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  • Man Laughing In His Acoustic Workplaces Office
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    Acoustic Workplaces - What is it all about?
    This article is an excerpt from an article written by Amber Rolt for the Estates Gazette. Is your workplace acoustically sound? In an open-plan office environment, decent acoustics can seem like a pipe dream. But will other companies follow Landsec’s lead in creating innovative and ear-friendly offices, or is it all noise? Once upon a time, private offices were the ultimate workplace status symbol. The bigger the better, with the elusive corner office the most coveted of all – if your name was on the door, it spoke volumes. Ironic, given that one of the benefits of being able to shut yourself away at work is the creation of a quiet space. A space arguably more conducive to productivity than the open-plan set-ups we have become used to today. The latter – preferred by many to encourage collaboration and team bonding – might be a more modern approach to workplace design. But it can play havoc with concentration levels: “Unfortunately, open plan now pervades the world,” says Julian Treasure, founder of the Sound Agency, a consultancy that works with the likes of Hammerson, Harrods and the BBC to create acoustic environments that elevate, rather than diminish, activity. “People in noisy offices can be as little as one-third as productive when they are doing mind-work.” This may be the case, but research by the Leesman Index – the largest independent collection of workplace effectiveness data in the world, surveying nearly 300,000 employees working out of more than 2,300 offices in 67 countries – suggests that open-plan and private office set-ups can be as good or bad as each other. The trick to success is building in flexibility and decent acoustics. And while the latter is trickier to get right in an open-plan environment, it can be done. Take Landsec as an example. Reluctant to turn its back on an open-plan office at its new headquarters, the REIT instead invested heavily in acoustics. This went way beyond installing a sound system and churning out background music – the developer created an acoustic environment that promotes cognitive function. Amazon has done something similar at its Seattle HQ. This is not a trend that applies only to offices. It transcends asset classes and is particularly relevant in the healthcare, retail and leisure sectors, where there is a growing awareness that assets that sound better can perform better. Innovation, collaboration and concentration When Landsec moved offices from the Strand, WC2, to its Nova development in Victoria, SW1, it decided to embrace the open-plan office – great for collaboration, but not always great for concentration. With 470 employees sharing one floorplate, the developer decided to invest in “soundscaping” for the new office – a technique which aims to create the right level of ambient sounds to drown out unwanted noise. “We were conscious that we didn’t want a chaotic and noisy working environment,” says Neil Pennell, head of engineering and design at Landsec: “To ensure the sound levels and acoustic environment made a positive contribution to productivity, we installed an IP (internet protocol)-based white noise system linked to speakers installed across the floorplate. “The technology allows us to set various levels of white noise across different parts of the workspace to ensure that the acoustics are maintained at an optimum level. This innovation has helped create a great working experience for our employees.” And Landsec is not the only one to have invested in this. Amazon has installed a variation on the system across its headquarters in Seattle. Research suggests that unproductive, distracted workers in an office ultimately end up costing a company money. This is where flexibility – in this case a mixture of designated quiet and noisy spaces – comes in. The importance of sound when it comes to the value of an asset goes way beyond the workplace. Turn it down Hospitals are a prime example. The World Health Organisation recommends that average patient noise levels remain at around 30 decibels. In reality this figure is nearer 48 decibels in most hospitals – loud enough to cause lack of sleep and slower patient recovery. “Noise levels in hospitals are in the region of 12 times the world health organisation recommendation,” says Treasure. “That’s a shocking number. Just fitting acoustic ceilings instead of the cheapest possible ceilings can make a difference. Putting in soothing sound can also mask some of the noises, and before and after operations it can improve recovery times and reduce stress levels. Sound is so important to design within these facilities that I honestly believe we could transform healthcare outcomes pretty much overnight if we made hospitals a lot quieter and improved the sound conditions.” Sound can affect our behaviour as well as our concentration and health, and a growing number of retail and restaurant occupiers and owners have worked out that they can increase their turnover and customer spend with the right acoustics. Enhancing productivity So why does sound have such an impact on the way that we feel and behave? Treasure explains that it can have an impact on life in three main ways: “...People feel unhappy when noise is assailing them, it can lead to a sense of frustration and stress, and then on top of happiness we have our wellbeing – people’s health can be severely affected by working in noisy conditions, and the third is productivity.” These emotional and cognitive responses to the sounds in our surroundings have been deeply rooted in our evolution as humans. Sound therapist and founder of Healthy Sound, Lyz Cooper, says: “Our brains have evolved to respond to sound in certain ways. We have this innate programming and sensitivities in the ear that makes us do this. So, if you hear an alarm, your body will release adrenalin which is because we have evolved to rely on alarm calls in nature to help us work out of we were about to be eaten by something. This is something that still remains with us now, which means that noise can put us into a constant hum of sound-related stress.” However, this can work both ways. While unwanted noise can cause stress, sounds can also be manipulated to reduce it. Plan ahead In order to provide optimum acoustics in the built environment, plans need to be in place from the very first design stages. This is something not many in the construction and property industry take into account, with some only registering its importance once the project is complete and operational. Treasure says: “Architects can train for up to five years, and typically they only spend one day on sound in that five years. If you ask them to show you their work, they will show you a picture or a model, which is all for the eyes.” Interior designer at NBBJ Clark Pickett agrees: “I think sound is overlooked by most of us in the profession, except for in areas where it is really crucial, like theatres and recording studios. Forward-planning where different rooms are going to be in developments is another way to improve the sound of a building. Many of the complaints from patients in hospitals is the direct result of a common design problem of having the nurse’s station too close to patient beds. The same applies to five-star hotels, where privacy and quiet is required in guest rooms. Design with our ears Now that Landsec has recognised the importance of acoustics, it is likely that other developers will soon follow suit. Owner-occupiers have an advantage in being able to control acoustics at the design stage, but sound engineers can still be bought in to improve existing projects. For Treasure, the solution is clear: “The thesis is we need to start designing with our ears as well as with our eyes to create spaces which are fit for purpose.”
  • Sound Therapy Session
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    What is Sound Therapy?
    Sound Therapy is the use of therapeutic sound, music and instruments to improve health and wellbeing. Our method of sound therapy (known as the BAST method) is the result of 22 years of research and development. As well as conducting our own research we also draw on the latest developments in sound cognition, music psychology and medical ethno-musicology to inform our work. The British Academy of Sound Therapy (BAST) was formed in 2000 and was the rst training school to offer formal quali cations in sound therapy. As well as being a training provider we are an organisation that is dedicated to creating a growing network of research, development and projects with the aim of and playing techniques to affect the mind, body and emotions using three main approaches: 1. Sound Induced Altered State of Consciousness. Sound applied in specific ways can enable people to achieve a deep and natural state of relaxation known as an Altered State of Consciousness (ASC). Research has shown that being in an ASC results in many different positive health bene ts such as reduced muscle tension, lower blood pressure and emotional and mental wellbeing. 2. Group and Interactive Methods. These methods combine therapeutic techniques with games and interactive work to enhance communication, creativity, expression and joy. We achieve this through sonic art, story- telling, performance, games and creative music making. This ‘arts in health’ approach is becoming increasingly more popular in mainstream healthcare settings and offers so many different ways to work in the community. 3. Self-Re ection and Enquiry. In addition to using therapeutic sound we use a simple technique for self-re ection and inquiry known as ‘The 5Rs Model of Experiential Processing’. This simple 5 step method enables a person to explore their personal healing journey and make positive changes to their life by becoming more self-aware.
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    What can Sound Therapy treat?
    Research shows that sound therapy can treat a variety of different ailments. In a sound therapy treatment we play a combination of ancient and modern instruments to gently bathe the body at a cellular level. A good sound therapist or practitioner will know which instruments and sounds to use to help the system to balance itself by releasing the denser energy that can hold the body in an unhealthy state.  Over the years many of our clients have made life-changing recoveries from their symptoms. We have worked with individuals with fertility issues, chronic pain, cancer, stress-related illnesses, IBS, ME, tinnitus, mild depression, anxiety, arthritis and so much more. Whether you come for a regular ‘tune up’ or relaxation session, or have a chronic long-term illness, sound could help you to enjoy a better quality of life. Even if you consider yourself to be in the best of health, regular treatment could strengthen the system and therefore help prevent future illness and disease. Sound therapy not only helps with physical illness, it can also help balance the emotions and quieten a busy mind. Sound could also help you to reach your fullest potential and many people have enhanced their lives by working with our techniques. It is important to note that sound therapy is a complementary medicine that works really well alongside orthodox medicine and is not intended to replace any orthodox medical treatment or medication that an individual may be receiving/taking.
  • pPeruvian Whistling Vessels
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    A Journey into the World of the Peruvian Whistling Vessels
    Of Earth and Air - by Lyz Cooper'Featured in Sacred Hoop Magazine November 07' Once thought by anthropologists to be nothing more than ‘amusing liquid containers’, the Peruvian whistling vessels are now telling their true story to anyone who is ready to listen. Andean creation legends say that the creator made the first men and women from clay which was then breathed into to form the first life on Earth. Alpamasca, the Inca word for a person’s body means ‘animated earth’. For centuries, archaeologists were finding these vessels at many burial sites and sacred places, but their meaning and use was shrouded in mystery for centuries. In recent years their story is being discovered and they are once again being used for journeying to other realms as well as helping to improve health and well-being. Some of the oldest whistles have been dated at around 500 – 300BC and were made by the Vicus and Salinar people. The most commonly found are Moche, Chimu and Inca in origin and date from 1000 AD until shortly after the Spanish conquest in 1532. The vessels are usually made in the shape of animals, people or mythical figures. Sound has long been associated with shifting consciousness and enabling the player or listener to contact other realms, nature and the different aspects of self. Acoustically the whistles are very interesting. The sound they produce is high pitched and similar to that of the old whistling kettles. When played on their own they sound rather uninteresting but when combined with groups of whistles it becomes clear why they were made in this way.   People who have heard groups of whistles being played report hearing a buzzing sound that seems to come from inside their head and their eardrums are being vibrated. Every sound we hear produces minute vibrations on the surface of the eardrum which in turn are translated into nerve impulses which the brain decodes. The pitches of each vessel are almost identical but the minute differences in pitch produce a psycho-acoustic effect that has been likened to ‘sonic ayahuasca’. Very close-matched sounds create multiple sets of ripples across the eardrum which the brain attempts to make sense of. The brain registers each sound separately but also perceives other sounds which appear to come from inside the head. This effect increases when a greater number of whistles are played until there is a build up of different buzzing sounds and pulses both inside and outside the head. This phenomenon is the key that unlocks the doorway to other realms. The whistles are made so that the sound-hole is level with the third eye as you play (which in itself is extremely interesting as this further highlights that the makers of these wonderful vessels fully intended to use the sound to alter consciousness). The importance of the breath also features heavily in many cultures throughout the world. Life-force/chi/prana/vital energy is taken into the body on the breath. The player of a vessel is required to be attentive to the direction of their breath to enable their whistle to produce the best beating sounds. The slow, directed breath allows the player to relax and helps them to journey with the sound. It is also necessary for the player to listen to the other players in the group, therefore becoming less conscious of ‘self’ and more aware of the group energy. Even if you are not playing, the sounds can still produce amazing effects and receivers have also had powerful experiences. One listener reported shape-shifting into a black panther and prowling around the group on all fours until coming back to the ‘here and now’. This experience proves that you don’t have to be playing to receive the effect of these wonderful tools of transformation. Other players have been transported to the stars, taken deep inside the Earth and had conversations with spirit guides or relatives that have passed into spirit. There are too many experiences to mention in this article, but suffice to say that I am very respectful of the potential that the vessels hold within them. It is very rare for a person not to have an experience with the whistling vessels but some people find that they need a few sittings with them until they have got used to the sound and feel comfortable. It is also important that a safe and supported sacred space is created before working in this way. Not every sound is for every body and some people do not like the piercing sound of the vessels or are not comfortable with the consciousness shifting effects that the whistles facilitate. My personal journey with the whistling vessels began when I came across a copy of Daniel Statnekov’s book, ‘Animated Earth’. I had been working with sound for many years and after reading this book I knew that I had to experience the whistling vessels first-hand. I contacted Daniel Statnekov in the USA and spoke about my passion for sound and the desire to work with the whistles. Following a long telephone conversation he informed me that he would be happy to make a set for me. Over the next few months I received regular updates from Daniel regarding the progress of my vessels. He asked if I would like to contribute something to the fabric of the vessels so I sent a piece of quartz crystal which I had lovingly programmed and ground up for him to add to the special clay mixture that has taken him years to perfect. The making of each vessel is a sacred process and once fired, the whistles were left outdoors to be energised by the elements. A month or so later I found myself sitting in the living room of a house in San Francisco where I was to receive my first introduction to the power of the vessels. In the centre of the room sat fourteen vessels arranged in a circle upon a rug. The vessels were replicas of a Chimu whistling vessel (picture attached). The Chimu kingdom stretched for more than six hundred miles along the northwest coast of what is now known as Peru. The Chimu were an extensive civilisation with a highly developed agricultural, artistic and political state. After a few minutes of playing I felt a strong tug on my solar plexus as if someone had attached a string to it and was pulling fairly hard. In my mind’s eye I saw a black hole open in front of me and my solar plexus lurched as if I had just gone over a hump-back bridge at speed. After a moment’s hesitation I took the plunge and went in. It was like travelling down a wormhole at a tremendous speed for a few seconds and then suddenly I was spat out of the other end into silence and bliss. Every molecule of my being felt as though it was disconnected from ‘self’ and yet profoundly connected to all that is. I felt expansive, light and full of love and peace. I was not aware of the room that my physical body was still sitting in although in the distance I heard a faint sound of the whistling vessels being played. This sound reassured me part of me was still ‘attached’ to the room. It felt as though I had phased-out of one dimension and into another where peace and tranquillity reigned supreme. A few minutes later I snapped back into the dimension that I presently call ‘home’ and became aware of the room and the people around me. I took a while to ground myself, but afterwards felt refreshed, centred and energised. Working with sound in this way can be a powerful sacred experience and can open doorways to exploring the self and other realms. My experience is that the whistles have an accumulative effect and the more you use them, the easier and quicker it is to enter back into an altered state. I always work with the vessels in a mindful, sacred way. Working with them at a sacred site such as Stonehenge can be extremely powerful as the interaction between the energy of the sound and the energy of the earth adds a special quality. Working in caves or places with lively acoustics such as churches and temples is also a very special experience. All of my tools are treated with respect and therefore the more they are used, the more the energy within them grows. If I am running a workshop I usually build towards playing the vessels close to the end of the day or weekend so that people have had time to adjust to working with sound in a transformational way. Himalayan singing bowls, voice, drums, gongs and crystal bowls are among the instruments that are used along with breath and gentle movement to help to raise frequencies and transmute denser energy that can hold us in dis-ease. The sound and energy of each instrument interacts with each person in a different way and therefore everyone’s experience and feedback will be different. As each individual’s frequencies become lighter so they are able to assimilate the sound in a deeper way. Towards the end of the day we may travel to the sacred site or sometimes the whole workshop is conducted within the space. The whistles are played and the group take it in turns to give and receive their song. A session of playing can last from 20 minutes to an hour depending on the participants. After a workshop such as this it is so important to make sure everyone is grounded in the ‘here and now’ so we make sure we integrate some grounding exercises before saying goodbye.