Does music affect us? Sonora from the ground up.

Music therapy in Poland is a fledgling field of therapy. And although its action can be framed as a holistic approach to health, not many people connect the use of music with health-promoting purposes. Women who listen to relaxing music during childbirth can find out how helpful music is in reducing anxiety or improving concentration. Is music therapy likely to be a widely recognized method for maintaining health and well-being?

If you want to find out what kind of experience you can expect during a session in Sonora and what happens to you after such a session, I invite you to listen to the second #StorySonora podcast. In it, I explain what Sonora is and how it works. A great introduction that will help you understand the benefits of vibration massage and musical relaxation in Sonora.

Sonora from the ground up

My first association with the word Sonora is the word “sonore” which from French or Italian means “sound” and “burrow”, such as a fox burrow. So it could be translated as “sonorous burrow”. The full name, however, is “Sonora Sound Tube”, and here in fact the translation “Sound Tube” already comes to mind. So, the key words are: musical instrument, sound tube, sounding burrow or sound capsule – the last one comes to mind rather futuristically. If you have not seen Sonora live yet, I will try to describe its appearance so that you can imagine what it is all about.

It is a 2 meter long wooden tube on legs. This horn is nothing else but the resonance body of the instrument. Its diameter is less than 80 cm. This size of the tuba can easily accommodate an average sized person, because – it should be reminded – it is probably the only instrument in the world that you can enter! Inside the horn there is a bench which, thanks to an additional leg attached to the horn, slides outwards making it easier to enter the instrument. Once inside, you can lie down comfortably with your head on the cushion, cover yourself with a blanket and listen to the soothing sounds.

There are 56 strings stretched on the body of the instrument. They are all tuned to a sound frequency of 64 Hz (sixty-four hertz). This is the bass sound corresponding to the low C of the cello, in a tuning in which the “a” is equal to 432 Hz (four hundred and thirty-two hertz). I know this may sound totally wild to you, but I’m not going to explain this issue today because it’s a pretty broad topic. Tuning and the choice of frequency itself I want to devote a separate podcast because it is this issue that I am most often asked about in conversations, and it seems to be quite important in the context of the performance of the instrument itself.

The Sonora is played by gently rubbing the strings with your fingertips. The vibrated strings transmit the sound vibration to the rest of the tuba, and further through the bench to the body of the person lying inside. The vibration massages the entire body deeply, feeling the gentle, relaxing vibrations, especially in the areas of contact between the body and the bench, i.e. the heels, elbows, back, and hands. These vibrations continue to spread through tissues, muscles and bones, reaching almost every nook and cranny of the body. In addition to the bass sound, one can also hear aliquots, or components of the basic tone, which when amplified by the resonant body create subtle melodies. However, this is not music that can be played from sheet music, it does not resemble pieces in a traditional form, but rather improvisation based on some musical story that the player wants to tell the listener. The sound of the instrument is quite monotonous, bourdon-like, indigenous, somewhat reminiscent of a mix of ethnic instruments such as sitar or didgeridoo. Thanks to this constantly repeating melodic-rhythmic line you can enter a kind of trance, which allows your mind to drift away and move as if to another world, the world of your inner self. The simultaneous action of vibration and music means that a state of relaxation can be deepened, and in addition can be achieved much more quickly than with music or vibration alone.

Science on the influence of music

I would like to cite some scientific research conducted by Polish scientists from the Department of Music Therapy of Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń and Collegium Medicum in Bydgoszcz on relaxation of patients during physiotherapy treatments, which showed the positive effects of music used during physiotherapy treatments. The study was carried out on patients aged 18-70 years divided into two groups of 30 people – test and control. The groups were subjected to the same treatments, but in one group the music was played during the treatments, and in the other group it was not. Patients completed questionnaires that included questions about their music preferences and the role music plays in their lives, and they were also asked about their pain levels, emotions, and moods after the procedure. They also used the Illness Acceptance Scale, which was designed to assess their attitude towards their health condition and limitations resulting from the disease.

It turned out that the level of acceptance of one’s own health condition was higher among the subjects in the study group than among those in the control group. Additionally, the subjects felt more benefits from the physiotherapeutic treatments than did the control group. More than half, 53% of the study subjects showed improvement in their well-being when only 33% of the control group did. A similar result was recorded when evaluating the relaxation achieved by the patients. However, the greatest discrepancy between the groups was observed when asked about the appearance of more positive emotions after the treatment – in the study group it was 42% of the group size, while in the control group it was only 8%.

The conclusions that can be drawn from this study are that listening to music during physiotherapy treatments, but probably also during other treatments such as dental or surgical, positively affects the mood of people who undergo such treatments, positively influences the acceptance of their health condition and increases the level of perceived benefits from the treatments.

Conclusions, or: how does this relate to Sonora?

I quoted this study because when I came across it while looking for materials for my Master’s thesis, I somehow associated it with the argument that combining vibration therapy and music therapy – which is what happens in Sonora – is a good idea. What the creator of vibroacoustic therapy Olav Skille noticed already in 80’s, who combined vibration massage with listening to relaxing music. And frankly speaking, I can not imagine a massage without music. Massage in silence, and for that vibration massage would seem to me quite boring and unattractive. Music has great power here, but at the same time deprived of mechanical impact on body tissues is not able to lead to the same effects that are obtained by using vibrotherapy. And this has many benefits, about which I will also tell you later.

To sum up, music and vibration will support each other, strengthen the effect, deepen relaxation, broaden the spectrum of action. Also, being inside the instrument will make the experience more intense. The sounds will pass through your body and will not leave you unsettled. You will feel as if you are the sound.

Feel the power of sound!

Coming back to the experience of a sound massage in Sonora – I would like to tell you what happens to a person during such a relaxation session. First of all, it should be noted that music and vibration act on two levels: mental and physical, affecting vegetative functions of the body. Generally speaking, they induce a state of demobilization of the body, in other words a state of relaxation. While in a stressful situation there is a general mobilization of the body to perform some difficult task for us, in opposition to it will be just demobilization.

Characteristic of this state is:
– calming of breathing, deepening it, slowing it down and equalizing
– regulation of heart rate and blood pressure
– improvement of circulation, and as a result better oxygenation of the body
– better transport of the body’s cleansing products
– stimulation of the lymphatic system, i.e. better lymph circulation in the body
– Reduction of muscle tension and pain relief
– the appearance of alpha waves in the brain, which means that our brain enters a state of rest, characteristic of the relaxation state just before falling asleep or just after waking up

On the mental level, on the other hand, we have a relaxation of the mind and a slowing down of the rush of thoughts. This state is conducive to gaining insight into oneself, releasing emotions, achieving a kind of catharsis, or cleansing, and even reaching subconscious contents or the possibility of seeing the same things in a different light.

As you can see for yourself, there are many benefits of relaxation. There is a general regeneration and improvement of mood. One can say – the very good. Most people fall asleep sooner or later during such sessions. There are those who fall asleep after the first 5 minutes, but there are also those who need a little more time. I know of cases in which patients overwhelmed by excessive responsibilities or high stress need even several sessions to learn how to relax and enjoy this state.

Musical relaxation is a technique that has a wide range of applications in therapy, which I will talk about many times. In the near future I will also try to present those areas of therapeutic work where I see room for Sonora to show off.

User feedback

In conclusion, I am happy to share with you the results of the surveys I conducted on the occasion of two events among the participants of these events – namely, the Sonora relaxation concert held at the House of Sound in November 2018 and the demonstration sessions during the opening of our Sound Therapy and Massage Studio in January 2019, both of which took place in Poznan, Poland.

The participants, men and women between the ages of 25 and 65, voluntarily took part in a survey, and there were 15 participants in total. The survey included, among other things, questions about their impressions after the concert or individual session, the level of relaxation achieved on a scale of 1 to 10, and what they liked best and if there was anything they didn’t like, as well as about their feelings after the relaxation session.

All respondents rated their level of relaxation above 5, and most people indicated levels of 7, 8, and 10, which are quite high ratings. The average rating was 7.5. Interestingly, these high ratings appeared among those who participated in one-on-one sessions, i.e., those who had the opportunity to go inside the instrument. The overall impressions of the respondents were positive, described with the words:

“Amazing sensations, the session puts you in incredible bliss, gives you solace and great peace”.

“Excellent relaxation after a stressful day; I relaxed very quickly and felt harmony between body and mind”

“Interesting experience; Very enjoyable. Beautiful, peaceful sound, can be used perfectly for meditation.”

“It’s hard for me to relax – and at Sonora I managed; I felt taken care of; Uplifting atmosphere and warmth”.

The respondents had mixed opinions about their favorite element of relaxation. They pointed out: the atmosphere of intimacy, the individual approach to the client.; the contrasting sound of the Koshi bells, the pleasant vibration. Some liked the quieter moments of the game, while others liked the stronger and more intense ones, which shows the individual preferences of the clients.

During the show sessions, the respondents were satisfied and did not report that anything bothered them. During the concert, on the other hand, almost all respondents responded in unison that they were bothered by the shutter of the photographer’s camera that was taking pictures during the event, one person indicated that the music was too quiet, and another person indicated that it was chilly.

In contrast, respondents reported such feelings as “Calm, peaceful, relaxed, blissful; I feel much better than before. I feel relaxed and energized at the same time; I feel so light and just nice from inside; I love how the sound moves through my body. Relaxation. The headache is gone; A huge smile after the concert.”

As you can see, all the interviewees had positive impressions after a closer contact with the instrument. Which of course for me was and still is an indication that the instrument affects us quite intensively. In my several years of practice I have observed situations in which people with various problems experience a certain shock related to what happened during such a session. Undoubtedly, Sonora opens people up, makes them more willing to reflect and share observations about themselves, often analysing on their own what happened during the session. I think that a good therapist is able to guide such an open person through many important internal processes.

What about you? What have you experienced?

Those of you who have already had the opportunity to enjoy the sound massage in Sonora, please tell me about it in the comments – write what was the experience for you, what you liked the most, was there something that you didn’t like, maybe irritated you during the session? Did you manage to relax and if so, how would you rate the level of relaxation you achieved? Or did any particular images, emotions or feelings arise during the session?

If you would like to share your impressions I would be very pleased, and it is possible that some of you who are not yet familiar with Sonora will be encouraged to try it out for themselves! If you actually recommend others to do it, I would be very pleased if you let me know about it.

Katarzyna Paluszkiewicz // Sonorita

P.S. Podcast recorded while sick, hence the slurred voice, for which I apologize. It’s the result of a bike trip I took while feeling spring in the air after a freshly completed 3 week Covid quarantine. So I paid for my regained freedom with an unfortunate short throat infection. But I am now completely healthy and temporarily immune to the known part of viruses 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.