What do ghetto-blasting superfreaks who retrofit their hoopties with massive subwoofers have in common with the most avid of churchgoers? More than either camp is prepared to admit, most likely: according to a study by British acousticians, "people who experience a sense of spirituality in church may be reacting to the extreme bass sound produced by some organ pipes." Turns out that inaudibly low but exceedingly loud sounds (AKA infrasound, or anything below 20 Hz) can have profound effects on unsuspecting listeners — be they kneeling at the altar or pimpin' in the passenger seat. They can range from the euphoric (overwhelming joy) to the downright disturbing ("an extreme sense of loss" and "shivers down the spine"), effects exploited by church organists for the last half-millenium to help congregations feel the spirit — or at least give them a little nudge. Nudge too hard, though, and you could make more than just the spirit move: "The brown note, according to urban legend, is an infrasonic frequency that causes humans to lose control of their bowels due to resonance." Could there any truth to the brown note legend? Take your chances on Sunday morning and find out for yourself.
Let the spirit move you -- but not too much
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August 23, 2006 - 09:50am