Many ancient spiritual belief systems say that sound created the world. That tells us that ancient and indigenous people were/are keenly aware of the power of sound to heal, to harm, to create, and to destroy.
We all know that sonic booms can break windows, loud blasts can break eardrums, and too much loud noise can make you crazy. The U.S. Goverment even used sound (very loud rock and roll music) to try to get the President of Panama to surrender so they could cart him off to prison in the U.S.
Research shows that the human brain can filter out up to three noise sources at once, but only for a limited amount of time. How long depends on how loud and how disruptive the noise is. But at some point, the human brain simply shuts down, and you literally can't think anymore. Corporations that allow noisy offices should take heed.
Medical research also shows that certain forms of sound are healing---even though they are not sure why. For example, there is extensive research on drumming: how it cures headaches, promotes trance states (which are often in themselves healing), retrains the brain (which can be important in recovering from strokes and other kinds of brain and nerve damage), and so on.
Indigenous people have many teaching stories about how sound can heal people. But western medical science does not listen to them. In fact, until recently anthropologists largely overlooked much of what indigenous people do and think. Anthropologists had certain questions that they asked about certain categories of society. Much of indigenous culture, having no counterpart in modern European and American culture, was invisible to them.
In a way, many beliefs and practices of indigenous cultures have been invisible to indigenous peoples, too. That is, some are like water to a fish---so obvious that you would not feel a need to mention them, even to outsiders. Yet the outsiders (anthropologists and others) are blind to those obvious things, because such things have no meaning in their own culture.
Other things are so sacred that they are not spoken of openly to the uninitiated, and certainly not to outsiders. So shamans or priestesses might know something that ordinary folk might not.
As ridiculous as it may seem, up until recently both male and female anthropologists only bothered to interview indigenous males. They assumed that women were just workers, not carriers of culture. How wrong they were!
Archeologists now know that women invented mathematics, language, astronomy, basketry, pottery, weaving, dyeing, gardening, shamanism, medicinal lore and plant knowledge and much more. There is hard evidence for most of those statements and strong circumstantial evidence for the rest. All of that matches what is observed among indigenous peoples.
The oldest pictures of drums show them being played by women. Some archeologists theorize that the drums derived from sieves that the women made and used to separate the chaff from grain. But those would be much later drums, invented after agriculture began--only a few thousand years ago.
Modern human beings like us have existed at least 250,000 to 300,000 years. Long before agriculture someone is bound to have discovered that hollow logs make good drums. Women who stretched pieces of rawhide to dry would have discovered they could make a noise.
Before that there were always sticks or stones to be clapped together. Or just hands clapping, voices humming, and so on.
What matters is rhythm. Rhythm is powerful no matter what you use to make it.
How sad it is that our culture is so ignorant of the power and importance of sound for healing---and of the harm that the wrong kinds of sound can cause. Only in the last couple of decades have experiments shown that different kinds of music affect plant growth. Rock and roll, for example, stunts growth, while classical music enhances it.
And that's just western music. The sacred music of many cultures has been used for healing for thousands of years.
So please spread the word. You can learn more about the power of sound for healing by searching on the Internet (using Google, Yahoo, or your favorite search engine) for phrases like "drumming for healing" or "sound for healing" or look for books and/or recordings on the topic on Amazon.com. There are quite a few.
And so today I'm grateful for the blessing of sound and for the huge variety of sounds that are useful for healing.