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Observations placeholder

The soundless music research project



Type of Spiritual Experience

Perception recall

Number of hallucinations: 1


The Soundless Music research project is/was an interdisciplinary project, sponsored by the SCIART Consortium with additional support from the National Physical Laboratory in the UK.  The team at the time consisted of – and I will give their names - Sarah Angliss, composer and acoustic engineer; Dr Richard Lord and Dan Simmons, physicists from the National Physical Laboratory; GéNIA, pianist; Ravi Deepres, video artist; and psychologists Ciarán O'Keeffe, Liverpool Hope University, and Professor Richard Wiseman, University of Hertfordshire.

This team are researching the effects of sound and particularly infrasound on people. The following observation concerns an experiment they set up in 2003 in the Purcell Room (South Bank, London). A concert was given of four pieces of music and the 750 concert goers were asked to report any unusual emotions or experiences during the pieces. They were not told which pieces had the infrasound content and not all the pieces did have, but they were aware that the concert was an experiment and they were also aware that infrasound was being used. Even if they had not registered this fact they would have known something was different because the concert hall was dominated by an impressive, seven-metre long, black infrasound pipe designed by NPL's experts to emit frequencies below 20Hz - extreme bass notes lying on the cusp of human perception. I can add to this that the infrasound had a fundamental frequency of 17Hz .

The observation is the press release that followed the experiment and the analysis of results.

As one might expect, each person’s organs would resonate at different frequencies, so the effects would tend to be different, but there are some [in colour] that suggest that in amongst all the other organs in the brain that were being stimulated, producing headaches, nausea, chest pain, stimulated sense of smell and so on – rather indicating that the parts of the brain in people differ quite radically in resonant frequencies - in some people the sound managed to stimulate the ‘right’ organs for the more unusual experiences. Remember that 

  • The Inferior temporal lobe , cerebellum and hippocampus are all involved in the laying down of perceptions. I have marked the stimulation here in green 

  • Amygdala –the amygdala is the seat of emotions. I have marked the emotions in red 

  • The reticular formation helps control functions such as sleep [dreams] and attention. I have marked a possible experience here in yellow

There are some potentially quite worrying symptoms amongst this lot which indicate effects on other organs including those of the sense of smell, the heart [very worrying], breathing, the adrenal glands, pituitary glands and so on.

It may be worth adding that there is a proven link between high intensity infrasound and cardiac arrest.

A description of the experience

Giant organ pipes may give listeners weird experiences - new research suggests.

Dozens of British churches and cathedrals have organ pipes that are so long, they produce an extreme bass sound, known as 'infrasound'. At today's British Association Conference (8 September, 2003), a team of researchers reported the results of an innovative experiment held earlier this year, in which 750 concertgoers were played live music, some of which was laced with infrasound. Added to the music, infrasound caused a range of weird effects, even among those who were unaware of its presence. Strange reactions included an extreme sense of sorrow, coldness, anxiety and even shivers down the spine.

'These results suggest that low frequency sound can cause people to have unusual experiences, even though they cannot consciously detect infrasound,' said Richard Wiseman, psychologist. 'Some scientists have suggested that this level of sound may be present at some allegedly haunted sites and so cause people to have odd sensations that they attribute to a ghost - our findings support these ideas.'

'So much has been said about infrasound - it's been associated with just about everything from beam weapons to bad driving. It's wonderful to be able to examine the evidence,' said Sarah Angliss, a composer and engineer in charge of the project. 'Organ players have been adding infrasound to the mix for five hundred years so maybe we're not the first generation to be "addicted to bass".'

For further details, biographies and information please visit the website:


MALE Slight nausea, difficulty swallowing, fat head

MALE Felt like being in a jet before it takes off

FEMALE Pre-orgasmic tension in body and arms but not in legs

FEMALE Heightened sense of smell

MALE Slight throbbing at side of chest

FEMALE Sudden memory of an emotional loss

FEMALE Slight rush of adrenaline, strange feeling in back

FEMALE Sensation of warm or shiny thing on chest and under throat

FEMALE Feeling of compression around head and neck

MALE Pressure on side of hand and pulsing pressure on myself

FEMALE Hot and cold

MALE Felt unusual depth to the sound, lightheaded and compression in chest

MALE Strange blend of tranquility and unease

MALE Like I was looking out of a train into a tunnel, like every memory was running through my head

MALE Slight tingling on my arms

MALE Excitement, chest flutter, disorientation, pressure in ear, drumming

MALE Goosebumps, could feel oscillations

MALE Shivering on my wrist, odd feeling in stomach

MALE Increased heart rate, ears fluttering, anxious

FEMALE Chill down left side, sense of panic and confusion

FEMALE A gentle dance, back in the past


The source of the experience

Ordinary person

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps