Topic: Is digital music affecting your health?
Came across this article a few days ago. There are some grey areas in it that don't quite add up to me. I am also not 100% sold on kinesiology to be honest, there is some "debunking" material out there on it that rings pretty true.
Nevertheless, from my own experience, I can say that my ears have gotten more and more tired of listening to mp3 files played on my computer, as well as my IPod. For many years I was an obsessed music collector, collecting in all formats, CD, cassette and vinyl. When I became aware of mp3s, and got access to high speed internet at my college, I pretty much went berzerk and downloaded literally thousands of albums over the period of a couple years, and burned them onto CDRs which I stored in thick binders. I also sold 99% of my physical music collection and backed it all up on mp3, so that added a lot. I have probably over 400 CDRs stored in binders in a box, all with anywhere from 6 to 14 albums or EPs on them.
I am beginning to get perspective on this digital addiction now, which was also just brought up in the excellent topic on masturbation and computor pr0n in the General Discussion. I did my undergraduate in Information Technology mainly because I was very good with computers, awkward socially so it was hard to get exposed to other interests outside my own frame of reference. I was a compulsive "collector" of all types of media, because I saw a so-much vaster world than the people around me, I wanted to see everything, hear everything, anything obscure, anything "fringe" I wanted to know about it. The mainstream disgusted me from the beginning, but I was fascinated by all the little independent labels putting out strange little 7"s in editions of 500 copies, or obscure music other countries that would never get released here. There is an endless amount of music out there to collect. In retrospect, I wasted a HUGE amount of time learning about, searching for and finally downloading these artifacts. Probably 29 out of 30 of them were literally not worth listening to once. I guess only hindsight shows you things like that. At the time, it was exciting, and I thought I was expanding my horizons.
Now in the past four or five years, its like its all fallen away. I stopped my media input by about 95%. After I moved out of my parents house five years back I never bought a TV again. Films in theaters really turned me off and I stopped going out to movies. And music began to lose my attention. I am still coming to terms with it, so I'm not sure I can speak eloquently on it. I am still VERY confused about it. I thought I was a musician, but I am feeling really "done" with modern music... modern media.... digital media. I still enjoy music, and I love the sounds of my natural environment. I prefer natural sounds or soft whispers of natural "silence" the most. Even "ambient" music which I used to love getting so deeply lost in... it doesn't really touch me now. I listen to music for probably less than two hours total per week (rather than ALL THE TIME), and I watch video media for maybe an hour a day max, watching video files on my PC. Being at work, I am in front of a computer for as long as I'm here, which I'm not happy about, but at least I have time to read and post on NR. But at home, I consciously feel revulsion from my laptop, I don't want to open the lid and turn it back on even though I want to check my email or whatever.
I listen to music and sometimes it still moves me, but often I am just extremely aware (maybe from my music/technical background) of all the patterns of the sounds forming a hypnotic whole, and I just feel bored by it, so I turn it off. Even stuff from earlier this year that I was like "WOW" at the time, I feel no attraction to it now.
One other thing worth noting, this is actually pretty major but I kind of take it for granted! Since about five years ago, I have had music "stuck" in my head pretty much ALL THE TIME. I became aware of it about a year after I had begun meditating and focusing more on a spiritual path, without having any particular direction or developed discernment. I remember commenting to my father while taking a walk with him about five years ago, that I always had a song stuck in my head. It feels almost as though there is a boombox on in the corner of my brain. It is behind my other thoughts, my conscious thoughts, like background music. It can be songs that I haven't heard for YEARS, like since I was a young kid. Right now it is Sade's Sweetest Taboo, for example. I cannot consciously turn it off. I have to get into a very relaxed, meditative state, and more like focus BEYOND it... or, I can focus intently on the physical sounds I am hearing in the present moment, and that tends to block it. I also awake in the middle of the night and instantly find myself with music in my head, as though it was playing before I woke up. This has been a source of a lot of anxiety for me on the spiritual path, because I feel very disabled from having focused, clear meditation, and there is certainly very little "inner silence" within my mind. I suspect digital has contributed to this. Only in the past year or so have I began to get more of handle on it, and experience more silence, and more peace within my mind, and get a bit more detached from it. But I still can't turn it off yet.
It has all been an intuitive thing, which is why I can't explain the feeling that well. This article just really resonated with me because I HAVE been unconsciously asking myself the question "is digital music affecting my health?" and my intuitive response was "yes, I am SICK of computers, I am SICK of digital media, I wish I just had a few grand to go buy a bunch of bells and singing bowls and tonal instruments, and percussion and drums, and a bunch of friends to play on them with me." But its years on, and I've never been able to put together that kind of "group". I'm extremely isolated socially on account of all the pod people I observe around me... I reach out, but the result is minimal. I just keep trying, so I don't turn into a completely ANTI-social person, because I'm not really. I used to really enjoy having friends, and I miss them.
I enjoy listening to vinyl, and there is a lot of vinyl out there that was recorded and produced with analogue equipment. Maybe its time to get into all those 50cent Classical records at the thrift store....
Is Digital Music Affecting Your Health?
By: John Diamond, MD
HUMAN STRESS PROVOKED BY DIGITALIZED RECORDINGS:
JOHN DIAMOND, M.D.,
D.P.M., F.R.A.N.Z.C.P., M.R.C.Psych., F.I.A.P.M., D.I.B.A.K.
(First published 1980, modified and with a postscript, 2003)
Music is one of the great therapies. Throughout recorded history in all parts of the world, music has been used as therapy. In fact, of all factors that have been investigated, probably none enhances the Life Energy and reduces stress more effectively than music. Perhaps the most obvious example of this is the fact that at the age of seventy, when some 50% of American males are already dead, some 80% of musical conductors are still alive, healthy, and productive. The tremendous therapeutic power of music has always been recognized, and it has been the subject of many discourses, from the time of Pythagoras to Moses Maimonides and beyond. To me, as to Pythagoras, music is not mere entertainment or amusement (the absence of the muse), but therapy. It is one of the most potent modalities that exists for actuating what the Greeks called thymos, what Hippocrates called the vis medicatrix naturae, the healing power that exists within us all: Life Energy.
There are still many cultures in which there has been no divorce between music and healing. For example, in many so-called primitive societies, the healing shaman is nearly always a musician, and music and incantation are as important as all the other aspects of his profession. The only remnant we see of this in our society is the use of music in religious ceremonies, a custom which dates back to a time before the separation in our society of medicine and religion. And thus throughout the centuries and today, over and above the usual satisfaction or the more physical enjoyment we may derive from music, there is another quality, and it is this other quality, this Life Energy enhancing quality to which I have devoted a major part of my research over the years.
I have tested many thousands of phonograph recordings recorded over a period of over eighty years, and it has been found that almost without exception this music has been therapeutic, often highly so. In fact, it has been used for stress reduction, relaxation, general tonification, analgesia, as part of modified acupuncture techniques, and as adjunctive therapy in drug withdrawal programs. Music has also been used in programs to overcome fears and phobias, alleviate insomnia, and even for the "tranquilization" of acutely disturbed psychotic patients.
In 1979 this changed. I suddenly found that I was not achieving the same therapeutic results as before, that playing records of the same compositions to the same patients was producing a completely contrary effect! Instead of their stress being reduced and their Life Energy being actuated, the opposite was occurring. Music examples that I had long used to promote sleep now seemed to be actually aggravating the insomnia. And I found in one case that instead of the music helping a patient withdraw from tranquilizers, it seemed to increase his need for them. Special tapes for businessmen to use during their rest periods seemed suddenly to increase rather than reduce their stress. These findings were very alarming.
When I investigated these paradoxical phenomena, I found that in all cases they were related to the use of digital recordings. These were vinyl records made from digital masters. When I substituted analog versions of the same work, sometimes even with the same performers, the positive therapeutic effects were again obtained. There seemed to me little doubt that something was "wrong" with the digital process. Apparently the digital recording technique not only did not enhance Life Energy and reduce stress, but it was actually untherapeutic - that is, it imposed a stress and reduced Life Energy. Through some mechanism of which I am not aware the digital process was somehow reversing the therapeutic effects of the music!
In a number of instances I had analog and digital performances that we could easily compare. One was of Zubin Mehta conducting Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto. The digital performance (on London) had a stress-inducing effect whereas the old analog performance (on Vox) did not. Also the early LP transfers of Caruso and McCormack were Life Energy enhancing whereas the Soundstreamed digital versions had the opposite effect. Yet these were records of the same performance. The only difference was the digitalization process. And this was apparent even though the original recordings had been made nearly seventy years ago. Other examples were the Japanese Denon PCM recordings of various Czech performers whose earlier versions were on the Supraphon label. They were the same performers and the same works. The only difference appeared to be the digital process.
As a part of my work and as one of my research tools, I employ muscle testing, in a modification of the standard Applied Kinesiology testing. It is modified as I first presented to an ICAK conference in 1977. See the description of my study with Dr. Florence Kendall in my Kinesiology Report Number 10, December, 1977. At the request of Dr. Goodheart, I demonstrated this again at the ICAK conference in Monte Carlo in 1995.
If you play a digital recording, it will be found that the muscle that was previously testing strong and could easily resist the pressure, will be unable to do so - that the digital effect has so stressed the subject that he cannot resist. Something has happened. Some stress has been introduced which is now manifest in this negative response. Perhaps even more striking are the differences in stress effects found upon testing a recording session in which digital and analog recordings were made simultaneously. Similar effects are also apparent with the human speaking voice using this newer digital recording process.
This effect obviously is not due to the performer nor to the composer, since other recordings, analog, of the same performer and the same composer do not have this effect. In fact, they are therapeutic - that is, they reduce stress and enhance Life Energy on testing. There is a yet-to-be-identified factor involved in the digital technique which is causing this stress. At some level the ear is perceiving a signal which it recognizes as being unnatural and alarming. This instantaneously causes a stress reaction which is manifest in the loss of muscle response on test.
Many audiophiles and engineers state that they have noticed that they can discern something vaguely "wrong" with the digital recording process but cannot quite pinpoint the problem. Using the test, it can easily be shown that, using the same playback system, the difference between analog and digital recording does exist. While we certainly enjoy the benefits of this major technological breakthrough, there are subtle physiological effects still to be considered.
It is important to emphasize that this is not a test of muscle strength. It is a test of the integrity of the acupuncture system. Through it flows the electromagnetic energy of the body. A heavy, powerful testing is a test of muscle strength, not of Life Energy, and it is, in essence, a different test. When I demonstrated my findings at the Audio Engineering Society conference in Los Angeles in May 1980, I was accused of pushing too hard when the subjects were failing when the digital records were being played. In point of fact, pushing "too hard" if anything will fail to demonstrate the effect. It is not, I repeat NOT, a test of muscle strength. Hence the testing requires considerable expertise. It is not for casual and amateurish usage. It is a professional discipline.
This test has been performed both by myself and others under double blind test situations on many occasions, and the results always tend to be about the same, with many provisos. In particular, I wish to emphasize that for accurate testing there are many variables that must be controlled, many more than I can elaborate upon in this short presentation. Furthermore, as I have previously stated, for accurate interpretation I test not just at the one superficial level of testing that I have described above, but in at least twelve deeper levels as well. It is only when all the variables are accurately controlled and testing is carried out at all levels and parameters that the findings are meaningful.
I am more aware than any pro-digital advocate of the shortcomings of the test. And I would like nothing more than to be able to read a meter instead. However, although many electronics experts have tried to help me to design such an instrument, they have never been successful. They finally realize that perhaps the body itself may be a better test device than any instrument that we can make. Will we ever measure the difference between violins, or poems?
I personally believe that the proper research tool can be designed, but it will not ultimately be related to any muscle test. It will involve measuring the change in electromagnetic activity in that part of the body where is situated what we may call the acupuncture central processor, because it is the electromagnetic disturbance there which is manifested as a weakening of the test muscle. And it is there, centrally, that the stressful effect of the digital recordings occurs, being then reflected in a diminished acupuncture energy flow to the specific meridian feeding the muscle being tested.
What if my findings and those of my colleagues are correct? For many years now, nearly all recordings of otherwise therapeutic music have been made using the digital process. The implications of this, both for today and for our future, are very disturbing. If the major therapeutic recording artists of today are recorded for posterity using the present digital technique their efforts will be valueless for us and valueless for future generations. No more will we be able to call upon the therapeutic powers, the true healing powers, of the musicians of our day as we have called upon the musicians of the past. This will mark the end of the therapeutic era of recorded music. The great technological advance of being able to bring the greatest performers into our homes for true entertainment, and much more importantly, to raise our Life Energy, will have been destroyed.
When a man comes home stressed after a day's work and puts on a record of a Schubert piano sonata to help him re-energize, the opposite will occur. He will become more stressed. And he will learn over a period of time that music does not help him to relax as he had expected. Or a person who as part of his religious pursuit plays a record of the Bach B Minor Mass will perhaps recognize that he is further removed from his goal - that instead of serenity, instead of holiness, instead of a feeling of life enhancement, the opposite has occurred. The music has become untherapeutic, contrary to its true nature.
It is no longer Music!
We will then cease to regard music as being what it is: one of the great therapies. Our recorded musical heritage will still satisfy the brain but will do nothing for the rest of the listener. Our true recorded musical heritage will be at an end.
I have frequently been in the position where discoveries first made through "unscientific" means have later been validated by what would be called the more usual scientific methods, and I have no doubt that in the future it will be recognized that the findings concerning digital recordings will be validated. But by that time, it may be that many works of our great artists will have been preserved in an unacceptable form.
By correcting the digital technique, we may actually now be able to make recordings more therapeutic than they have ever been before, more so than analog. By discovering the central problem in existing digital recording techniques, we may be in a position then to so improve them that we ultimately have advanced the therapeutic benefit to mankind.
Postscript, May 2003
Finally, about two years ago, I was contacted by several of the major recording and electronic companies who said that they never forgot my address to the Audio Engineering Society in 1980. They said they knew then that I was right with what I had presented about the negative effects of the digital process, but unfortunately it was released anyhow. They asked me to help in finding a solution to what they were now calling “digital fatigue.” Over the years I have tried many methods but all without success – until now.
Back then in 1980, I had only digitally recorded and/or mastered vinyl LPs to test. The arrival of CDs a few years later increased the problem. As with LPs, but more so, the stress leads after a certain time (different for each individual) to a reversal of their usual ethical and medical standards of belief. The effects of this profound change that I have now investigated for some twenty years are I believe a very important etiological factor in the increase in childhood and adolescent disturbances, (witness the soaring rate of Ritalin prescribing), and in the escalating violence in our society.
Especially when we recall that the digital process is no longer confined to recorded music but is now affecting us nearly all day: TV, radio, telephones etc. It is we who have become digitalized!
With the advent of Direct Stream Digital (DSD) recording, it is now possible to conclude that the negative effects I have stated above are due not to the digital process per se but to the mode of achieving it, Pulse Code Modulation (PCM). For DSD recordings do not have these negative effects.
Although it was suggested, unfortunately the record industry did not make analog backups of their digital (PCM) sessions. So now there is a (very expensive) twenty year hiatus. Hence some SACDs (the CD format for DSD) are being released which have gone through the PCM process and are as negative as regular CDs.
Increasingly over the years, music lovers are turning against PCM – they are feeling what I first demonstrated nearly a quarter-century ago. And they are resisting – proclaiming that it doesn’t sound like, feel like, analog. Cold, no heart. That is to say, untherapeutic.
(We must remember that a generation has probably rarely heard non-PCM music – for it is now so pervasive in concerts halls as “digital reinforcement” as well.) Perhaps now there will be a change. We all know something is wrong – and the solution is available.
I write this not only as a music lover, and a believer in the therapeutic power of music, but even more so as a doctor gravely concerned with the increasing disturbance in our society, especially in the children. The very essence of Music is the expression of peace, of comfort – of love. And this PCM has destroyed, even reversed!
As a very experienced sound engineer and producer lamented, "Music has lost its Spirit." That’s it – exactly! And a generation has grown up not knowing it any other way: not knowing the higher dimension of music – the True Music.
And if their music has lost its spiritual dimension – then so have they!
We have lost our love of Music because we no longer feel loved by It. We must get it back – and we can.
for more information visit www.diamondcenter.net
Here is a more recent response to this article, with comments, some of them insightful:
According to fabled audio design engineer, Richard Burwen, John Diamond is the primary proponent claiming this syndrome exists. Diamond would probably get more traction for his ideas if there wasn’t an air of wackiness regarding his overall view of things. I only mention this because I was at a meeting the other day with one of the most famous audio engineers in the world who demonstrated the effects purported by Diamond. It was pretty amazing to watch.
My question: is it possible that some disruptive component is introduced into any audio stream that is coded or decoded via a PCM methodology? If so, what is it? It has to be something identifiable, otherwise all this makes no sense.
Also, one of the "solutions" proposed to this problem is VERY expensive audiophile equipment, which in my mind would basically not do ANYTHING about the original problem of the source material having been converted to digital in the first place. Just because you could play a digital sound through analogue equipment, or through vacuum tubes, or whatever else, that does not RESTORE what was taken away when the original conversion to digital was made! Nuff said!!
Mark Levinson is an interesting character and a legend in the high-end audiophile community. I find it very odd though that PCM would have a negative impact on the body. I rarely listen to PCM when I play CDs, DVDs, etc. More often than not I prefer to listen to speakers. Last time I checked my speakers were not pushing air one bit at a time. But why let such matters interfere with a good story.
I took a look at one of Mark Levinson’s products, a $6,700 USD CD processor, called the No. 390s. This modestly priced CD processor uses the Analog Devices AD1853 DAC which offers the following attributes:
I don't really agree with the debunkers about the core issue. There is a BIG problem with converting things to digital. It is not yet fully identified with my mind, but I am growing increasingly aware of it.