"De Sonō Mente" (Prima Pars)

"De Sonō Mente" (Prima Pars)

(Or "Salvi Mentis"?) Part I of an interview with Dr. Nina Kraus of Northwestern University's "Brainvolts" lab.

I sit-down with Dr. Nina Kraus of Northwestern University to talk about all things sound, especially her recent book, “Of Sound Mind” from MIT Press. I reached out to Dr. Kraus because of an article excerpted from her book within which she talks about her ongoing research into “drone compositions.”

In the second part of this interview, we’ll get into the subject of “drone” and its application to the ÆTERNUM project. But in this first part, we go through a lot of the technical aspects of the book and then start to get into applications.

BTW: If you’re interested in the sound research of Dr. Kraus and others, consider attending the upcoming “Frequency-Following Response (FFR) Workshop,” June 12-14 in Chicago.

(Also, early in the interview, someone tried to call on Google Voice, hence the ring-tone. Rookie mistake!)

The transcription was done with a little service called Sonix.AI, which allows you to do audio transcription on an hourly rate. Very convenient for small-timers like me. If you want to use their service, please use this link so I can get credit for it: https://sonix.ai/invite/ovywbwe.


Da’ Boss (“Richard”)

Friar Z: [00:00:00] So, just to start with some introductory information, your name is Dr. Nina Kraus, obviously, and you're at Northwestern University. Where is that located again?

Dr. Kraus: [00:00:08] It's right outside Chicago.

Friar Z: [00:00:09] It is in Chicagoland. All right. So, just a little bit about you how did you get interested in sound in the first place? I think you are a biologist by training, a neurologist by training. How did that all develop for you, as a career path?

Dr. Kraus: [00:00:28] So, I grew up in a household where more than one language was spoken, and my mom was a musician. There was a lot of music making in the house. One of the languages that I learned to speak is harmony. I love to sing harmony, and I don't even know what I do when I sing harmony, because I learned it as a baby learns a language. It's not like you learn what's the subjunctive, you know? You just talk. And then I went to college. I decided to major in comparative literature because I knew some languages and I like to read, and then I had to take a distribution requirement, which was a biology distribution requirement, and it turns out that I loved biology. And I discovered also while I was at college that a book called "The Biological Foundations of Language" [by Eric Lenneberg].

This pioneering researcher only lived to 54. What have you done with your life?

Friar Z: [00:01:40] Which I think you mentioned in the book, yes?

Dr. Kraus: [00:01:43] Yeah. And so I thought, you know, everything that I do is without boundaries and disciplines. One of my favorite quotes is "nature does not respect disciplines." And so I thought this is wonderful: can I be a biologist and study language? So that was one of the first things that I embarked on. I was just interested in sound. I mean, I must have known just because of my background and how I was raised that sound was important, that it was a powerful force, that it carried things I was interested in. And so I went to graduate school and started recording activity from single neurons in the brain and seeing how the neurons changed in response to sound, and also what happened when when we learned that a sound has meaning. So, you have the same neuron, the same sound, but you can actually see first-hand biologically that the brain is changing. And so, that happened decades ago and made a huge impression on me. And one way or another I'm looking at that: I've been looking at it ever since. Because it's very clear: how we spend our time and the choices that we make, make us who we are biologically.


Friar Z: [00:03:29] And this is the formation of the "sound mind" or the "sound brain" that you talk about later on in the book, yes?

Dr. Kraus: [00:03:36] Yeah. You know, over the years I was teaching a class called "Biological Foundations of Speech and Music"... Also you should know that, I first started out with with sound and language and looking at things from a biological perspective, and a couple of decades ago I brought music into the mix because I was studying learning, the biology of learning through sound. And I thought, well, you know, what better way to study the biology of learning? I mean, music, besides being music, is this wonderful model for studying learning in the brain through sound. So, I started doing that. But as a scientist and as a professor here at Northwestern University, I've been teaching this class and there was no book, there was no syllabus. I was just making it up. And over the years I developed this series of lectures and concepts of what I thought was important when I was talking and trying to teach people about sound: sound and the brain, from a biological perspective. And my students for this class, they come from really different backgrounds. I have undergrads and grads, I have people coming from a music background, people coming from philosophy, people coming from biology, from physics, kind of all over the place. And... First of all, that's one of the reasons I love thinking about it, studying sound, because it encompasses almost everything we care about. So, I could bring these students in from very different perspectives, and I felt, how do I speak about biology to students who may not even have background in biology? Some have a lot of background in biology, but how can I find common ground to talk about what I think are important principles? So, the class was born and then at a certain point I thought, you know, I really would like this information all in one place because my core syllabus was just hither and yon. And I thought, let's just put this in one place, and then I can also speak to my very favorite audience, which is a curious person.

Friar Z: [00:06:20] So, part of this is that, it seems like you have an independent project, which I believe is hosted by Northwestern, which is called "Brainvolts." Is that correct?

Brain + Volts… sorta like this… maybe… (John Lund)

Dr. Kraus: [00:06:29] It's my lab: I named it "Brainvolts."

Friar Z: [00:06:34] And it seems like a lot of what comes into your book "Of Sound Mind" is from the work that's been done by that lab over the years. Correct?

Dr. Kraus: [00:06:43] Absolutely. So, you know, if you look... and I hope that anybody who listens to this will go to the home page of this...

Friar Z: [00:06:51] I'll be posting links, yeah.

Dr. Kraus: [00:06:53] But if you go to the home page, you'll see first these drawings of... We study concussion, we study music, we study bilingualism, we study reading and language disorders, aging. We study a lot of things, and you might ask yourself, what are they even doing at Brainvolts? But it's all under the umbrella of sound and the brain, and I think it's a testament to the fact that sound really does engage almost everything that we care about.

Friar Z: [00:07:27] Yeah, and it not only connects us internally, but it connects us externally with others and so forth, and this is why it has to be interdisciplinary.

Dr. Kraus: [00:07:36] I think so. And yet, you know, our world is set up in a very...

Friar Z: [00:07:42] Reductionistic way.

Dr. Kraus: [00:07:44] ... reductionistic way.

Friar Z: [00:07:45] Or what? Compartmentalization, I guess you could say also.

“Of Sound Mind”

Friar Z: [00:07:51] Well, I'd love to talk more about the book. It's titled "Of Sound Mind." Just to kind of get a big picture and then maybe go into some of the details, not all, since it's just, you know, the... All the technical details are wonderful, and we just don't have time to get into them. But maybe big picture, kind of your elevator pitch. What is the book "Of Sound Mind" about? And who is your primarily intended audience? Is it just the curious person, or is there more to it than that?

Dr. Kraus: [00:08:19] Well, "Of Sound Mind" is my love letter to sound. And, you know, when you write a book... The guys at MIT Press kept pressing me: "Who's your target audience"? I thought, well, okay: Hermione Granger.

She has a signed copy (FanPop.com)

Here's a teenager who's interested in the powerful forces in our lives, and so that was a person that I thought about. But really, anybody who is interested in what makes us "us" biologically, and what about sound? The book is divided into two sections, roughly. The first is a lot of the nuts-and-bolts of sounds and signals, I call them, outside our head, which are the sound waves. And what's kind of wonderful is, you can talk about sound in such a transcendent, ethereal way, and yet you can also talk about sound in terms of signals, frequency, and phase, and time, and very definable entities.

Friar Z: [00:09:34] Qualities to it all, yeah.

Dr. Kraus: [00:09:36] So I talk about these signals outside the head, and I talk about the signals inside the head, and the currency of the nervous system is electricity. And again, it's just signals: you can measure voltages and you can see how the signals inside the head relate to the signals outside the head. And the first part of the book is really kind of the fundamentals of what is going inside and outside the head and the reciprocity of that relationship when we learn to make sound into meaningful connections. And then the second part, which is really the core of the book... And it's the largest part of the book, and it should be pretty easy reading.

Friar Z: [00:10:21] Yeah, I found it very accessible. I mean, I do have a bit of a technical background, but... yeah.


Dr. Kraus: [00:10:27] People can just go to the second part of the book, right? They should read the introduction, and then they can go right to the chapter on concussion, if that's what they want to go to first. But the second part of the book, the crux of the book, the largest part, is what I call "Our Sonic Selves." So, it's really how does our life and sound, the music we make, what we read and recite, the languages we speak... How does this change our own nervous system? And how does our life and sound change when we're in utero, when we're just little bitty babies? What happens in adolescence? What happens in middle age? What happens as we get older and wiser?

Friar Z: [00:11:23] Hopefully.

Dr. Kraus: [00:11:24] All of these things can be looked at from a biological perspective. And so you might just jump to the chapter on aging... And I really do believe that I can talk about this from a biological perspective, that the more you do something, the more synchronous the neural activity becomes and the clearer and more robust the signal is. And I think we're really able to look at... get some idea of what is it that underlies experience? An expert... wisdom? Why is it that in Africa, the African drummers, who are the old men? Well, men are the best drummers. And I think it's fascinating to think... Drumming is such a wonderful thing to think about in terms of sound, rhythm, and reciprocity... to be able to think about this biologically. So, read the chapter on aging and you get a sense of how I think about experience with sound and how it changes the brain.

a group of people playing drums
Try to keep up! (Ransford Quaye on Unsplash)

Part One: “How Sound Works”

Friar Z: [00:12:46] Yeah. Excellent. So, looking at Part One, "How Sound Works," which is the more technical section, you do a wonderful overview of what sound is physically in terms of the vibration of molecules in the air, this results in certain sound ingredients, such as frequency and pitch, and there's the separation also in terms of when and which ear gets what and all that sort of thing. So, that's all a wonderful overview. And then you talk about how that gets translated into signals inside the brain. There's this "afferent system," this "efferent system." Everything is networked with one another, whether it be the emotions, or motion itself, or thought, or any of these other sorts of things. Is there a quick way for a person to understand the "sound brain"? One of the things that really struck me, for instance, is that it's not unidirectional, it's bidirectional, right? That everything is interacting with everything else and so forth. Maybe just give a description of that, if you would, of what's going on there.

Dr. Kraus: [00:13:57] So, first of all, if you think about sound, you think about ingredients, there are... You know, we don't think about sound enough, because we live in a very visually biased world, even though "In the beginning there was the Word"...

Friar Z: [00:14:14] Yeah, right.

Dr. Kraus: [00:14:15] ... a very visually biased world, and sound is invisible, like other powerful forces, like gravity. But we can know what these ingredients are: pitch, timing, timbre, phase, loudness... ingredients...

Friar Z: [00:14:34] “Phase” was the one I was thinking of, right.

Dr. Kraus: [00:14:35] ... if you just think about it for a minute, you realize that, in fact, you know that there are different ingredients and they get processed by the brain. And I do like to use the "mixing board" as as analogy...

selective focus photo of DJ mixer
All… “mixed up”… *ahem* (Photo by Alexey Ruban on Unsplash)

Friar Z: [00:14:46] Right. Yes, I was going to bring that up: the mixing board.

Dr. Kraus: [00:14:49] ... the ingredients come into the brain, and then we can see by the "faders" on the mixing board... I can measure, as I'm talking to you now, the neurons in your brain are producing electricity, and if I had electrodes on your scalp, I'd be picking up that electricity. And then I can analyze it and see how good a job your brain is doing, processing the different ingredients. And I might see: "Oh, 'Friar Z,' he's got a real strength in the harmonics, and kind of a bottleneck in some other dimension." And so this is really helpful, and it helps us also understand not only groups of people -- musicians and athletes, people have different strengths and weaknesses -- but also the individual person, and see by the faders on the mixing board, what are the strengths and weaknesses in the processing of these different ingredients? So there's that part. Then, there is the fact that the hearing brain is vast. So, the "sound mind," the "hearing brain"... it engages our cognitive... The way of of saying it in shorthand is cognitive, sensory, motor, and reward systems.

Friar Z: [00:16:15] Right. That's how you put it.

Dr. Kraus: [00:16:16] Our sound mind, how we engage with sound, is very much affected by what we know, how we think, how we remember, what we pay attention to, how we combine information from our other senses, how we move. Our emotions are visceral, you know? If you've ever noticed that, if you're in an airplane sometimes food tastes a little bit off...

Have whatever you want, kid… but it’ll taste awful!

Friar Z: [00:16:51] Yes, right. I think you bring this up in the book.

Dr. Kraus: [00:16:55] ... yeah, and you know, at first people thought: "Well, it must be the dryness of the air." But scientists, who are good at measuring things, really got to the bottom of this and found: "Oh, actually, the reason that your appetite is affected is because of the sound." There's this roaring of the engines, and if you think about... I mean, one of the reasons sound is so powerful and important is, it's this deep evolutionary force, right? And who's hungry when there's an avalanche coming?

Friar Z: [00:17:31] Right, yeah.

Dr. Kraus: [00:17:33] So, the sound mind and the hearing brain engages all of these different systems: it's very holistic. It's a very holistic system. And you do have... It's the one and the many, right? So, you do have different systems and areas in the brain and they do work as a whole, and so you can think of the efferent and the afferent systems. The efferent system carries information from all of these networks -- what you know, cognitive, sensory, motor, reward networks -- it feeds that back into your auditory system based on your experience with sound. And then you have, in a way, the default or the simpler part of the system, which is the afferent system, which is the ear-to-brain. So, sound has to enter the ear and then get into the brain, and the way that it enters and goes into the ear, that's where most of auditory neuroscience is focused on this simple transduction from ear-to-brain. And that's just a tiny part of the story, but it is how we become who we become based on our life and sound. So, for example, if you're sound asleep, and I'm measuring electrodes on your scalp again, and you're not responding to sound, not orienting to sound, you're out, you're asleep, and then I say the sound of your name: lo and behold, that afferent system, that default system, that has learned over time that the sound of your name is a sound worth paying attention to automatically, without... you're not aware, conscious, but your neurons are always working. And so I can see... That's one of the beautiful things about biology: you can take these things that are very difficult to get a grasp on and actually see, "Oh look, your brain responds to the sound of your name, my brain does not respond to the sound of your name, but responds to the sound of mine."

Friar Z: [00:19:54] That's fascinating. And just that little thing...

Dr. Kraus: [00:19:57] Based on our experience.

Friar Z: [00:19:57] ... yeah, just that little thing is what you call the sonic history of the person, right? It's one of many sorts of details like that, slowly but surely, our bodies, our brains, everything else get trained by experience to, sort of, attend to what is most important for us personally, in a way, yes?

Dr. Kraus: [00:20:19] Absolutely, absolutely. And so the choices we make... By the way, I really don't want to get too much further along without saying I really like the music you make.

Friar Z: [00:20:30] Oh well, thank you, I appreciate that.

Dr. Kraus: [00:20:31] And you are grabbing these two parts of music that I adore: one is choral music, just really ancient coming together of voices...

Friar Z: [00:20:51] But also you like a good rock concert, as you write in the book...

Dr. Kraus: [00:20:54] I mean, metal is so... Boy, so here, if anybody wants to hack into my user profiles, you know, they ask you what is your favorite color? What is your favorite music? And I, you know, I can never say... I just say "good music," but that's not an option on those forms. So, I had to pick something, so it's metal.

person playing electric guitar
Gratuitous metal concert image (Julian Lozano on Unsplash)

Friar Z: [00:21:19] Wonderful. Well, I found, the right person to talk with about this then.

Dr. Kraus: [00:21:23] So it's metal, and the fact that you're bringing these together to me... I mean, when I read your letter, I thought: "Oh, I got to talk to this guy."

Friar Z: [00:21:38] Good, I'm so glad to hear that.

Dr. Kraus: [00:21:39] And it sounds great. I mean, the minute I started listening to it, I was like, "Yeah."

Friar Z: [00:21:43] Thank you, I appreciate that, I do. So, just another quick sort of technical question. You mentioned about measurement of what's going on biologically in the brain, electrochemically and so forth. There's a few different things that maybe would help to understand your research. First of all, how are you actually taking the measurements? I mean, do people have to shave their heads and then you put the electrodes on them? How does this all work? What does this look like, physically?

Dr. Kraus: [00:22:13] Yeah. Well, you don't shave your head. We just place electrodes on your skin, and we can pick up these tiny, tiny little electrical impulses that happen in response to sound.

Friar Z: [00:22:29] And does it have to be at specific places on the head?

Dr. Kraus: [00:22:32] No, especially because what we're looking at is really... it's coming from the whole brain. So, we just need 3 or 4 scalp electrodes.

Friar Z: [00:22:44] And that's just to localize where things are coming from, I suppose, yes?

Dr. Kraus: [00:22:48] Well, not even that. Because again, it's this wonderful paradox of... Yeah, there are certain areas that are involved, but it is engaging many, many, many areas. So, what we are able to measure is, I would call, a snapshot of the sound mind, of the hearing brain. We deliver sounds through an earbud, a regular old earbud, and the person that we're recording the responses from can be asleep, or they can be watching a video with subtitles. Because what I'm interested in is how your brain responds to sound based on your life and sound. And it's the things that you've done again and again and again that have sculpted your brain to make it what it is. And there's nothing that you can do... You know, when we work with athletes who've had concussion -- you can imagine making sense of sound is one of the hardest jobs we ask our brain to do -- and you get hit in the head, it's going to disrupt that, and these athletes: a lot of them are very anxious to get back on the field. But there's nothing you can do to change the response that we can measure automatically, so it can give us an objective measure of brain health. The particular measure that we're using is called the "frequency following response" (FFR).


Friar Z: [00:24:21] Right. So, that's the second thing I was going to ask you about, maybe if you could talk about that a little bit.

Dr. Kraus: [00:24:25] FFR: it is a technology that in its core was developed, oh, a half century ago. But we have changed and developed it according to what we are doing. And there's a chapter in my book which is called "The Quest," and we were looking, the group at Brainvolts, we've been trying to find what is the best way of capturing a person's biological, sonic self. And so we are able, because sound happens, sound itself, these ingredients happen on the order of microseconds, we need to be able to pick up brain responses, electricity, that's happening on the order of microseconds. So, we need a really, really sensitive measure and... In fact, there has been an FFR conference every two years. It's an international conference because increasingly more people are interested in getting this tremendous amount of information, and we're hosting it this June. Maybe you'll come.

FFR Conference Link

Friar Z: [00:25:54] Maybe so. Is it on the Brainvolt's website?

Dr. Kraus: [00:25:57] It will be, next week. And we're hosting it in Chicago, and it's a two-day conference where we'll have keynote speakers, and it's been historically just a wonderful, wonderful conference because people who are interested in this, on the one hand, want to know what is the best way of measuring, sound processing, but they're interested in very different and interesting and important subjects. If it's from what is the brain of a newborn child like? What is the brain of a newborn child who has been listening to two languages compared to one in utero? Can you see already biological differences of that experience? Well, in fact, you can, and you can do that with the FFR.

Probably listening to Russian Circles (FreePik)

Part Two: “Our Sonic Selves”

Friar Z: [00:26:54] That's the amazing thing. Yeah. It's very cool. Well, I'll leave it to the readers to kind of go in and get a little bit more of the technical details. I think what they might find a little bit more interesting as well, so what's the big picture with "Our Sonic Selves" with this Part Two aspect? And it's here where you really dig into music, rhythm, language, and various other topics, and so it's worth it to go into this. Maybe talk a bit more about what is so important about music for forming the listening brain. And here I'm thinking, in particular... Some of the things that I took interest in the book, is that not just passive listening but active listening, active creation of music, active creation of sound, practice of language, all these sorts of things. This is all very important. So, maybe talk a little bit more about music, music creation, and active listening and that sort of thing and what that does for us in our minds.

Dr. Kraus: [00:28:01] So, you remember that I said that the hearing brain was vast, and that it engages our cognitive, sensory, motor reward systems and our viscera. And music is a jackpot for engaging all of those things. Music really engages our our memory, our gut, how we combine our senses, how we move. All of these things come together with music. So, if you're interested in sound processing, the brain or music is just this wonderful way of thinking about it. And so we have measured the responses of the brains of thousands of people over the years now from womb to tomb, and we've really learned a lot. And you ask... First of all, let me just say that if you think back to the "mixing board" analogy, if you make music -- back to that in a minute -- if you make music, the faders are really up high with the harmonics, the harmonics, and microsecond timing, which is in every sound that's constantly evolving, and what you might call FM sweeps, which are just changes in frequency over time. They can be really long, like if I'm asking a question, I might say, "What?" [Exaggerated FM-sweep] Or you imagine it in music, or a change in frequency over time will happen when you bang on the double bass: you've got an onset, and then it moves on to the tone of that drum, and it's also a really important ingredient in speech as you go from a consonant to a vowel, you go "duh-ah": you got the "duh," and that's the attack, and then it has to get to this harmonic "ah," and to do that you have this change in frequency over time. So, figuring out what the brain is doing in processing these kinds of signals is important, and musicians are really, really, really good at that.

Friar Z: [00:30:41] And because it's not just, again, passive listening but active making of music, right? There's something about that process that actually creates all the necessary connections for all of this to make sense?

Dr. Kraus: [00:30:53] Yeah. So, let's talk about that. First of all, it doesn't matter what instrument you play. It could be drums, it could be singing, it could be violin. You pretty much always have this musician signature of this strengthening of various components. That said, if you're a drummer you're especially good at the timing aspects. If you're a singer, you've got some excellent pitch and harmonic interactions. So, you know, there's what you might call specialization of the specialized, but you keep coming back to, "What about making music?" And I really mean "making music" because I like the analogy of: you're not going to get physically fit watching sports.

Friar Z: [00:31:47] Right, yeah.

Dr. Kraus: [00:31:49] So, you know, when you actually are making music and you are... Like when you're singing harmony and you're listening to the other person and adjusting your own motor movements and how you're feeling and all of the different sensations, and then they come back with their response and then you respond to them and you kind of go back-and-forth. And the same thing can happen when you're playing an instrument. It's this reciprocity, this reverberation with the instrument that is very important. But you can also be a sound engineer, so your instrument might be a mixing board.

Friar Z: [00:32:36] Yes. So, the activity can be a lot of different ways in terms of involving sound.

Dr. Kraus: [00:32:42] Yeah. And the other thing is that we talk about being a musician. So, what's a musician? The way I define it is: a musician is "anybody who regularly makes music." And yes, you could talk about professional musicians, but my big point is that music is for everyone, and it's not just for the famous and it's not this rarified thing. You have a baby and you take his little feet and you bang them together and you sing a little song and you're a musician, and I think the more that we are encouraged to interact with others and to use music and rhythm is a very key component... It's this way of changing our nervous system, but we have to make these choices, we have to decide. I'm going to spend my time singing with my kids, I'm going to... But it's not a matter of: "Oh, I'm not that good." And it doesn't matter in terms... Your biology doesn't care. Your biology is really sculpted by the choices, by the way we spend our time.

Friar Z: [00:34:06] And that really came out in the book, especially when it's what you pay attention to that ends up forming you, right? And not just looking at, but actively engaging in some way. So, it all kind of fits together. Good. So, music and rhythm and all these sorts of things: how does it all play into language ability, then? What does this all have to do with language?

Dr. Kraus: [00:34:31] Well, I think it's likely that we were making music before, long before we began speaking, and there's a wonderful book called "The Singing Neanderthals" by [Steven] Mithen. He's an anthropologist, and he makes the argument from a number of points of view that music came first.

Like these singing neanderthals? (Credit)

And there are many intersections between music and language. So, rhythm is probably the biggest one: everybody knows that there is rhythm in music, but not everybody realizes... Not everybody realizes [exaggerated rhythmic and pitch variation]... Right?

Friar Z: [00:35:25] Yeah. You're doing it right now.

Dr. Kraus: [00:35:26] There's so much music in speech, and it's how you say things. And then especially as a preacher. So, every Martin Luther King Day, my husband and I listen to the "I Have a Dream" speech.

Friar Z: [00:35:49] And it was a masterful delivery.

man statue under white clouds during daytime
MLK, Jr. ‘Nuff said. (Raffaele Nicolussi on Unsplash)

Dr. Kraus: [00:35:51] The way he put the music in his speech: I mean, if I were saying those words to you, you'd be kind of shifting around and looking at your watch and... But the way he puts it across is with his... And it's called the music of speech. And the music of speech also developmentally develops first, way before babies are able to say words they clearly respond to music and they respond to the rhythm. You say, "Oh Oh!" [Exaggerated musicality.] They love this stuff, right?

Friar Z: [00:36:32] Yeah. That's great. In a reading I was doing for class, the bottom line made the point it's not just merely what you say, but how you say it, right? And part of that is vocal delivery, the musicality, the rhythm, all of these sort of things. That's why you do a poetry reading, not just a reading from a book, but actually a performance, right? I mean, there's something about hearing a person actually speak it out loud and this sort of thing.

Dr. Kraus: [00:36:58] And also if you look at language disorders...

Friar Z: [00:37:04] Right, yeah, speak into that a little bit. So, what's going on with language disorders, then?

Dr. Kraus: [00:37:07] Autism can often be thought of as a difficulty having... figuring out what a person means. So, if I say... If I'm asking a question, I can be saying the same words as if I'm making a statement. But a person with autism generally understands the words perfectly well, but is unable to determine how I mean it. Am I asking a question or [making a] statement? Am I mad? Am I sad? What is the meaning? It's all of that emotion and intent that is carried in the music of speech, and we can measure this: we can look at these FM sweeps, we can look at...

Friar Z: [00:37:55] All the different sound ingredients.

Dr. Kraus: [00:37:57] ... these sound ingredients in people on the autism spectrum, and we can learn a lot... To see, is that a bottleneck in this particular child? Similarly, you can look at kids with delayed language or difficulty reading, and there you'll see that there's no trouble at all with the music of speech, but there's trouble with figuring out the actual words that are spoken. And again, this is something that we can measure biologically, which is why our biological measures, I think, have a lot of good that they can do socially in medicine.

Friar Z: [00:38:39] Yeah. And I want to come back to that, because one of the things that got me very excited about this is that there seems to be many different therapeutic applications to this research in a whole host of different areas, and so I'd like to talk about that a little bit more later…


Stay tuned…

That’s it for now! Part two will be uploaded in a week or so. We’ll continue our conversation about “Of Sound Mind” and get into the weeds of music, drone, and mysticism.

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Documenting the experimental ÆTERNUM music project of Fr. Brian John Zuelke, O.P., a Dominican priest of the Province of St. Albert the Great.
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Fr. Brian John Zuelke, O.P.
Nina Kraus