The grave new threat we face from music

Binaural beats pumped into your headphones can cause you to experience sex- and drug-like ecstasy.

Published August 15, 2008 10:46AM (EDT)

I don't want to alarm any Machinist readers, but it has come to my attention that there are kids out there getting high on musical arrangements. Talk show host and USA Today columnist Kim Komando is on the case, with a column thankfully being reprinted far and wide. In sum, your children or other loved ones might, at this very moment, be wearing giant headphones and getting dangerously stoned on the freshest of binaural beats. Per Komando's alert:

For binaural beats to work, you must use headphones. Different sounds are played in each ear. The sounds combine in your brain to create a new frequency. This frequency corresponds to brain wave frequencies.

There are different brain wave frequencies. These frequencies are related to different states like relaxation and alertness.

Digital drugs supposedly synchronize your brain waves with the sound. Hence, they allegedly alter your mental state.

Binaural beats create a beating sound. Other noises may be included with binaural beats. This is intended to mask their unpleasant sound.

Intrepid journalist Radley Balko, over at the Agitator, dares to step into the void and pursue a digital high himself. He describes the experience as being "ambient and soothing" -- classic Stage 1 preoccupation/anticipation. "Ambient," of course, being an obvious stepping stone to other, harder beats, quite possibly breakbeats or worse. One Agitator commenter points out that a prophetic voice in the wilderness tried to warn us, years ago. But will we listen this time? The stakes couldn't be higher. Returning to Komando:

But it doesn't end there. You'll find doses that purportedly mimic the effects of LSD, crack, heroin and other hard drugs. There are also doses of a sexual nature. I even found ones that supposedly simulate heaven and hell.

That zoned-out kid sitting next to you on the bus, iPod in his lap, may not be lost in the supple sounds of the new Journey vocalist. No, he may in fact be riding shotgun on an aurally induced brain wave frequency of a sexual nature, straight into a Matrix-like simulation of heaven. Ear buds, indeed.

Paging William Bennett. We need him now more than ever.

By Evan Ratliff

Evan Ratliff is a contributing editor to Wired magazine, and the co-author of "Safe: The Race to Protect Ourselves in a Newly Dangerous World."

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