Listening to music can be a very personal journey for some people, serving as a guiding light or emotional girder, depending on the situation. For subjects undergoing psychedelic treatment at Johns Hopkins University, a scientifically devised playlist has been created to aid in the experience of the trip.
A new report in Inverse provides the fascinating details around the efforts of psychologist Bill Richards, PhD., who is working with patients who are getting psilocybin, the active chemical in psychedelic “magic” mushrooms. The research is aimed at determining, among other things, whether cancer patients can feel less depressed and anxious, and whether psychedelics can be brought back into the scientific mainstream.
Music is a big part of the personal and introspective sessions that volunteers undergo, Inverse says, and Richards says he makes the best musical choices he can based on years of working with many different people.
“There’s only room for so much music in a six- to seven-hour period of time,” he said.
The beautiful and surprising part, as Inverse points out, is that the playlist is not what you might imagine it to be when told it’s been created for someone tripping on mushrooms.
You won’t find any psytrance or techno on the list, no Infected Mushroom, Shpongle, Daft Punk, nor any other music you might associate with altered states. Instead, there’s plenty of Brahms, Vivaldi, Mozart, and Bach. Richards says there’s a good reason for this: Orchestral music is less distracting and less likely to give room for a person to fall back on normal patterns of thinking.
The list of 49 songs mostly avoids music with words and the order of the songs is crucial to guiding the trip. Inverse notes that psilocybin trips can be potentially overwhelming experiences.
“At a trip’s peak, music becomes a mirror of transcendental forms of consciousness that may not even be registered in unitive awareness, but is present if needed — like a net below a trapeze artist,” Richards said.
Have a listen to the Spotify list — especially to the end as familiar songs from The Beatles and Louis Armstrong come into play, and imagine that music in the context of someone returning to “reality.” And check out Inverse for more on Richards’ work.