Sound as portal – Sense as signifier – of relationship

© Catherine Meeson



How does sound reflect the community of life?

The presence of sound is a revelation, a revelation of relationship. It demonstrates what is and what is not. What is active and what is passive. It demonstrates ecological balance or lack of. It presents a picture of the life of a given region, or globally of the world. It presents the preoccupations and outcomes of its inhabitants, and of the earth’s primary causative agents and forces. What does sound tell us? Listen. What does the lack of tell us? Listen. Take heed, come to our senses. Sounds are a prime creative force, a tool of creation. We must ask what is sound creating, what is sound revealing? How does sound reflect the community of life? I will only narrate a version of events, as I see it. The seeing is up to you, the realisation is up to you. I can do no more than sound and resound the voices of the world which wish to be heard.

Scenario 1. 3am and one is awoken by the howling wind, raising the tin roof and slamming it back down again. Distant dogs bark, and an eerie sense of the ominous pervades, am I safe one considers? One feels on edge. It is just the wind. Hope the roof holds and the trees down fall on the house. The mind races into scenarios, movies play out in one’s mind, the brain cycles faster sleep does not return.

Scenario 2. 4 o’clock in the afternoon, looking forward to the end of the working day, a jackhammer starts just out the front. One jumps out of their skin, on edge, not only is it loud, one can literally feel it through ones feet. Uneasy, irritable and angry and has trouble finishing ones required duties. Is one safe? Objectively yes, there is not threat, but the peace and quiet is gone, the headroom necessary for work. Yet why does the body still respond when the mind knows there is no physical threat to ones person? For sound is implicated in our survival at the deepest levels.

‘Sound acts as portal, sense as signifier’. Barry Truax called “Sound Signifier of relationship”, in his brilliant work Acoustic Communication (1). R Murry Schafer before him did an extensive study of the world soundscape in his pioneering book ‘The Soundscape’ (2). Both men helped establish a field of study into nature of sound and its influence on the sphere of all life in a field called Acoustic Ecology. Acoustic Ecology as I understand it examines and reflects upon the relationships between aspects of local ecologies, places and the sounds inherent within and produced by them. Another member of the field Bernie Kraus, penned the terms Anthrophony, biophony and geophony. Geophony examines the sounds of earth, water, wind, earthquake etc. etc. Biophony:- the sounds of animals. Anthrophony:- the sounds of persons and the technologies and artifacts created by humans.

We have come to understand the inherent link between sound and health and how sound impacts the body mind and spirit of all orders of being. Studies exist demonstrating the effects of thought, intention, spoken song, vibrations, frequencies, wavelengths both sub and infrasonic on living beings and matter states. From plants to animals, water, people and other inorganic matter. Studies also demonstrate sounds negative and positive effects and its primordial link with survival. We would dismiss our innate body sense as an evolutionary artefact from a Neanderthal hunter gatherer era survival mode. But we need to take heed , as the world is becoming louder, mainly with discordant stress producing anthrophony, and the life enhancing sounds of biophony and geophony we have evolved with and their relationship to co evolutionary development are becoming more apparent, as they fade into memory. We are drowning out the natural world and causing ourselves immense stress, leading not only to hearing problems, but to nervous system, heart and stress related disorders, relationship problems, mental health issues such as anxiety, depression post traumatic stress etc. Yet what concerns me most is that everything is about us humans, and few are attending to the voice or place of other species, of their right to be within the web of life, and so they are, in increasing numbers fading into oblivion, i.e., becoming extinct.


It takes us through time, through memory into thought and feeling. Out of our body (physical) and into our energy bodies as well as initiating shamanic soul flight. It reveals the mysteries of creation of form (cymatics) and the geometries of creation. Its visible affect exhibits pictures of consonance and dissonance in various matter states:- water, sand, plasma etc.


Sense as signifier tells us it is supreme storyteller, it teaches directly through our embodied form- our body. Our soul may comprehend or it may not. Yet even if it does not, the senses still signify, sound still acts as portal. We still receive information at an unconscious and supra-conscious level.

Together sound as signal – is sound as revealer of source. Follow the sound reveal the source, reveal the nature of the created. Is the signal harmonious- is the sound in harmony with life? I ask for you to contemplate. Sound has already taught me many things and I will remain an eager student for the rest of my life.

Sound as portal takes us through the mists of time to previous civilizations and cultures, to perceive as they did for a time, as they encoded information and knowledge within the structures they built and occupied, instruments, dolmens, temples, architecture, adorned caves and ceremonial sites. This takes us into the realm of archeo-acoustics and the supernatural. The archaeology of sound. Considering both the technologies of former times and the perceptions of the psyche of the living.

So what does sound or the lack of tell us? How does it reflect the community of life? If time is a construct of the congealing of forces in space what relevance does it have now?

For us now more than ever in history we need to tap the ancient instincts beyond the level of mind to reveal the essential truths, truths relevant to all orders of being. It is no good for the goose it is no good for the gander. We need to come to terms with what ‘is’ and reflect deeply, than we must act.

Our obsession for power as expressed through sound as well as other media knows no bounds. The consumer can now buy systems capable of producing exceptional wattage to power audio systems within homes and vehicles. Legislation does exist, to protect persons and property but is it being enforced? Where is the department responsible for sound damages? Where is the Ministry of Sound? Make no mistake sound creates and it also destroys, our legends tell us this, our modern science demonstrates. Our love for the loud and the pounding is assaulting not only us, but the community of life, and our actions in this context are immoral. Forests do not wish to be assaulted by screeching machines cutting down trees and blaring techno parties. Birds do not wish to be terrorized out of the trees. Who asks about what they hear, what they feel within their bodies? Who asks and understands that we affect their mating patterns, their instincts their home? I have gone to and played at these outdoor parties, yet no one I have met speaks for the community of life in such events. They are often not isolated in broadcast reach and they are taken into forests and places where wildlife exists and damage is done. People are literally sonically blasting their bodies, they are being levitated off the ground. In boom cars they are reconfiguring the cellular matter of their bodies by sonic assault. Once sound reaches a certain level it will kill. This is why the military and police forces have researched its affect and incorporated it into their arsenal as a non lethal crowd control mechanism. At certain frequency ranges and decibel levels it will cause harm, often temporary ranging from nausea, headaches etc, to extreme anxiety, trouble thinking etc. Normal functioning recommences when the sound generator is removed or turned off. It does not need to be audible, as the range of sound as a frequency goes both above and below the level of human beings and as such its Hz cycle rate is only a small part of the sound/ frequency spectrum.

We want everything bigger and louder for our pleasure, more powerful, without thought without understanding the nature of power, of the nature of sound and its affect on living systems/ life. Sound can be potentially just as destructive as a bomb and expect the creation of weapons of war unthinkable as yet, for they will come.

And so what is sound or the lack of telling us? It is telling us to listen, it is demanding our attention, to listen beyond our species, to the great die off the sixth great extinction. It is indicating how we are affecting the community of life, as we grow parasitically as the dominant species changing the face of the earth. It is indicating how we are affecting the community of life through our actions. The sounds of severe weather events due to climate change could parallel the old gods displeasure. Storms cut over land to clear the air, waters cleanse by flood. What do they reveal? They reveal the attempt to rebalance and maintain homeostasis for the larger life support system that is the earth:- that of balanced relations. Sure the sounds of nature and catastrophe be natural phenomena, but with many different purposes when one questions the nature of being.

Life in native ecosystems or communities in health reveal a diverse range of voices, of sounds, dependent upon the local geography, topography, and climate, and the type of community it supports i.e., desert, river, forest, tropic, swamp, intertidal zone, deep ocean, etc. Once upon a time the gods were embodied and implicated in the sounds and health of the world around us. Pele Volcano goddess, Neptune the Sea God. Tempests, volcanic eruptions and other such demonstrations of natural phenomena were the displeasure of the gods. We know better now don’t we? In the rationalist post Darwinian era? There exists the term, anthropomorphosize  to describe placing human or divine attributes upon things. An Angry father figure, a vengeful goddess, mischievous Djinn. Our symbolic unconscious has always drawn associations that link between forces and things, that it did not comprehend rationally. I believe that in the dark mists of pre history we suffered major trauma of a sonic nature that have never fully left us and the traumas are encoded in our genes. The knowledge of sound as agent of hurt as well as of healing is deep within the genome. Sonic warfare, warfare with sound as a by product, natural catastrophes such as 300db meteor strikes, so embedded into the realm of myth and scripture that now they only remain as stories that whisper of such times. But such times were, such times are such times be again, such times approach, times of tearing the sky in two, of earth being rent, of catastrophic force at the hands of the humans. Most of the predators are gone or controlled and restrained. We are the biggest predator subjecting the world to many warfares including sonic warfare as a by product of human activity. Everywhere the noise is incessant within the cities, the din (djinn) mischievous spirits of the machines grow louder by the day. Tales exist and dreams reveal the patterns of yesterday. Atlantis rises – the ether is penetrated, the akashic records open, the technologies poor onto the planet manifesting the mind of days gone by. We did not learn the lessons of misuse of power the same souls are reincarnated.

If we listen to place, place will tell us everything about it. What voices are present, what voices are dominant, what voices are absent? What dwells there, what no longer dwells? The tragedy of species loss revealed by sound, is not beyond our senses or our sensibilities, and surely not beyond the open compassionate collective heart. Enter sound as Portal- Sense as Signifier of Relationship.



If you would like to know more information about this or engage in dialogue please contact the Author

I occasionally hold classes about Music Sound and Health



(1)    Truax, Barry 2001, Acoustic Communication , 2nd edn, Ablex Publishing, Westport, Conneticut, London.

(2)    Schafer, RM 1977, The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World, 1994 edn, Destiny books, Rochester, Vermont, United States.


(4)    Tame, D 1984, The Secret Power of Music- the transformation of Self and Society Through Musical Energy, 2nd edn, the Aquarian Press, Wellingborough, Northhamtonshire.