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University of Silesia in Katowice

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Sounds – a starting point for music therapy and… understanding quantum entanglement

02.04.2024 - 10:12 update 08.04.2024 - 11:06
Editors: wc-a

Each of 50 Weeks in the City of Science features a text about selected research in a given subject area carried out by scientists from the universities forming the Academic Consortium Katowice City of Science. The texts we publish give insight into the diversity of issues scientists deal with and show the research potential that is dormant in the universities of the consortium.

| Agnieszka Kliks-Pudlik |

Sound Week is the 13th among the 50 Weeks in the City of Science. Scientists from the Academic Consortium – Katowice City of Science look at sounds from different perspectives: as elements of melodies that are the basis of music therapy, as a starting point for understanding quantum entanglement, but also as a source of anthropogenic noise.

‘Sounds are not just melody or music in general. They can be looked at from many different perspectives – they can develop our social, communication and emotional spheres. Sounds influence many areas of our lives’ emphasises Sara Knapik-Szweda, PhD from the Institute of Pedagogy at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Silesia, curator of the Sound Week.

Słuchawki leżące na blacie

Fot. Lee Campbell | Unsplash

Soothe the preemies and their parents

Sara Knapik-Szweda, PhD is a certified music therapist who, a few years ago, was the first to introduce music therapy for premature babies to a Polish hospital (today there are several such facilities in the country). In addition to research and teaching, she also works clinically in two hospitals at neonatal intensive care units.

‘A prematurely born child is a child whose psychomotor and neurological condition is very diverse, and its further development depends on many biological and environmental factors. Early intervention and developmental stimulation, in which the child’s parents are involved, play a very important role. Music therapy for prematurely born children is therefore an early form of musical stimulation that affects their development holistically. It supports the overall development of premature babies and supports their parents in this difficult situation’ emphasises Sara Knapik-Szweda, PhD.

Properly conducted music therapy (e.g. in the form of singing accompanied by an instrument) allows, among others: establish a child’s relationship with their parents; reduces agitation, crying, irritation and stress; supports breathing; strengthening coordination skills related to eating; it calms down, relieves pain, and allows you to achieve a state of self-regulation.

‘Although music therapy in the neonatal intensive care unit is not (yet?) standard care in Poland, it is becoming an increasingly appreciated scientific and clinical discipline’ summarises the researcher.

Music as therapy for people with trauma

Music therapy for people with experience of relational trauma is conducted by Ludwika Konieczna, PhD, DLitt, Associate Professor of the Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music in Katowice.

The expert indicates that people with experience of relational trauma, which is the result of neglect and violence from loved ones, may experience difficulties in recognising and regulating emotions and building a sense of security; They are often characterised by low self-esteem and feelings of guilt. ‘Practical experience suggests that music therapy can be a tool for change and an effective form of therapy, but existing research does not precisely indicate the mechanisms underlying such a process or specific areas of improvement in functioning’ emphasises the scientist. She adds that the current research is based on a qualitative approach – that is, it is focused on the analysis of musical materials from music therapy sessions and interviews with current and former participants of therapeutic processes.

Quantum combo, or the improvisations of Schrödinger’s cat

Sounds (as waves) are also well known to physicists. Prof. Bogusław Fugiel from the August Chełkowski Institute of Physics at the Faculty of Science and Technology of the University of Silesia conducts research on Shepard sounds, which are the acoustic equivalent of L. S. Penrose and R. Penrose’s stairs – an optical illusion.

As he explains, the melodic interval built on Shepard’s sounds can be treated as a superposition of an ascending and descending interval, complementing each other up to the octave. ‘Therefore, we can notice a certain similarity to the behaviour of quantum systems: electron spins and photons. The state of quantum superposition and wave vector reduction are phenomena whose understanding often goes beyond our imagination. However, music has inspired scientists for centuries. This is also the case when sound phenomena illustrate mysterious effects in the quantum world. The equivalent of quantum measurement is the act of sound perception. You can’t answer the question wheter Shepard’s melodic interval is increasing or decreasing unless you hear it – just like in the Stern-Gerlach experiment with silver atoms or in experiments with photon polarisation!’ he indicates.

He adds that quantum entanglement transferred to the space of sound events not only deepens our imagination, but can also be used to describe musicians ‘entangled in a combo’, their improvisations, as well as non-musical events.

Listen to… the silence

Acoustics and psychoacoustics are the areas of scientific interest of Przemysław Scheller, PhD from the Department of Composition and Music Theory at the Faculty of Composition, Conducting and Music Theory of the Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music in Katowice.

His research focuses on acoustic illusions, soundscapes and the psychology of listening. Particular attention is paid to the quality of the sonosphere (i.e. all the ambient sounds reaching our ears) and the problem of excessive anthropogenic noise.

‘Noise has a clearly negative impact on people’s well-being. At the same time, it is increasingly difficult to find places free from sounds emitted by people. Even in the forest it is difficult to find a moment when you cannot hear, for example, planes flying over. That’s why I try to promote silence as an extremely precious value for humans’ emphasises the researcher, who also uses his scientific knowledge in composing.

The full programme of the Sound Week is available on the event’s website

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