early Christian church forbade the use of them in services until the third century when candles became an integral part of church ritual. Most of us have heard the phrase, "bell, book and candle." This was a church ceremony of excommunication wherein the priest rang a bell to symbolize the death toll of the person being excommunicated. Then the holy book on the altar was shut and candles were blown out to indicate casting the person out of the presence of God.

The use of particularly small candles became so common in the church that they derive their name from their usage. The name "votive" comes from the Latin "votum" meaning prayer, desire, promise or vow.

Candles are unique in that although most of us no longer need them for the purpose they were invented, we continue to use them simply because of their mystique. The candle means more to us than mere wick, wax and flame.

For more information:

Candles, Candles & More