Now, science is stepping in to offer a definitive guide to the most euphoric tuneage to listen to while tripping balls.
Neuroscientists and psychologists have expressed interest in the mind-stretching effects of psychedelics for decades. Adding to the growing mountain of work, a group of psychologists at Johns Hopkins put together a study to pinpoint the best music selection to encourage what they call, “mystical experiences”. Mystical in this case means a truly transcendent high, where time and space are irrelevant, and the consciousness and body seem dissociated.
To figure this out, rather than dropping, throwing on Sgt. Peppers and Exile On Main Street and just figuring it out, scientists sent out surveys to people who run less-than-legal psychedelic “therapy sessions.” These surveys asked the respondents to break down their music choices from the pre-peak period of a trip and during the peak. Once they collected that data, scientists sent the playlists to music theory experts.
The idea is these therapy leaders are already using music to help people achieve a mystical experience. So, according to the paper, they’re the logical place to start when “identifying and characterizing features of music that are used to support peak experiences with psychedelics.”
The results show that music played before the peak was usually a bit more jarring than peak music. Before the peak, the music was traditionally rhythmic, and the songs changed as they played on. Tonally, the music would shift, and incorporate a wider range of ‘bright’ and ‘dark’ sounds.
While the group peaked, the music was more constant. It abandoned traditional rhythms for arrhythmic cycles. The music would drone to the point that it was difficult to distinguish between voices and instruments. Long musical phrases would ebb and flow throughout a piece. The peak music was much more tonally constant, usually in major keys. During the peaks, music also tended to change much less, almost always staying in those major keys.
So, what’s the best music to listen to while tripping? According to this study: a mix of classical music and new age compositions. Most importantly, is the order in which they are played.
An Eagle in Your Mind by Boards of Canada
Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy
Encounter by Byron Metcalf
Flying and Flocking by Zoe Keating
O Magnum Mysterium by Morten Lauridsen
Echoes by Pink Floyd
Mass in D; Missa Solemnis by Beethoven
Girl/ Boy Song by Aphex Twin
Healing Chant by Dalai Lama
Ur by David Byrne
Track 1: Shh peaceful/ Track 2 In a Silent Way by Miles Davis
Temple of Silence by Deuter
Of course, this study isn’t exactly definitive. The survey they sent out had just 10 respondents, meaning that the music picked comes from a pretty niche audience. Keeping those shortcomings in mind, this study is in with other work in the field. Composers have known for centuries that major keys sound ‘happier’ than minor keys, so it makes sense that major keys are most prevalent in peak music in this study. Genre, tempo, and style of music also partially conform with similar research.
The definitive best playlist for people tripping will only be further developed by the hardworking researchers doing what is necessary to benefit the common good— eating shrooms under the summer sky and cranking some epic tunes.