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Musicians for psychedelic therapy

  • Music is an essential part of psychedelic therapy (and ceremonies) - as it has always been in a shamanic ceremonial context

  • There are now musicians composing specifically for psychedelic therapy

  • There is a market for this "functional music" that incorporates new and old music, electronic, instrumental and vocal

Music and altered/expanded states of consciousness

The ongoing "psychedelic renaissance" has brought music and sound into renewed focus.

Music in a ceremonial context

For thousands of years, music and sound have played a major role in shamanic ceremonies.

Here is an example, recorded at a live event with Tone of Life. Esteban Valdivia recreates a traditional sound ceremony with his breath. He learned this from one of the few remaining South American indigenous shamans. I include this recorded clip because I can testify to the near-psychedelic effect it had on me. I was going into some kind of whole-body spasmodic contraction during part of the ceremony. Other participants testified to physical and mental reactions.

The extract is a high-intensity 10-minute phase of an event taking more than 2 hours in total.

More on Esteban on his Youtube Channel

Music and the new psychedelic supported therapies

Music is an integral part of the newly developed standardised psychedelic supported therapies that will come to the market soon.

Here, Mendel Kaelen in his role of researcher at Imperial College of London provides an overview of the role of music in Psychedelic Psychiatry.

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.

This post presents a few musicians who in different ways contribute to this musical realm.

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.

I have limited my list to those who specifically compose for the mentioned purpose.

Alexandre Tannous

A recent podcast (21.8.2022)

Alexandre Tannous is a free researcher and musician (meaning he would be grateful if you supported his fantastic research). One of his areas of work is for Synthesis Retreats in Amsterdam.

Jon Hopkins

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".

Mendel Kaelen

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 euro/month as subscription.

Here is one of the playlists he created for the Imperial College of London.

Tony Moss

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.

Bill Richards

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.” 

Steve Roach

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


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.


Music for MDMA assisted Therapy Playlist

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

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