John St. Claire
Mar 6, 2023
A literary review
A recent doctoral thesis by Karambir Singh Khalsa at Sophia University studied the effects of a 50” German gong on anxiety (Khalsa, 2021). Although some changes were noted they were not highly statistically significant. The study used a recording and participants listened to it on “the best equipment they had available.” No mention was made of the recording equipment, type of microphone, its placement, nor the bit size or sample rate of the recording.
The study was designed to minimize differences in the playing experience by having each subject listen to the exact same recording. Since a cranial nerve connects the eardrum to every organ in the human body, minus the spleen, externally generated sounds can have profound and direct effects on internal systems (Gerber, 1998), so this methodology might appear reasonable at first glance. It may be that the statistically minimal results were due to the idea that profound changes in state could be accomplished by listening to the sound of a gong; whether through a phone, quality speakers, cheap computer speakers, ear buds, or headphones. In my experience, the greatest therapeutic effect from the gong is from the entire body being immersed in the direct vibrations.
Dr. Tomatis, a pioneer in audiology, stated that contrary to the standard medical definition claiming ears were differentiated skin, skin is actually differentiated ear (Thompson, 2000). Gongs are felt as much as heard, and this component is lacking in a study of listening to a recording. Even if the sound was reproduced on high quality studio speakers; it is a very different experience from a 500 pound primary sound source inches from the body. The usefulness of the proposed study may be in pointing to the understanding that it is the physical vibrations interacting with the cells of the body which create meaningful and statistically measurable changes.