Sound Therapy and Business

Having a business background, I have thought about ways to use sound and sound therapy in an office environment. Piping the tuning forks of the Calendula CD or Peruvian whistles into the office is not really an option. For all the abuse they have taken, Musak does show positive results including a 29% decrease in non-essential conversation, 53% decrease in airline agent turnover and a 39% decrease in accounting errors in a business office. So there is evidence that music in the work environment has positive effects.

Just piping in music or natural sounds is not enough according to Julian Treasure, author of Sound Business. You have to consider drivers which includes time, pitch and texture. Texture refers to instrumentals vs. vocal. You also need to consider filters (environment, people and the values of the organization) and what physiological, psychological and behavioral outcomes you want.

Treasure also talks about binaural beats* and how they can be used to illicit certain psychological and physiological responses. He goes beyond the Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta ranges I usually refer to. Now if the idea of using sounds to illicit a response or reaction feels a little manipulative, remember that you are using binaural beats and sound to illicit a response when you play singing bowls, gongs and other musical instruments. Even if you play music off a CD during or after a session, you are using sound and binaural beats to create a certain environment. Most people spend a majority of their day in the office, factory, car or truck. Why not use sound to make the day easier and less stressful? Every environment calls for its own type of music whether it is an office, spa or gym or public space. In Santa Rosa, California there is a public park off the main street. Each night kids would gather and do what kids do. They needed a way to get them to not congregate there so what did the city do? They piped in classical music, problem solved.

How not to use music? There's an upscale outdoor mall near where I live with several restaurants with outdoor seating. I would go there to have brunch on Sunday's and you'd think they play some soothing music through the speakers. Nope, it was some heavy handed classic music a la 1812 Overture. And they played this all the time!

I am not sure I really want to get into the business of evaluating work environments and selecting music or sounds to improve that environment but if you have considered it, take a look at Julian Treasure's book, Sound Business.

* Binaural beats occur when two tones of different frequencies are played simultaneously, one by each ear. When this occurs and third frequency is also percieved. This third frequency is the difference between the 2 frequencies. This is called the difference tone. For example, the difference tone of the Om 136.1 and the Otto 128 is 8hz, 136-128 = 8.