Monday, December 9, 2013

I hum, therefore I am

Have you heard of a project called 'Aberdeen Humming'?
I was intrigued when mention of it was made on the radio . . . this is what I discovered.

A few weeks ago, at the instigation of Suk-Jun Kim, a Lecturer at the University of Aberdeen, the people of that city were encouraged to visit what was called a Humming Booth.  Working on the basis that humming is a private act, the booth was designed to urge those who came to offer their favourite hums . . . to invite others into their personal space.

I seems that the people of Aberdeen were happy to respond to this unusual invitation . . . if you'd like to, you can listen to the half-hour compilation tape.

All of which made me think . . . it's true, isn't it.  When we sing, we sing to others.  When we hum, we hum to ourselves.  Not only that, whereas song flows out of the mouth and away from the singer, humming penetrates deep inside and resonates with the body.

At this point I need to come clean and make an admission.
I am one of those irritating people who, albeit unconsciously, hum to themselves as they walk along . . . what you might call a compulsive hummer.

Not surprisingly, this increased my interest in the Aberdeen experiment.
What, I wondered, was so special about humming?

It turns out that humming is special, and it's special for many reasons.  Let me share some of them with you . . .  who knows, I may even encourage you to adopt my bad habit!

Firstly, did you know that humming slows down your breathing rate?  Apparently, we normally inhale and exhale about sixteen times a minute.  However, when we are humming this is reduced to less than six.  Humming also brings down the heart rate, and reduces both stress levels and blood pressure . . . changes which can only be beneficial.

Not only that, did you know that humming can promote healing?  As we've agreed, we can feel the internal vibration set up by humming.  What I didn't know was that our atoms, molecules, cells, glands and organs all have their own distinct vibrations which respond to sound.

My humming may sound a tuneless blur to others, but it would seem that what I'm doing is literally fine-tuning the cells of my body.  Or, as the writer J.R. Savage puts it,  "Being the conductor of our own health can be achieved with simple, peaceful humming."

I also discovered that those of us who hum are in very good company.  Mozart, for one, is known to have hummed as he composed in the knowledge that sound stimulates the brain.  On a more mundane level, exponents of high-speed reading recommend that the reader hums as he reads.  Humming, it appears, enables you to both achieve and maintain a high level of concentration . . . but it does make you wonder whether a gathering of high-speed readers mightn't be a rather noisy occasion!

So . . . let's review the remarkable benefits of humming.  It reduces stress . . . promotes health . . . increases creativity . . . and speeds brain activity.

Is there anything more?  Yes, there is, and my final discovery was possibly the most riveting of them all.

Did you know that The Earth itself is humming?

If you don't believe me, listen to the words of Mark Morford, an award-winning American columnist:

" . . . scientists now say the planet itself is generating a constant, deep thrum of noise.  No mere cacophony, but actually a kind of music, huge, swirling loops of sound, a song so strange you can't really fathom it, so low it can't be heard by human ears . . . countless notes of varying vibration creating all sorts of curious tonal phrases that bounce around the mountains and spin over the oceans and penetrate the tectonic plates and gurgle in the magma and careen off the clouds and smack into trees and bounce off your ribcage . . ."

Isn't that a wonderful mental picture?
Who knows, could it be that this sensed, if unheard, humming of The Earth, encourages our own music-making?  That this constant background music generates a need for us to join the planetary orchestra?

In participating we confirm our unity with the music of the spheres.
I hum, therefore I am.