DEEP SOUND THERAPY Raisa Saloheimo,
1. INTRODUCTION TO DEEP SOUND THERAPY *
1. DEEP SOUND THERAPY FROM A RELIGIOUS PERSPECTIVE *
The Work with confirmation classes *
1. HOSPICE/TERMINAL CARE – ALLEVIATION OF PAIN
1. AUTISM AND THE USE OF DEEP SOUND THERAPY *
2. REFERENCES *
1. INTRODUCTION TO DEEP SOUND THERAPY
Where does the term " Deep sound therapy" come from? Iegor Reznikoff,
Professor of Art and Music of Antiquity at the University of Paris, specialist
in early music and especially and in particular the chant of Christian
Antiquity, has been using the term since 1986 in his lectures and courses
about the therapeutic influence of pure sound on various levels of human
consciousness (advanced course of music therapy in Sibelius Academy).
To distinguish from the methodology used by speech therapists, I started
to use the Finnish term "syvä ääniterapia" (a
direct translation from the English term "deep sound therapy "used
by Reznikoff in his lectures).
Early chants of Christian Antiquity are sung with deep voice and contemplation,
but the technique also differs from the familiar western style in its
relation to notes. In deep sound therapy we do not use the regular scale,
but the natural scale where also the body resonates. The natural scale
is often used in old folk songs, hymns and in church service in liturgical
songs. Even tango music, which has achieved popularity in Finland, shows
some similarity with the early church liturgical chants (modes) in the
intervals. This is my personal opinion and for example professor Reznikoff
does not agree with this idea.
I first made contact with the chants of Christian Antiquity in professor
Reznikoff’s course in Sibelius Academy in 1987. Since then, I have
used the methodology of deep sound therapy in music therapy and in lectures.
In 1989 to 1997 I mentored spring and autumn courses in Critical Academy
of "The Experience and Understanding of pure Sound" together
with Kirsti Autio, Tatjana Wilenius (in the start) and Hilkka-Liisa Vuori
(a little later). I also used the methodology when I gave courses for
vocational education students in music theraphy in Sibelius Academy 1990
to 1999. At each elementary course in music therapy I give a lecture and
have a workshop.
In the summers I attend the courses of professor Reznikoff.
Since spring 1998 I teach singing of Christian chants of Antiquity in
the Chapel of Mathew (Matinkappeli) in the Parish of Olari in the city
of Espoo every second Friday evening. Singing skills are not a prerequisite
for participation in the group. The natural scale in these songs and the
resonation of the body while singing them help and support the singers
to find their voices anew. In the group we also make therapeutic exercises.
In May 1998 this group sang of the chants at a church service in the Killinmäki
institution for mentally handicapped. We continued in the autumn and since
then we have taken part in their church service once a month. I feel that
the service has improved during these five years. The service was mowed
from the gym to the more imposing dining room and on April 10th 1997 bishop
Eero Huovinen consecrated an altar on wheels for use at Killinmäki
. With these improvements the amount of participants in the church services
1. DEEP SOUND THERAPY FROM A RELIGIOUS PERSPECTIVE
The Work with confirmation classes
I have used deep sound therapy in parishes first in Espoo and later in
Helsinki when teaching chants and giving music therapy in confirmation
classes for mentally handicapped.
Comparing with the other religious songs, the advance of deep sound therapy
is the way it settle down the target group. The voice affect also for
the most anxious participants of classes and the ability to learn and
participate increase significantly. Since these songs represent the deep
spiritual tradition of ancient Christian times, they are very physical
ones – the voice resonates in whole body and attain thus better
also the consciousness/mental levels.
"A" [a:] as in arm resounds in chest, above the sternum and
the heart. "O" [o:] as in moore resonates most strongly in the
throat and can be felt through the spinal cord up to the limbic centre
of the brain. "U" [u:] as in mouth resonates mostly in the mouth.
"M" resounds in the whole head and can bee felt in the skeletal
system of the body.
When you sing "A-O-U-M", the resonation starts from the chest,
moves up to the throat and mouth ending in the head and above it. When
you repeat it, the voice makes the resonation circulate in these areas
and gives the singer "massage" from the inside. Breathing slows
down and will automatically follow the rhythm during the song. The blood
circulation and oxygen uptake in the brain and other parts of the body
The syllable "OM"- is a holy syllable or mantra in Sanskrit
and means God exist. "A" is included when breathing in and "U"
as a phonetic addition. "A-O-U-M" is repeated peacefully.
The Christian "Amen" is phonetically similar and has a similar
meaning, "So be it". Also the Jewish "Shalom" and
the Islamic "Salaam" have the same kind of meaning. You wish
peace with all your heart, speech and thoughts.
Singing is one of the best ways for severely mentally handicapped students
in a confirmation class to get in touch music. Singing this way strongly
resonating, they also make connection with the holy art of ancient Christian
chants. In confirmation classes and in the confirmation ceremony the atmosphere
is very concentrated, sentimental and concrete and your eyes are often
close to tears. I can feel how strongly the students take part in the
ceremony. For many of them it is difficult or almost impossible to talk
or understand conversation, but hearing songs and singing is another matter
and they are able to sing or try to sing some words or syllables such
as "Amen" or "OOOO".
In Christian Antiquity the chants were prayers based on Bible texts, for
example the Psalms. These antiphons touch not only the body but also the
spirit and the soul – all levels of consciousness. In his early
lectures Professor Reznikoff mentioned four levels of consciousness: Superficial,
Medium, Deep and Divine consciousness. The best way to pass on the Christian
message, the prayers, to mentally handicapped is the chants of Christian
The impact of this kind of songs surprises and delights me again and again.
And not only do they impress the students, but also me and the other attendees.
I can remember when I was at a concert by Professor Reznikoff for the
first time. It was held in the church of Olaus Petri in Helsinki at the
end of the course in February 1987. The winter afternoon was turning to
evening and the church was lit only by candles. The song of Professor
Reznikoff resounded and resonated in the darkness of the church. Sitting
on the pew I felt somewhere between staying awake and falling asleep,
but I still felt physically present. "My soul and my spirit was resting",
and I can imagine that singers of Psalms through the ages have had a similar
kind of experience.
My Father was a member of the Finnish Orthodox Church and often took me
with him to follow the liturgy. My mother gave me a Lutheran education.
When I was in the confirmation class I considered to convert, but I decided
to stay Lutheran. Due to my background I am ecumenical.
The Ancient Christian chants add a special and strong influence to the
divine service. These chants were an important part of services in the
early Christian church. The message sticks better when it is sung since
the song passes through both sides of the brain and activates wider parts
of it than the spoken word. The aphasics are good example of this; they
are able to sing some old familiar songs accurately even though they cannot
speak. The songs and the melody also help to understand speech (= melody
intonation therapy). The songs in natural scale (human body resonates
in natural scale) penetrates the different levels of human consciousness
better than songs with western scale (temperated scale). To pray in a
singing voice touches more deeply and calms one down. You get connection
with your holy inmost. I do not know any other way that has such a so
strong impact. This kind of song is a holy art. It takes care of not only
the audience but also the singer herself.
We sang the Sanctus hymn at a church service in Killinmäki. One part
of the group sang the borduna ( the base note) and the other sang the
melody. After the service the priest and the cantor where surprised by
the strong physical impact of the songs. The priest said that he felt
a resonation in his chest he had never experienced before. They did not
sing themselves, but listened to the hymn of the holy trinity performed
by our group (the deep sound group). We have sung in other services too,
not just for mentally handicapped. The impact is always the same. It soothes
In Matinkappeli we have a "church service time" once a month
carried out by the laymen but following the liturgical form, except for
the sermon or Holy Communion since there is no priest. In these ceremonies
either I , or a part of my group, sings the antiphon that is appropriate
with the topic of the ecclesiastical year.
Relatives of a departed mentally handicapped asked me to play zither and
sing the songs, which were familiar from the confirmation class of the
deceased about five years earlier. The ceremony was unique. Even though
it was a stormy spring afternoon, the sun was shining on the casket just
during the ceremony. The atmosphere was cordial and overarching. The presence
of Holy was felt.
2. HOSPICE/TERMINAL CARE – ALLEVIATION OF PAIN
Deep sound therapy eases the condition of dying persons in many ways.
For example, a person in coma can hear the voices which penetrates all
levels of the consciousness.
I will give an example of a man who was in a terminal care last spring.
He was falling into coma and the nurses asked his relatives to come to
say farewells. However, his sister could not make it there before he was
in coma. The relatives and the priest asked me to sing for the dying man.
I took my zither and we approached his bed. The dying man’s wife
asked us to sing a familiar hymn. I played my zither and sang together
with the wife. Suddenly the man coughed, opened his eyes and started to
sing with us. Then we sang the familiar hymn "Mun kanteleeni kauniimmin"
and he waked up again and joined us in the song. He was also able to talk
with his wife and sister. The doctor of our department was amazed: –"What
has happened, he is supposed to be dead". The doctor asked the man
in the sickbed if he would like to have something to eat but the man answered
that he was not hungry. The relatives were astonished too, but happy to
get to talk with the man once more. The pastor of our hospital said it
was a miracle and very significant for relatives that he "waked up".
He lived one week after this event and had a peaceful departure.
The songs offer many dying people relief. A familiar hymn takes the thoughts
away from the painful and depressing feelings. A beautiful and restful
song concentrates the thoughts by consolation of the word (compare the
idea of singing versus talking mentioned earlier). Songs in natural scale
(that is most of the hymns and many other religious songs) affect also
physically by resonating the body. The pioneer of music therapy in Finland,
psychologist and music therapist Petri Lehikoinen, has developed the so
called physioacoustic therapy which utilises low frequency sine waves
to reduce stress and muscular pain. Originally the idea comes from the
strong relaxing impact of music on the human body. One can say that the
physioacoustic or vibrational energy treatment is like a machine massage
and deep sound therapy is a manual massage.
A 40 year old women had breast cancer. It was operated and she received
cytostatic treatment and radiotherapy. After a couple of months the cancer
had extended to her brain and lunges. The cytostatic treatment was discontinued
and she was told she had a couple of months or maybe half a year left
to live. She was transferred to the health centre’s ward for terminal
care. I met her in the emergency department where the doctor asked my
consultation, thinking about music therapy. I went to her room where she
was lying in her bed. The doctor and the assisting nurse where also there
to follow the situation. The problem with her was occasional anxiety an
confusion. After saying hello, I started to sing to her with a deep voice.
She calmed down immediately, shut her eyes and looked as if she had fallen
asleep. After five minutes of singing we left the room. The doctor was
instantly convinced of the necessity of music therapy. Later the patient
was transferred to a hospital nearer to my place and it was easier for
me to help her daily. The second time I saw her she had a bright moment
and told me what she had experienced when the first time we met. She remembered
how I had sung for her and asked for more. She also told about her children
and how difficult it was to part from her youngest, ten year old son.
I recommended discussions with our hospital priest. In the following months
she was occasionally confused and fastened to the chair or bed due to
safety reasons when the staff was not available. I met her regularly,
almost daily, and our hospital priest had discussions with her. Deep sound
therapy always calmed her down and made her obviously relaxed. I also
met her relatives and friends and they were grateful for the treatment.
Obviously the terminal care of such a person is hard for the nurses and
other staff, many of them were of same age as the dying woman or even
younger. Her energy diminished gradually and she died peacefully with
her relatives gathered around her. Deep sound therapy did offer help,
along with sufficient medical treatment.
When my husband was in his deathbed in coma, he reacted strongly to noise.
The noise from a landing field for helicopters near the cancer clinic
caused him painful feelings. One night when he suffered from the noise
it was replaced by the classical aria in Händel’s Rinaldo on
the radio. The music had an instant effect and he calmed down. My husband
loved Händel’s music and used to listen to it often when he
Why does deep sound therapy affect so strongly? Deep sound penetrates
deep into human body. For example, the singing of "OOOOOO" affects
through the spinal cord on the limbic system of the brain and the hypothalamus
and from there on the autonomic, previously named vegetative, nervous
"The autonomic nervous system is part of the peripheral nervous system,
which controls the smooth muscle tissue, the heart and the glands. It
is also named the unintentional nervous system.
The hypothalamus activates the sympathetic nervous system, for example
in physical or corporal work, in dangerous situations, strong emotional
feelings and other kind of stressful situations. The limbic system connects
the autonomic nervous system with emotional experiences"( 1). Hence
songs calm down and balance nerves and brain. The effect can be strong
enough to make an epileptic fit disappear. I have had several experiences
about this in my practice. An epileptic fit is a malfunction of the brain
and sound, specially the "OOOOO" makes it stop.
Deep sound therapy even has cumulative effect on some people. One singer
in my group suffered from severe epilepsy. She sang in the group, one
and a half hour about every second week. Later on she told me that after
one of these singing sessions she had no epileptic fit for even two weeks.
Naturally, she had medical treatment as well.
3. AUTISM AND THE USE OF DEEP SOUND THERAPY
For about nine years in the 1990s I rehabilitated children who were diagnosed
autistic. Deep sound therapy offers the best possibilities to get good
results. Music as such is pleasing for most of the children. Deep sound
therapy made it possible to get contact with them and to get a message
through by singing.
One child immediately stopped walking around and stood still when I started
singing. He stayed almost frozen and stared at me, probably wondering
where the voice came from.
Most children had very sensitive hearing, which caused them difficult
situations. For example, the noise from the air conditioning might sound
as the noise from the a jet plane and cause even insufferable pain. In
order to achieve successful therapy the room had to be emptied from all
For many of the children diagnosed with autism the visual messages and
visual perception offers the base for assessment of the situation. They
do not necessarily understand spoken language. Therefore I use visual
hints such as pictures of situations, items and actions to illustrate
the daily routines from their point of view (so called pictos). The music
therapy is also divided in separate themes with the help of the pictures.
Clear start, intermediate phase and end state. In order to achieve relaxation
in the end state I used deep sound therapy. At the start I sang each name
in natural scale (for example "Is Maija here" in the melody
of the hymn Hosanna filio), and they answered in there own way, even singing
or playing some rhythm instrument. I was called "Auntie OO"
by one kid, which described well the matter I was representing.
I observed obvious progress in interaction skills, concentration capabilities
and communication skills. The children’s taste of music also expanded.
For example, one girl who was in my rehabilitiation four years unexpectedly
took a CD disc and started to listen. Her mother wondered what her daughter
was listening to with earphones and noticed that it was one of Sibelius
symphonies The girl enjoyed that CD for a long time. Before that her only
music used to be children’s songs. Her capability to tolerate different
kind of sound improved. Her learning improved the longer the rehabilitation
continued. Special features of her behaviour did not disappeared, but
they did not disturb as much as earlier.
The aim with most of the children were to get them into dialogue, to communicate,
concentrate and express themselves. We also tried to develop social skills.
Earlier, about 10–20 years ago, there was a view that autism is
an early disturbance in the child–mother relationship, but hat view
has later been proved wrong. Autism is a serious neurological problem
which can not be cured with traditional psychotherapy. Because of this
neurological background, music therapy and specially deep sound therapy
are good rehabilitation methods. Mentors with psychotherapeutic background
said that autistic children have no social contact skills. I think it
is wrong to think that way, because my experience of working with them
tells me quite different. The traditional music therapists rehabilitated
earlier autistic children only with individual therapy, very seldom in
groups. In the 1970`s Juliette Alvin and Auriel Warwick in their book
"Music therapy with autistic children" (translated by Kari Riikkilä
1995) reported only of situations where the music therapist and child
were working together. In some cases the child’s mother joined in
the therapy after a while.
I always started the music therapy with autistic children in a group because
their problems mostly appear in group situations and that is why it s
better to start the therapy in a group. Very seldom I had individual therapy
with them, only with a strong reason, for example a difficult behaviour
problem such as aggression against to other members of the group. Then
I worked with them individually but the goal was always to get them back
in the group.
I mentioned above the neurological influence on the limbic system of nerves
and hypothalamus. In the their book Neurology (page 52) the authors Jorma
Palo, Matti Jokelainen, Markku Kaste, Heikki Teräväinen and
Olli Valtimo shows a picture of the structure of the autonomic nervous
This same mechanism explains the behaviour of an autistic person during
deep sound therapy. The sounds are directly connected with the autistic
persons world because. Words can for example be more easily understood
when melody is added. The spoken language does not penetrate the consciousness
of the autistic person ("Taide psykososiaalisen työn välineenä",
pages 143–144, edited by Heidi Ahonen-Eerikäinen). Temple Grandin,
who is an autistic person herself, mentions in her book "Out of autism"
how decisive all communications therapies such as speech and music therapy
was to her.
Also in Parkinson’s disease deep sound therapy calms down and relaxes
with remarkable effect on the forced movements the patient is suffering
I have tried to give a picture of the use deep sound therapy with some
examples so that the reader can get a better view about what it is like
working with autistic children with difficulties in communication and
behaviour. There are very few books about this problem. However I have
got support from T.E.A.C.C.H.(Treatment and education of autistic and
related communication handicapped children), a method I learned and from
psychologist Tuula Kulomäki in the Autism Unit, who mentored in our
team. Working with autistic children themselves gave me the best knowledge.
When I became acquainted with their world, how they see it, it was a very
learning and interesting experience. It was amazing how much curiosity,
patience and toleration the showed the music therapist who was quite lost
every now and then.
I am very grateful to Professor Iegor Reznikoff for his numerous lectures
and courses where I have got an opportunity to learn DEEP UNDERSTANDING
AND EXPERIENCE OF SOUND. Partly, I could use his method quite direct,
but I have also developed it with my own point of views. Most I rejoice
that Christian chants of Antiquity have enthused so many people in Finland
to sing and learn these songs.
1. Professor Reznikoffs lectures in Sibelius Academy on different courses
2. "Taide psykososiaalisen työskentelyn välineenä",
Heidi Ahonen-Eerikäinen (Ed.), pages 141–144, 147–150.
Pohjois-Karjalan ammattikorkeakoulu. Joensuu 1994.
3."Neurologia", Jorma Palo,Matti Jokelainen, Markku Kaste, Heikki
Teräväinen, Olli Valtimo. WSOY 1988.
4."Autistisen lapsen musiikkiterapia", Juliette Alvi, Auriel
Warwick, translation Kari Riikkilä 1995. Kehitysvammaliitto