Sound and Well-Being Lab hosts 'sound bath' for students

Sound baths have been shown to release stress and anxiety in studies

The Sound and Well-Being Humanities Lab course hosted a sound bath Tuesday afternoon.

The course is designed for students to learn how sounds affect our health and well-being through faculty instruction and their own research. The class is taught by Goldman Endowed professor of organ Kimberly Marshall and women and gender studies professor Mary Fonow.

The small event helped the class recognize the health benefits of these wellness sessions, and experience firsthand how sounds can affect our well-being. Kimberly Marshall and Lisa Lippincott, who led the sound bath, said it has been shown to help release gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA, which helps promote calmness in the body.

“I'm a musician,” Marshall said. “So I experienced firsthand how music helps us. It's very healing for all of us.”

The event aligned with the goals of the class and explored how sounds can be therapeutic for people. Gongs were the primary instrument throughout the sound bath, but it also featured a variety of other unique instruments, including an Ocean Drum.

Lippincott was the first woman to fly a Citation X, a specialty aircraft. Her 20-year career came to an end when she began experiencing migraines and vertigo, and grounded her for two years.

“I had a couple emergencies where I was exposed to hydraulic and oil fluid,” Lippincott said. “From all the exposure to chemicals my body couldn’t handle it anymore.” 

Sound baths, especially the vibrations that are experienced while in one, are what helped her heal. Once recovered, Lippincott began hosting sound baths and recently opened the Scottsdale Sound Sanctuary, where Marshall met her and invited her to come perform for the class.

The event was held in the dark while the students laid out on yoga mats and blankets with their eyes closed. Lippincott guided the students through the experience by talking to them. After a session of deep breaths, she began to play her instruments, going from highs to lows to emphasize the silence and natural vibrations at the end of the low.

“Vibrations are all around us,” Marshall said. “I became increasingly aware and disturbed by the amount of music just being thrust on this all hours that, like, you can't experience silence … So I’ve been trying to increase awareness about sound not just about music, but about sound.”

At the end of the session, Lippincott answered questions about the experience and what she did over the course of the event.

One aspect of the course is the variety of perspectives the students and professors can bring to the class.

“The perspectives really kind of create a robust reaction with the concepts we've been talking about,” Mateo Pimentel, the class’s TA Ph.D. student of human and social dimensions of science and technology, said. “Some students are international DJ's in their own right, others are aspiring musicians, others are studying sociology other students are studying musicology … so it really is layered.”

Going forward, the course wants to continue to have the students discuss and research sounds and their impacts on people through their research projects. One of which Fonow brought up on Ilya Kaminsky’s book "Deaf Republic," which the students will present to the public on March 17.

 Clarification: This article was updated to more specifically identify Marshall’s title.


 Reach the reporter at wmyskow@asu.edu and follow @wmyskow on Twitter. 

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