Hertz, Insomnia, and David’s Secret Chord
Leonard Cohen managed to condense what is actually quite a complex and riveting Biblical tale into a few timeless lines:
Now, I heard there was a secret chord,
That David played, and it pleased the Lord…
And for the rest of the classic song, most of us focus on the imagery and the cadence of the ballad…
Missing a clue buried in the original story that could solve a problem apparently as old as ancient Israel:
You see, King Saul was the ruler before David became king. And David used to have to play King Saul songs on his harp to help him sleep.
Those songs vibrated on the frequencies that made up the solfeggio scale.
Solfeggio Scale: a part of the six-tone scale that often appears in ancient, sacred music, like the Gregorian Chants. Played in harmony, the legend is that they bless the listener with spiritual gifts and peace.
The scale is so old and mystical, modern researchers aren’t quite sure what to use it for.
About 60 million Americans are affected by insomnia every year, and it gets worse when you’re over 65.
But for a disorder that plagues such a huge portion of the population, and that’s just the number of people who bother to get insomnia diagnosed, scientists know very little about its mechanics.
It’s a bit like fatigue in that way — vague, common, and with as many possible causes as presentation variations.
But one man had the idea to turn David’s old psalms into insomnia’s worst enemy.
Michael Tyrell Tuned His Guitar
When Michael Tyrell was touring as a musician, he met a man who was playing music in a cafe in Jerusalem.
He and the man bonded, and Tyrell was given a manuscript of the psalms David put to music for King Saul.
As he started examining those psalms and picking them out on his guitar, Tyrell realized the solfeggio scale symmetry of all of them and started experimenting.
As a musician himself, he was always having sleep problems.
Staying up too late, messing with his circadian rhythm, sending adrenaline coursing through his system after playing a particularly electrifying set…
After years on the road, he was exhausted and unable to rest.
When he was given the David manuscript, he figured out what the frequency of each of the seven songs was — in Hertz (that’s how frequencies are measured.)
He tried tuning his guitar the way David would have, but it didn’t work.
He tried playing the frequencies the way the American Concert Association had them organized, but it didn’t work.
So instead, he set those ancient notes and frequencies to modern music and made a fascinating discovery.
Michael Tyrell Learned to Sleep
Tyrell has been evolving this system for sleeping ever since he set those frequencies to music.
While the original songs he came up with were beautiful — with pounding drums and crescendos and moving moments — they weren’t exactly relaxing.
He had created a device that played his music for people in their homes, and the testimonies were powerful. But he felt they could do more.
He called his customers, and did more research, fiddled with the mode. He found that there were a few key pieces to using music to fall asleep.
First, the music had to be soft enough that it didn’t bother you, but not so soft that you couldn’t hear it.
Then, your playlist had to end on a song that fades out for a long time, so that you’re not shaken from your delicate slumber and woken up by the sudden absence of sound.
So maybe the solfeggio scale was too triumphant for putting people to sleep…
But it inspired him to create his own lullabies, along softer frequencies, and program them into a device everyone could have in their homes.
He created a device that looks like a little Bluetooth speaker and plays seven homegrown lullabies written by Tyrell himself, with the calming principles of King David’s original psalms in mind.
He kept the features that had soothed people originally, modifying the tones and frequencies of his songs.
And the response has been…
Well, pretty quiet.
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