My worst nightmare of an Ayahuasca ceremony would not be to be eaten by giant snakes. My worst nightmare would be a bad choice of cheap new-age electronic music, and a bad audio system.
Music in psychedelic therapy and ceremony: psychedelics amplify and enhance the experience of sound
The reason for my potential worst-case nightmare is that psychedelics turn up the receptivity for sound and amplify it´s felt significance, or "salience". For example, voices may be heard as angelic. Or, a gong-sound may seem to represent the universe.
On the other hand, I have heard in Ayahuasca ceremonies a drop of water falling from 20 meters distance.
I have described the reasons for this phenomenon in another post.
Here, I want to list - for your convenience
a few musicians whose music I like in this context
a few public playlists for music for psychedelic support
Different types of music and musicians
Music for psychedelic therapy includes different sources and ways of performing:
generic suitable musical compositions that were originally not produced for this purpose
dedicated compositions, written for this specific purpose (of course, not excluding listening in other contexts)
improvised live instrumental music - however, this is only suited for performance in ceremonies, eg Ayahuasca ceremonies, and not in the new standardized psychedelics augmented therapy.
Of course, many other well-known artists could be included here because they appear on nearly every psychedelic music playlist. Typical examples of these are Robert Rich, Max Richter, Brian Eno, and Steve Roach. And these are only the famous ones.
I have limited my list to those who specifically compose for the mentioned purpose.
Alexandre Tannous is a free researcher and musician (meaning he would be grateful if you supported his fantastic research).
Tannous, A. (n.d.). The Psychedelic Therapy Podcast - Alexandre Tannous: Psychedelics & Sound Meditation. The Psychedelic Therapy Podcast. https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9hbmNob3IuZm0vcy8xZDE3Yzg2Yy9wb2RjYXN0L3Jzcw/episode/ZmM5ZTkzMDEtYTg0ZS00MzYxLWE5NTctODEwMGM1OTJhMzc1?ep=14
Jon Hopkins (not to be confused with Johns Hopkins University...) is a musician who now also composes music for psychedelic therapy. His latest album is therefore imaginatively titled "Music for Psychedelic Therapy".
Tony Moss, like Jon Hopkins, improvises and composes music specifically for psychedelic environments. Here he is on a podcast with Jon Hopkins and the awful Aubrey Marcus.
Steve Roach is one of the old masters of ambient music. In particular, his "Structures of Silence" is a part of psychedelic play lists. I have also experienced his music as background in an incredibly effective Mahamudra/Dzogchen retreat by one of the true masters (Daniel P Brown). I believe that it was an essential part of leading up, for mem to a near-psychedelic experience through meditation.
I give Steve Roach the voice, explaining his "psychoactive music".
Prox: How have spiritual disciplines like shamanism impacted your personal philosophy on life? Have you ever experimented with psychedelics or any other mind-altering practices?
Steve: I have never taken on or joined up with a specific discipline such as shamanism, Eastern philosophy, or any of the many options out there. I certainly was surrounded by all this growing up in Southern California, but always felt apart from it all in its more organized forms. At the same time, I have explored many of these worlds in my own way. Above all the devotion to the art of living in the deep end of sound, and translating this as I do is what can be considered the core of my path. In terms of the psychedelic and mind altering component, I have said for years the music is the medicine, pure and simple. My aim is to create pure organic psychoactive music in and of itself. For me the desire to experience, as the late renowned psychonaut Terence Mckenna would say, “the heroic dose” is reached by engaging directly into the soundcurrent for extended periods of creative time, day into night, day after day over many years now.
Centauri, P. (2018, February 2). Riding the Soundcurrent: Steve Roach on Ambient Music, Creative Energy, and Introspection. Inside the Rift. Retrieved 18 September 2022, from https://www.insidetherift.net/interviews/2017/10/16/riding-the-soundcurrent-steve-roach-on-ambient-music-creative-energy-and-introspection
Here, I have only listed playlists of major research organisations: one
Bill Richards is the main curator for the psychedelic therapy playlist at Johns Hopkins University.
“I think of it as a nonverbal support system, sort of like the net for a trapeze artist. If all is going well, you’re not even aware that the net is there — you don’t even hear the music — but if you start getting anxious, or if you need it, it’s immediately there to provide a structure.”
This is not a musician. MAPS is the main research institution that drove the unfolding "psychedelic renaissance" for 30 years. Here is one of their playlists.
MAPS (Multidisplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies). (n.d.). MAPS Psychedelic Playlist. https://m.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDgGTr25PGKRF8bvTwjCC8TDt9HRVXEpD
Mendel Kaelen used to work as a researcher in the psychedelics department at Imperial College London. Now Mendel runs his own company. Its business model: is to provide "canned" music to the increasing number of trained psychedelic therapists who are not musicians and/or have no time to be their music curator for their therapeutic work. You can try it out for free on his website. Or, you can book music for 25 euros/month as subscription.
Here is one of the playlists he created for the Imperial College of London.
Imperial College of London, & Kaelen, M. (n.d.). Imperial College of London Psychedelic Playlist. https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDgGTr25PGKQDOcpQOobPwwofJfjCn_Mz