The Brown Note

OK so I had to address it…. After all, my blog is about music controversies and this is certainly a controversy….

269185_mezzo_forte.jpg Picture from

So here’s the deal about the alleged “brown note“: as the urban legend states, it is a note that resonates at a frequency between 5 and 9Hz which is supposedly in the range of the resonance of the human body. The sound wave makes one’s lower intestine vibrate at the same frequency of the “brown note” thus one loses control of one’s bowels and the vibrating lower intestine pushes its contents outside of the body. In Laymen’s terms; you crap yourself. Hence the “brown” note.

Now, you may think that such a theory is ridiculous and if such were the case then why haven’t there been more unexplained uncontrollable “accidents” at concerts or places with loud, low frequencies? I myself was surprised to read that many experiments have been conducted regarding the nasty note. Most adults cannot hear anything under 20Hz so the brown note actually isn’t even audible; but you would sure be able to feel it… The popular show Mythbusters attempted to bust the myth of the brown note in one of their episodes but failed to elicit the desired affect when they produced frequencies between 5 and 10Hz at 120-160 decibels aimed directly at a human body. Those exposed reported anxiety, shortness of breath, and even some nausea but nothing as severe as the mythical effect. These effects can also be medically explained by noting that an extremely low frequency at a high volume tends to force air in and out of the lungs rapidly giving one the symptoms claimed by those on mythbusters.

So to ease all worried minds out there who fear an embarrassing moment if they accidentally become exposed to a low frequency that makes their insides rattle, it doesn’t work. There has never been a reported case of such an incident and the experiments I came across in my research showed no positive results. (Even in one experiment with 700 volunteers and a massive subwoofer in the middle of a sewer pipe, there were no soiled underwear or dirty diapers). I have read that other countries have considered utilizing the brown note as a weapon that would immediately suppress a ground attack (or at least slow them down a bit…), but Jürgen Altmann of the University of Dortmund, an expert in sonic weapons claims that infrasound cannot affect the human body in ways the myth describes.

“So what does all this mean?” you might ask – To me, I find it fascinating that something that has been around for thousands of years can still have its mysteries and unexplainable quirks. We have been able to reproduce, manipulate, distort, label, and define music in incredible ways throughout the years but I do not think we will ever be able to fully understand the phenomenon that is music. If researchers are testing the affects that one note has on the human body imagine what affects multiple notes, rhythms, dynamics, and timbres have! Music has always had its way of manipulating the human body and mind. David could soothe the soul of angry King Saul with it in the Bible. We can use it praise God, win the heart of a girl, or pep us up for athletic events. It can be both a blessing and a curse, a weapon and a peace maker, and even someone’s life and emotions transcribed into musical form that can touch the lives of millions. We by no means know the full power of music and how if affects different people of different ages, races, and backgrounds in different ways. It is not one note that researchers should be focusing their attention on, it’s the layering upon layering of various styles, patterns, harmonies and melodies that can truly inspire and affect people in ways no spoken word or tangible object could ever do. The possibilities are literally endless when it comes to how music can be put together which leaves the experts questioning where it will end and to what extreme will music take itself to in order to prove to the world that it has no equal. The world is music, and music is slowly becoming the world…


~ by jcain on April 18, 2007.

One Response to “The Brown Note”

  1. James,

    Great Article! Very interesting. Perhaps we should do some tests with this next year?

    J. Pisano –

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