Testing a 2,500 Year-Old Hypothesis

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In 1997, during acoustics experiments in the Great Pyramid, what seemed like a miracle occurred. I had walked (or more accurately crawled) into the pyramid in severe pain, due to a back injury I sustained three weeks earlier, but within 20-minutes of beginning the acoustics experiments, which involved making sound in the King's Chamber,1 all the pain left me. It never came back

John Stuart Reid in the Great Pyramid, 1997, armed with acoustics instrumentation

The details of those acoustics experiments are not the subject of this article, but the momentous healing of my lower back sparked a 20+ year quest that continues to this day; an important aspect of my search is presented here.

Therapeutic ultrasound (very high frequency sound) has been used for decades for the support of soft tissue injuries and major physical traumas in hospitals and sports injury clinics worldwide,2,3,4,5 even though the underlying biological mechanisms are poorly understood.6 By comparison, Therapeutic audible sound in clinical settings remains in its infancy, although several commercial sound therapy instruments are now available and have proven efficacious for the drug-free support of a wide variety of maladies.7,8,9,10,11 However, one audible sound clinical discipline that continues to grow in popularity is Music Therapy, a concept first espoused by Pythagoras of Samos, 2,500 years ago. He believed that music could be used in place of medicine and that it contributed greatly to health.12

Music Therapy focuses on, for example, supporting patients with depression or relieving anxiety during the pre and post-operative phases of a patient's hospitalization. It is generally defined as an intervention in which "the therapist helps the client to promote health, using music experiences and the [patient/therapist] relationships developing through them." 13 Many studies have been conducted that demonstrate the efficacy of Music Therapy,14 but now, interest is growing in the field of Music Medicine, which, as its name implies, focuses on the demonstrable benefits of music as treatment for specific health challenges; one definition is, "listening to music [for the purpose of healing] without the presence of a therapist."15 In other words, the beneficial effects that the music alone creates for the patient, regardless of the presence of a therapist during the "treatment."

A Cochrane analysis of twenty-six Music Medicine clinical trials with a total of 1369 participants, titled, Music for stress and anxiety reduction in coronary heart disease patients, concluded that "listening to music may have a beneficial effect on systolic blood pressure and heart rate in people with coronary heart disease and appears to be effective in reducing anxiety in people with myocardial infarction." The same report mentioned, "Listening to music may reduce pain and respiratory rate and appears to improve patients' quality of sleep following a cardiac procedure or surgery."16 Johns Hopkins Medicine also acknowledges the role of music in addressing illness and indicates a range of illnesses they aim to treat with music, including, Huntington's Disease, Parkinson's Disease and Dementia.17 McGill University in Montreal is also conducting studies in Music Medicine. In a meta-analysis of 400 studies, Dr. Daniel J. Levitin and Dr. Mona Lisa Chanda found that music improves the body's immune system function, reduces stress and was found to be more effective than prescription drugs in reducing anxiety before surgery. They also found that listening to and playing music increases the body's production of the antibody immunoglobulin A and natural killer cells, the cells that attack invading viruses, and boost the immune system's effectiveness as well as reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol. 18 Many other Music Medicine trials are ongoing around the world, including a scientific study instigated by the General Society of Authors and Editors (SGAE), in Madrid, Spain, an organisation with thousands of musician members. Their study aims to demonstrate, quite simply, that music heals; the research program has begun at the University Hospital, Madrid, in Intensive Medicine, Neonatology and Rehabilitation Services. Neurology, Hematology and Cardiology departments will soon be incorporated into the study, which seeks to verify how live music can have positive effects on physiological and biological parameters.19

Musicians playing to patients in University Hospital, Madrid, part of the SGAE study

However, as mentioned above, while Music Medicine is typically defined as "listening to music without the presence of a therapist", the present study, described below, may indicate the need for an expanded definition of Music Medicine, one in which the entire physical body, or a specific part of the body, is immersed in music or in specific frequencies, and at a specific sound pressure level. Such sonic immersion may provide additional measurable and beneficial physiological effects, as distinct from the benefits associated with listening to music via headphones, speakers or via live music performances. While it seems natural that live music performances in hospital wards can lift the spirit of patients and may have measurable beneficial biological effects, clearly it may be impractical to 'administer' in busy clinical settings, whereas providing recorded music or individual sound frequencies for patients would be, by comparison, eminently practical.

In vitro experiments to test the effect of music on red blood cell longevity

Inspired by my experience in the Great Pyramid and by Pythagoras' belief that music can be used in place of medicine and that it contributed greatly to health, I designed experiments to test the 2,500-year old hypothesis,20 involving in vitro experiments to evaluate the effect of music on human cell longevity.

Pythagoras of Samos


Whole blood, type O+ from a female donor, was stored in vials in the laboratory fridge at 4°C. A vial was taken from the fridge and slowly raised to ambient temperature, which averaged 23°C in the laboratory. The contents of the vial were shaken for 30-seconds by means of a mechanical shaker, then decanted into two vials, using a pipettor.

One vial was placed in the laboratory music incubator (37°C) in which was located a Sony speaker, model SS-TS3, driven by an SMSL amplifier, model SA-36A. In most cases the audio signal source was an iMac computer accessing audio files in a variety of formats, mainly FLAC and WAV. The music incubator vial was immersed in a music (or other) sound field averaging 85 dBA, for 20 minutes, the sound pressure level was measured with a calibrated Castle GA214 integrating sound level meter.

Each music incubator vial was immersed in only one of the music selections. For the white noise experiments the source was a Klark Teknik DN6000 audio analyser.

The other vial, the control blood, was placed in an incubator (37°C) in the very quiet environment of the Faraday Cage (25dBA) for the same 20 minute period as for the music-immersed vial.

Immediately following the 20-minute test period, the blood from each vial was diluted in a ratio of 200:1 with a buffer solution of pH 7.41, followed by pipettor mixing with Trypan blue stain, and a cell counting via an automatic cell counter by NanoEntek Inc.

Eve automatic cell counter

Music Incubator

Incubator in Faraday Cage


The two 2019 examples of classical music returned similar results to those obtained in the 2018 initial experiments, showing significant differences in ratios in the red blood cell counts between the music environment and the quiet environment. In addition, music selections from several other genres were tested, including piano, guitar, female vocal, male vocal, group chant, rap, dance/techno/house, harp, gong, vocal musical intervals, spiritually-oriented music, and sounds from a Cyma Technologies AMI1000 commercial sound therapy instrument. White noise was also tested at two sound pressure levels: 85 dBA and 105 dBA.

The results are summarised in Tables One and Two. For clarity and in the interests of confidentiality with the copyright holders of the music, the actual numbers of red blood cells are not shown. Instead, the ratios between the numbers of viable red blood cells in the music environment versus those viable in the quiet environment are tabulated.

Table One exhibits the results from three sections of music genres, each of which encompasses a range of music selections in three different concert pitches: 432Hz, 440Hz and 444Hz. The music selections yielded a range of ratios of viable red blood cells versus the control samples in the quiet environment, ranging from 2.22:1 to 23.41:1. The many pieces of music tested, by various artists in various concert pitches, all showed a significant increase in the number of viable red blood cells over the number counted in the control blood vials. Also, the selections of music in all three concert pitches returned similar results to each other in terms of the range of numbers of viable red blood cells; no one concert pitch stood out as being dominant.

Table Two shows the results from six individual selections of music, in two concert pitches, 432Hz and 440Hz. The table also shows results from a gong performance and two levels of white noise. The music and gong selections show ratios between 4.13:1 and 18.1:1. Again, neither 432Hz or 440Hz concert pitch was found to dominate.

The highest number of viable red blood cells counted followed blood's immersion in the sound field of a Cyma Technologies Inc., proprietary sound therapy device for 20 minutes, selecting a sound prescription labelled cell regeneration. It delivered a figure of 3.4 x 106 RBC per mL, versus 2.9 x 105 RBC per mL counted from the same blood sample after immersion in the quiet environment of the Faraday Cage incubator for 20 minutes.

The results from white noise tests were as follows:

White Noise (85 dBA) viable RBC: 1.8 x 106 per mL

Quiet environment (25 dBA) viable RBC: 3.9 x 105 per mL


White noise (105dBA) viable RBC 7.6 x 104 per mL

Quiet environment (25 dBA) viable RBC 3.5 x 105 per mL

While all music selections, and white noise at 85dBA, which is an energetic but comfortable sound level, improved the number of viable red blood cells, the opposite was true of white noise at 105dBA, which is a painful sound level and destroyed almost all red blood cells within 20-minutes of immersion. The Presumably, this high sound level caused haemolysis, the rupturing of red blood cell membranes. Interestingly, in Nature, when standing near a waterfall or walking by the seashore, we experience white noise and low frequency ultrasound in addition to negative ions. As these results show, white noise can have beneficial effects at modest sound levels.

The healing effects of white noise

Table One

Music genre

Ratio range of viable red blood cells after 20 minutes music immersion versus 20 minutes quiet immersion

Orchestral classical, classical harp, classical piano

2.22:1 to 7.93:1

Rap, Pop, Guitar

7.33:1 to 23.4:1

Male vocal

2.4:1 to 10.7:1

Table Two

Music genre

Ratio of viable red blood cells after 20 minutes music immersion versus 20 minutes quiet immersion

Female vocal


Female vocal1 + backing track


Female vocal2 + backing track


Vocal musical intervals




Sound therapy device




Spiritually-oriented chant


White noise: 85 dBA


White noise: 105 dBA


An overall pattern can be seen in the data in which all blood samples immersed in music produced a higher number of viable red blood cells over those samples immersed in the quiet environment, in some cases significantly so. The question that arises is: why should music increase the numbers of in vitro red blood cells? Although the mechanism for this effect is unknown, we can hypothesize that the lifespan of red blood cells in vitro undergo a transitional state between living and dying. The cell counter principle involves counting cells that have not absorbed Trypan blue stain because the stain cannot penetrate the live cell membrane and enter the cytoplasm. In dead cells, Trypan blue passes through the porous cell membrane and those cells are counted as dead by the cell counter mechanism. Hypothetically, red blood cells that are in a transitional state, with membranes that are damaged and/or gradually becoming porous, leading to eryptosis (death of red blood cells), regain their membrane integrity as a result of immersion in certain frequencies within the music, thus enlivening the cell membrane and rejecting the Trypan blue stain and being counted as living.

Indicators to the frequencies that may assist this hypothetical process of cellular rejuvenation can be gleaned from the results tables. For example, there is a significant difference in red blood cell viability between the female vocal track and the female vocal track with backing track. The backing track contains dominant low frequencies; the same holds true for the Dance-Techno-House music track and other pop music tracks. The two selections of classical music do not contain dominant low frequencies and both showed only modest results, however, it should be noted that some classical music (not selected for testing in this study) does feature dominant low frequencies. Hypothetically, the low frequencies in popular music not only produce sounds similar to the low frequencies of a beating heart but, in a sense, the blood cells may react to these frequencies in a similar manner. The low frequency sounds may contribute to a mechanism resembling that of the in vivo environment, in which low frequency pressure, provided by each heartbeat, aids haemoglobin molecules to uptake oxygen. If this proves to be the case, the increase in oxygenation of the red blood cells (that are hypothetically in the transitional state), acquired from dissolved oxygen in the in vitro whole blood, could account for the cells being rejuvenated.

Suggestions were made by several correspondents to test the current preference by some musicians for A4 = 432Hz and A4 = 444Hz tuning, versus the international standard concert pitch of A4 = 440Hz. Proponents of 432Hz concert pitch typically report that the music feels smoother and more natural, while proponents of 444Hz tuning believe that it has the ability to repair DNA, among other qualities. While testing these assertions is beyond the scope of the present research the results showed no significant difference between music selections created in the three different concert pitches; all showed increases in the viability of red blood cells.

To date the experiments have been conducted only in vitro and there is a need for testing in vivo, to test whether similar results will be found. This will necessitate immersion of the entire body, or specific body parts, in a music field, to establish if music affects the red blood cell counts and changes the concentration of oxygenated haemoglobin. The encouraging results from the present series of experiments indicate that blood-testing volunteers in vivo will be an important next step in this research. But what else can be drawn from the present results? If music (or specific frequencies within music) can breathe new life into old blood cells by a mechanism involving repair of their outer membranes within 20 minutes of immersion, it may not be unreasonable to conjecture that a similar mechanism is at work in other types of human cells, which may explain, at least in part, why audible sound therapy is proving to be so efficacious in supporting both human and animal health.

With grateful thanks to GreenMedInfo.com, Experiment.com, Sound4Healing, roadmusic.co and to all our backers for their support. We also extend our thanks to Professor Sungchul Ji of Rutgers University for his care and attention in overseeing the first series of music-blood experiments and consulting on this second series.


1. www.cymascope.com/cyma_research/egyptology.html

2. Dyson, M. Mechanisms involved in therapeutic ultrasound. Physiotherapy 73(3):116-120, 1987. 

3. Dyson, M., Luke, D.A.: Induction of mast cell degranulation in skin by ultrasound, IEEE Trans. Ultrasonics. Ferroelectrics Frequency Control UFFC-33:194, 1986. 

4. Hogan, R.D., Burke, K.M., and Franklin, T.D.: The effect of ultrasound on microvascular hemodynamics in skeletal muscle: effects during ischemia, Microvasc. Res. 23:370, 1982. 

5. Pilla, A.A., Figueiredo, M., Nasser, P., et al: Non-invasive low intensity pulsed ultrasound: a potent accelerator of bone repair, Proceedings of the 36th Annual Meeting, Orthopaedic Research Society, New Orleans, 1990.

6. http://www.electrotherapy.org/modality/ultrasound-therapy#Therapeutic%20Ultrasound%20Thermal%20and%20Non%20Thermal%20Effects%20Overview

7. http://cymatechnologies.com/wo...

8. http://cymatechnologies.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Tendon-Lesion-Repair.pdf

9. http://medsonix.com/assets/WallmannJMDT2016.pdf

10. http://www.medsonix.com/assets/unlv_-pilot_study-peripheral-vascular-disease.pdf

11. https://www.kktspine.com

12. Taylor T. Iamblichus' Life of Pythagoras. Trans from the Greek, p7. Inner Traditions, ISBN 978-0-89281-152-6

13. Bruscia KE: Defining music therapy, ed 2nd. Gilsum, NH, Barcelona Publishers,1998.

14. Brad J, et al. Music for stress and anxiety reduction in coronary heart disease patients.

15. Brad J, et al. The impact of music therapy versus music medicine on psychological outcomes and pain in cancer patients: a mixed methods study. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25322972

16. https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD006577.pub3

17. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/center-for-music-and-medicine/music-as-medicine.html

18. https://www.mcgill.ca/newsroom/channels/news/major-health-benefits-music-uncovered-225589

19. http://www.sgae.es/es-es/sitepages/EstaPasandoDetalleActualidad.aspx?i=2050&s=5

20. https://experiment.com/projects/can-music-influence-the-longevity-of-human-blood-cells

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