A standing bell or resting bell is an inverted bell, supported from below with the rim uppermost. Such bells are normally bowl-shaped, and exist in a wide range of sizes, from a few centimetres to a metre in diameter. They are often played by striking, but some—known as singing bowls—may also be played by rotating a mallet around the outside rim to produce a sustained musical note.
Struck bowls are used in some Buddhist religious practices to accompany periods of meditation and chanting. Struck and singing bowls are widely used for music making, meditation and relaxation, as well for personal spirituality. They have become popular with music therapists, sound healers and yoga practitioners.
Standing bells originated in China. An early form called nao took the shape of a stemmed goblet, mounted with rim uppermost, and struck on the outside with a mallet. The manufacture and use of bowls specifically for ‘singing’ is believed to be a modern phenomenon. Bowls that were capable of singing began to be imported to the West from around the early 1970s. Since then they have become a popular instrument in the US-originating new-age genre often marketed as ‘Tibetan music’.
When listening to natural sounds, the brain connectivity reflected an outward-directed focus of attention; when listening to artificial sounds, the brain connectivity reflected an inward-directed focus of attention, similar to states observed in anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. There was also an increase in rest-digest nervous system activity (associated with relaxation of the body) when listening to natural compared with artificial sounds, and better performance in an external attentional monitoring task.
Interestingly, the amount of change in nervous system activity was dependant on the participants’ baseline state: Individuals who showed evidence of the greatest stress before starting the experiment showed the greatest bodily relaxation when listening to natural sounds, while those who were already relaxed in the brain scanner environment showed a slight increase in stress when listening to natural compared with artificial sounds.