DR: What are some of the positive and negative aspects of being surrounded by this sea of sound?
SH: One positive aspect is that the right sounds and music can help you work more effectively. If you're at a boring job, it will make the time go faster. The right kind of music can increase efficiency and productivity. That's in terms of blue collar work. When it comes to using your mind, the right kind of music can help you stay focused and concentrated, and really help you tap into your own innate creativity.
The downside is that most of the music we're surrounded with is not composed for your health, well-being, creativity, or productivity. It's designed instead to get you into more addictive states, so that you crave more of that beat, more of that rhythm, more of that music. So music becomes diversion and entertainment rather than a vehicle for self-empowerment and spiritual well-being. This is the way the marketplace is. On radio, most people don't realize that the music is the filler between the commercials.
DR: Can listening to the radio be relaxing?
SH: There is virtually no music for relaxation on radio. Not that there necessarily should be, because if someone is driving in a car and tired, and listening to relaxation music, it might have problematic consequences. On the other hand, there are a lot of people who listen to the radio at work and don't realize that they are producing much less effective work.
I've noticed how different kinds of music have affected my own creativity and productivity. I've also watched as I worked with graphic artists, that they would not hear what I was saying and I would have to repeat myself several times, because they would space out listening to certain music. The space-out factor is important. If you're at home chilling out and don't have any work to do, that's fine. But if you're on someone else's payroll, or if you're an entrepreneur working for yourself, if you're spacing out without realizing it you're missing the boat . . .
The question, "What is relaxation?" is fundamental. Most people in America do not know what relaxation is. To paraphrase Frank Zappa, they wouldn't know relaxation if it came up and bit them. People think that bowling or watching football is relaxing.
DR: How would you define it?
SH: Relaxation is a state where your breathing is slowed down. Your heartbeat is slowed down to a maximum of 60 beats per minute. There are also associated brain wave patterns, typically in the alpha range. Without specialized equipment, you can't measure those. But you can count your pulse, count your breaths. I can tell you that most music is composed at tempos significantly faster than 60 beats per minute.
DR: How does that affect human physiology?
SH: Very simply, there is a phenomenon known as rhythm entrainment. Your heartbeat will be manipulated, coerced, grabbed hold of, and forced to synchronize with the beat of an external rhythmic stimulus. This could be a refrigerator, a railroad train, or a drummer. Since most drummers are playing upwards of 100 beats per minute nowadays (and most drummers now are actually little computers, or drum machines), we are forcing our bodies into unnatural rhythm patterns played by unnatural rhythm sources. This puts stress on the body, and makes the nervous system more nervous. So we have all of this going on, and it is going on below the threshold of conscious awareness.