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N A D A   B R A H M A   F O U N D A T I O N
..... the world is sound .....

"Researching the Connections between Knowledge Systems,
Ecosystems & Indigenous Music"
Jason Shanks and Cathy Silverman

Our project is a long-term comparative study of the relationship between various indigenous cultures from around the world, their music, and the environment they inhabit. The main goal of this research will be to learn more about the interaction between environmental acoustics and human consciousness, particularly by studying the use and development of knowledge systems as demonstrated through musical expression. For indigenous cultures, music is a meaningful reflection of the connection between natural environment, spirit, and sound. This wisdom, in conjunction with modern scientific studies demonstrating the complex and encompassing effect of music on the brain, will be the focus of our research.

The structure of the project will entail extensive data collection of various indigenous musics and the ecosystems within which the music evolved. In addition we will contrast this data to that of environments and music in industrial areas. Drawing on the fields of Acoustic Ecology, Bioacoustics, Cymatics, Organology, Psychoacoustics, Spectral Analysis and Ethnomusicology, we will later analyze the resultant library of data using a variety of techniques. Through our analysis, we hope to advance the understanding of bioacoustical influences of natural and industrial environments on music, and furthermore the synergistic effect these influences have on a culture's inhabitants. Comparing frequency patterns utilized by cultures in varying geographic areas and environments will result in greater understanding about what variables affect a culture, its music, its medicine and its environment.

Our project team consists of artist/ethnomusicologist, Cathy Silverman; musician/technologist, Jason Shanks; documentary film/videomaker, Vincent Goudreau; with additional support from recording engineer, Bob Babb; and technology advisor/computer programmer Michael Doran. We hope that these combined scientific, social, spiritual and artistic sensibilities will result in a fresh perspective on analyzing the data collected from a micro to a macroscopic level. We are also currently in contact with scientists from various fields relating to our work to provide technical assistance for certain aspects of our research.

The first stage of the field research is beginning this July in Central America, with a six-month expedition made possible by a generous grant from the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, Inc. Initially, the results of this research will be archived at the Recording Academy's national office, distributed nationally through its resource libraries, and internationally through their website at Following this expedition, we will be returning to the United States for three months to begin in-depth analysis of the recorded material and to begin post-production on a documentary.

In order to study the biological and acoustical complexity and density of tropical environments, we intend to continue our research in Indonesia, China, Peru, and the Amazon Basin. Our long-term goal is to comparatively study tropical and desert environments in both the eastern and western hemispheres. In the future we plan to incorporate a study of cultures living in sparser environments, such as Tuva, Australia, and Morocco.

The most important benefit of this project will be to document the knowledge of indigenous cultures, thereby preserving traditional wisdom. In addition, data analysis will provide important information about what role sound plays in the development and expression of human consciousness. This information will be juxtaposed with direct personal contact in an attempt to better understand how indigenous people perceive the way sound affects the mind and body. Also, by comparing the frequency patterns utilized by cultures in varying geographic areas and environments, we will be able to more clearly discover what variables affect a culture, its music, and its environment. Due to the rapid disappearance of both indigenous knowledge and undisturbed natural environments, we believe there is an important need to succinctly document, analyze, and compare these correlations before it is too late.

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