Although research continues, science still cannot explain how and why people react to sounds.  In Canada, R. Murray Schafer started the Soundscape Project in the 1970s.  This laid the groundwork for showing how sounds in the environment and space around the listeners affect people.  Barry Truax summarized the latest developments in his Handbook for Acoustic Ecology (http://www.sfu.ca/sonic-studio-webdev/handbook/index.html).

This field has produced several disciplines.  Psychoacoustics studies how we perceive sound, including how we listen.  It also examines our psychological responses and how music affects the human nervous system.  Researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute (http://daniellevitin.com/levitinlab/articles/2013-TICS_1180) have documented how human beings react to resonance (combined vibrations).  This includes entrainment.  One example is the almost involuntary motor response of tapping a foot to a rhythmic pattern.  Entrainment can, in fact, change brain waves, heart rates and breathing patterns (http://www.incrediblehorizons.com/psychoacoustics.html).  Researchers say music might directly affect our health.

Once again, as scientists reach the top of this mountain, to their surprise they might find that Indigenous people are already on the other side.  Indigenous communities have long known that musical sounds are therapeutic and can heal sickness.  Shamans, both male and female, use rattles, drums and songs to restore healthy physical rhythms.

Skilled Indigenous instrument makers work intimately with natural sounds that affect the listeners.  Over generations, Indigenous people have come to favour special tonal qualities.  Traditional crafters, therefore, have always used local materials to create instruments that bring out preferred pitches and timbres.

As this chapter has shown, science and Indigenous cultures explore the same world.  But, some differences exist.  For example, Indigenous people have developed their knowledge over many thousands of years.  Science, in comparison, is still in its youth.  Yet, the future could be bright.  Who knows what humanity will achieve if, in mutual honour, these two great worldviews discover, more and more, a Universe in which they share the same spirit.  Pure knowledge, cooperation and respect could it be humanity’s next step?

©2023 This project was made possible with the support of the Department of Canadian Heritage through Canadian Culture Online