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Nada Brahma Foundation

Dedicated to the Research and Preservation of Indigenous Cultures and Their Environment

Cathy Silverman, Jason Shanks, Vincent Goudreau, Bob Babb



This project is a long-term comparative study of the relationship between various indigenous cultures from around the world, their music, and the environment they inhabit. The main goal of this research will be to learn more about the interaction between environmental acoustics and human consciousness, particularly by studying the use and development of knowledge systems as demonstrated through musical expression. For indigenous cultures, music is a meaningful reflection of the connection between natural environment, spirit, and sound. This wisdom, in conjunction with modern scientific studies demonstrating the complex and encompassing effect of music on the brain, will be the focus of our research.

The structure of the project will entail extensive data collection of various indigenous musics and the ecosystems within which the music evolved. In addition we will contrast this data to that of environments and music in industrial areas. This data will consist of full-spectrum Frequency Acquisition (Subsonic, Audible, and Ultrasonic) both digital and analog, Biofeedback (brainwave states, temperature, and blood pressure), and film/video documentation. The equipment needed will encompass an array of microphones, sensors, digital and analog recorders, computer (hardware and software) and film/video. Drawing on the fields of Acoustic Ecology, Bioacoustics, Cymatics, Organology, Psychoacoustics, Spectral Analysis and Ethnomusicology, we will later analyze the resultant library of data using a variety of techniques. Through our analysis, we hope to advance the understanding of bioacoustical influences of natural and industrial environments on music, and furthermore the synergistic effect these influences have on a culture's inhabitants.


Our project team consists of ethnomusicologist Cathy Silverman, musician/technologist Jason Shanks; documentary film/videomaker, Vincent Goudreau; and recording engineer, Bob Babb, with additional consultation from computer programmer/electronics engineer Michael Doran. We hope that these combined scientific, social, spiritual and artistic sensibilities will result in a fresh perspective on analyzing the data collected from a micro to a macroscopic level. We are also currently in contact with scientists from various fields relating to our work to provide technical assistance for certain aspects of our research.


In order to study the biological and acoustical complexity and density of tropical environments, we intend to begin our research in Indonesia, China, and Peru. In Indonesia we have personal contact with master musicians:

I. Nyoman Wenten (Bali) and Pak Djoko Walujo (Java); in southeast China we will explore the music of the Dong people, the Naxi Orchestra of indigenous instruments through our contact with director Xuan Xe, and the Dongba Cultural Institute (where currently 30 elders are documenting their culture's history); in Peru, we are in the process of contacting Project Amazonas, which operates a biological research station on the Putumayo River, and the International BioPark Foundation. Our long-term goal is to comparatively study tropical and desert environments in both the eastern and western hemispheres. In the future we plan to incorporate a study of cultures living in sparser environments, such as Tuva, Australia, and Morocco.

The most important benefit of this project will be to document the knowledge of indigenous cultures, thereby preserving traditional wisdom. In addition, data analysis will provide important information about what role sound plays in the development and expression of human consciousness. This information will be juxtaposed with direct personal contact in an attempt to better understand how indigenous people perceive the way sound affects the mind and body. Also, by comparing the frequency patterns utilized by cultures in varying geographic areas and environments, we will be able to more clearly discover what variables affect a culture, its music, and its environment. Due to the rapid disappearance of both indigenous knowledge and undisturbed natural environments, we believe there is an important need to succinctly document, analyze, and compare these correlations before it is too late.


Our current project, "Sustainable Housing for Indigenous People," is designed to address the critical housing need within indigenous communities. The first stage is the construction of a straw-bale/cob demonstration house on the Hopi reservation which began September 2002. 


Cathy Silverman

10 Crescent St.
Salem, NH 03079
Phone: 603-893-8262

A W.I.S.H. North America


A World Institute for a Sustainable Humanity