Tag Archives: Sonic Magic

The Nature of Things explores how sound affects our lives for good and bad

Earlier this year, I watched a stunning documentary called Alive Inside. In it, social worker Dan Cohen shows that music seems to combat memory loss and cut through the fog of Alzheimer’s disease. It was a stunning and hopeful documentary about the power of music, something that’s echoed in Thursday’s new instalment of The Nature of Things.

“Sonic Magic: The Wonder of Science and Sound” jets from Canada to Italy, Australia, England and the United States as scientists, engineers, professors and historians uncover how music is being used to destroy cancer, halt brain disorders like the aforementioned Alzheimer’s disease and even change what food tastes like. Some of the most interesting footage of sound is presented in the first few minutes, as sand and water twists, jumps and wobbles into complex geometric patterns under the affect of sound waves played by musical instruments. (I used to pop the foam covers off my stereo speakers so I could watch the cones vibrate.)

Meanwhile, Trevor Cox plays a saxophone in the London tube to get a read on how architecture changes the way we hear sounds. A interesting example of a building celebrating sound is in Pisa, Italy where The Baptistery of St. John enables an opera singer’s note to resonate for nine seconds. Some information seems obvious—living in a loud environment like a busy metropolis raises one’s stress levels—but how noise can change the way food tastes is fascinating.

And the story of Daniel Kish, blind since 13 months of age using a technique he calls “flash sonar” to navigate the world on foot and on a bike? Simply incredible. 

The Nature of Things airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on CBC.