Saturday, September 13, 2003

It's the pipes!

Another find via the Christianity Today weblog (scroll way down): "Organ music 'instils religious feelings,'" from the BBC by Jonathan Amos.
[I]n a controlled experiment in which infrasound [a frequency lower than 20 Hertz] was pumped into a concert hall, UK scientists found they could instil strange feelings in the audience at will.

These included an extreme sense of sorrow, coldness, anxiety and even shivers down the spine. . . .

"It has been suggested that because some organ pipes in churches and cathedrals produce infrasound this could lead to people having weird experiences which they attribute to God," said Professor Richard Wiseman, a psychologist from University of Hertfordshire.
In college we were cautioned from practicing with the 32' stops out for the pedals because of damage too much exposure to such low frequencies could cause to hearing.

Maybe "infrasound" is part of the explanation why I loved practicing in the evenings in the empty 2,000-seat chapel, with only the organ light on and the fading evening light coming through the stained glass windows.

Edit 9/18/03: Via Path to Freedom another article, from the CS Monitor: "Eerie feeling? Maybe you're just hearing things," by Robert C. Cowen.
[T]he infrasound power radiated by the strongest atmospheric storms is estimated to be equivalent to the electric power consumed by a city with 100,000 population. . . . There's even an infrasound background called "the voice of the sea" that probably is generated by ocean waves in storms around the world.

Drs. Bedard and Georges [in a Physics Today article] also point out that winds blowing over mountain ranges can generate infrasounds that last for days. They speculate that increases in suicides reported from the Alps and the western United States "may be due to some as yet unknown biological response" to such infrasound events.

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