Airdate: Jun 22, 2009
The Music Instinct - Womb Sounds
Turn it up, mommy! Just plug your ears, listen to the radio, and you can hear how music sounds inside a mother's womb.
music; ambience woman’s voice singing “Mary had a Little Lamb”
JM: Your first experience with music could very likely have taken place before you were born. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Dr. Sheila Woodward is a researcher at the University of Southern California.
SW: “Well, what we discovered is that the music itself is audible in the womb, and it's the very high frequencies that are attenuated more greatly. So in fact, the very high sounds that are the sharp attack of the instrument are attenuated, so it sounds a little muffled, as though if you put your fingers in your ears and you listened to music that way; it just cuts off that sharp sound, what we call the attack of the note.”
[ambience: “Mary had a little lamb” recorded inside the uterus]
JM: What we’re listening to now is the same voice singing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” that we heard before, but this time, it’s recorded with a microphone placed inside a patient’s uterus.
SW: “And so, you still hear the sound of the music, but it's a little like listening to music say, underwater. And, and with the human voice, we still hear that it's a woman or a man, we can hear the particular tone quality of that voice, and we can hear the notes that are being sung, but the consonants are being dulled, so we hear less of the sharp sound [makes sounds] which are very high frequency sounds.”
JM: Dr. Woodward is trying to find out whether the sounds that a baby hears in the womb might affect its development. For example, could hearing recordings of the rhythmic sounds of the uterus be a help to premature infants? To learn more about music and the brain watch The Music Instinct, a two-hour special this month on your local public television station.
Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.