Healing and Harming Sounds

Karen Stollznow writes:

Pavarotti singing Nessun Dorma from Puccini’s Turandot can bring people to tears, but can the tenor’s voice heal too? Can sounds both cure and kill? Let’s investigate some claims about healing and harming sounds.

Many people seem to think there’s something magical about human speech; for example, the belief that uttering spells and prayers can bring about an effect in the external world. Some practitioners even claim to be able to cure disease using the human voice. As usual, there are many names for the claims: Bioacoustics, Sound Therapy, Sound Work and Sound Medicine. All of these methods purport to harness the alleged healing power of our own voices.

One proponent, Paul Newham, believes that good health requires not only a sensible diet and exercise, but also singing. His book The Singing Cure teaches “Voice Movement Therapy,” a series of exercises based on “vocal healing traditions” from indigenous cultures.1 Newham claims the voice is a powerful healing instrument that can be used to tame anger, grief, shame and other negative emotions.

One “certified therapist” in Voice Healing conducts sessions of singing to reduce stress, ease pain and create a “cellular level of healing”:

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