When you’re two tabs deep and three sheets to oblivion, the music you surround yourself with can make or break your trip. One doesn’t just slap on Spotify and hope for the best. Psychedelic soundtracks need to be handpicked, custom-made and carefully designed for the ultimate experience. The shuffle button is lava.
So what makes the perfect playlist to trip to, then? Well, according to psychologist Bill Richards, Ph.D., it’s less about whacking together the weirdest sounds you can find and more about building the compilation around an arc – one that’s going to support, rather than distract from, your experience.
And Bill really ought to know: working alongside researchers from Johns Hopkins university, he’s just developed a playlist specifically designed for the optimal trip.
“In high-dose sessions, I feel that it is the structure of the music itself that matters most rather than the personal preferences of the volunteer or the guide,” he told Inverse. “At least during the onset, peak and post-peak phases of the responses to the entheogen.”
The playlist, which runs at just under 50 songs, is rich in the music of classical composers like Vivaldi, Mozart and Bach. And there’s a reason for that: according to Bill, these kinds of soundscapes make it less likely for the tripper to fall back on normal patterns of thinking.
“Except in the final phase, I tend to avoid music with words in the language of the volunteer, so as to discourage the rational mind from following the content of the words,” he says. That final phase includes tracks from Enya, Louis Armstrong and, of course, The Beatles.
Bill is part of a program at Johns Hopkins that aims to restore the medical credibility of psychedelic substances through personal and introspective ‘psychedelic sessions’. An important part of these sessions is creating a safe space for the volunteer, and fundamental to that is making sure the music is on point.
“I make the best musical choices I can, trying to separate the ‘very good’ and the ‘excellent’ on the basis of years of experience with many different people,” he said. “There’s only room for so much music in a six- to seven-hour period of time.”
Feature image: NBC News
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