We are living in an eternal now, and when we listen to music we are not listening to the past, we are not listening to the future, we are listening to an expanded present.
– Alan Watts
Music can play an important role in the experience of ketamine assisted therapy. During the experience, users report traversing a spiritual and mental journey typically lasting for 1-3 hours. The patient’s thoughts, feelings, moods and insights are all likely to be highly affected by the environment in which the patient experiences the ketamine assisted therapy and so the ‘listening environment’ ought to be thoughtfully curated. In this article, readers can find access to a list of playlists and albums intentionally selected for ketamine induced experiences.
Any curation is by no means exhaustive but here the playlists aim to cater to a variety of tastes, moods and textures. This ketamine-assisted therapy curation is categorized into five lists: ambient, minimalism, electronic (techno), classical and psychedelia. The majority of the selections here, those from the first four lists, include tracks without lyrics. The psychedelia list comprises music written for, about or during psychedelic experiences. It also includes tracks which resemble aesthetic qualities of the psychedelic experience (more on this). At the end of the article, is a table containing even more suggestions from noteworthy genres, artists and albums.
While there’s most likely something in here for everyone, these lists may of course be used as starting points for your own path to discovering the right music for your ketamine induced experience. Start by having a read about the genre and then dig in via the Spotify links! Remember: curating a listening environment for your experience is a personal endeavor. Ultimately, you should trust yourself and opt for sounds that you believe will comfort, relax or inspire you.
Of all the genres of music that one could opt for to soundtrack a ketamine assisted therapy experience, ambient music may be the most popular. Tracks belonging to this genre are frequently soothing and calming. Ambient music prioritizes atmosphere and tone over other musical elements like structure and rhythm. The following suggestions are perfect for those who are seeking a stripped back, relaxing soundscape.
- Music for Mushrooms: A Soundtrack for the Psychedelic Practitioner – Spotify Link
This playlist is a beautiful ambient soundscape. Natural and organic samples sit behind loopy and entrancing piano chords. Shimmering pads play soothingly sustained lines to guide the experience through a wondrous land of lush harmony.
- Green (SFX Version) – Spotify Link
Hiroshi Yoshimura’s Green is a masterpiece of ambient music. The tape recorded album consists of a variety of minimalistic ambient pieces. The motifs, though simple, are highly evocative and likely to inspire the listener during a ketamine induced experience. This album’s production is characterized by its warm and inviting aesthetic and so it is the perfect soundtrack to a tranquil and calm ketamine based experience.
- Water Memory – Spotify Link
Drones, echoey and distant leads, swirling synths, overwhelming swells, moments of serene and quiet bliss. Emily Sprague’s ‘Water Memory’ is quite a journey. The music reflects meandering fluid motion, the waxing and waning of the tides, the magnitude of the ocean and the softness of rainfall. Opting for this album during a ketamine assisted therapy session will help to encourage a profound and rich experience.
- Mixing Colors – Spotify Link
Brian and Roger Eno collaborate on this beautiful concept album. Each track is named after a shade of a color, so the music is an auditory representation of the visual. As synaesthesia is a reported effect of a ketamine induced experience, the concept of this album marries neatly with an aspect of the dissociative experience. Let this curious album transport you into a world of color as each track provides its own atmosphere.
- Music For Psychedelic Therapy – Spotify Link
Jon Hopkins can be considered a contemporary legend of the ambient music genre. His 2021 album offers a soundtrack professedly designed for the psychedelic experience. The music involves a variety of spacey natural samples from Ecuadorian caves. The motion of the air and water partnered with cooing birds can be heard behind gentle and warm pad sounds. In the final track, Ram Dass’ affirming words can guide a patient through their ketamine induced experience.
Minimalism is an intriguing genre of music. Utilizing short musical ideas, minimalist tracks are often repetitive and entrancing. The motifs are usually repeated, layered, phase shifted or otherwise subtly altered to create highly self-referential musical journeys. Listening to minimalist compositions during a ketamine assisted therapy experience is likely to aid relaxation and deep reflection.
- Choral Works – Spotify Link
John Cage’s avant-garde approach to choral music here employs the voices of the Latvian Radio Choir. Unlike the other suggestions in this article, the music is (at points) dissonant and tense. In the context of moments of rich diatonic homophony, these moments of tension provide a sense of profound distance and then arrival. The voices of the choir are at times beautiful, at times haunting, at times peaceful and at time overwhelming. This album is perhaps best fitted for those who are looking for a varied harmonic and melodic soundscape for their ketamine induced experience.
- Runner / Music for Ensemble and Orchestra – Spotify Link
Minimalist maestro Steve Reich here offers an exciting orchestral arrangement. The music moves forward with an enlivening pulse and drive. As the album’s artwork suggests, interlacing melodic lines sprawl over each other in a beautiful polyphonic tapestry. This album is perfect for an energetic and colorful soundtrack to the ketamine experience.
- In C – Spotify Link
In C is a fascinating work of minimalism. Terry Riley offers 56 musical motifs (unsurprisingly all in the key of C) which last anywhere from half a beat to thirty-two beats in duration. The performers are then given the freedom to perform these motifs on their instruments for any number of repetitions such that the phrases fall in and out of sync with each other. This performance, arranged by Aleksey Peresidly, is a matrix of accordion parts playing out Riley’s motifs. Lasting for just over half an hour, this track is a good shout for anyone looking for a longer piece of music to provide an element of consistency to their soundtrack.
Ketamine is no stranger to electronic music. During the 90s, the drug found its way into the pockets of club goers all around the globe. Now, in a safe, therapeutic environment – electronic music might retain its status as a preferable genre for those looking for a more produced, low end heavy soundtrack to their ketamine assisted therapy experience. The regularity of a reliable kick drum can be deeply comforting. As ketamine therapy is to be conducted in a safe and comfortable home environment, the following selections include some dubby, washy, electronic musical offerings suitable for a relaxed setting and to aid an introspective therapeutic experience.
- 3 – Spotify Link
Pole is a house-hold name for fans of dub techno. In his 2008 album 3, enveloping sub basses and muted kick drums sit below washed out synth stabs. Pole’s tastefully selected sounds are drowned in reverb and echo, producing a spacey and pensive atmosphere. Although at times groovy or swung, the tracks are mostly stripped back, minimal and deep.
- Bilateral Relations EP – Spotify Link
This EP is another brilliant work of dub techno. Atmospheric, loopy, layered with droning pads and synths: Sven Weisemann’s Bilateral Relations EP is likely to transport its listener to a dark yet warm place. Traces of UK Garage inspired breaks tease the notion of a dance, but the music is predominantly chilled and down tempo. The EP’s monochromatic artwork reflects the dubbed out, warped sonic landscape of the music.
- Metamorphose – Spotify Link
Meaning ‘for an object to change form from one thing into a completely distinct other thing’, Metamorphose lives up to its name. JakoJako is a Berlin techno producer who’s modular synthesis is stunningly represented in this album. Each track is tonally distinct from the last, but the album is a beautiful work of ambient techno. For those looking for an electronic production with less rhythmic information, this is a great selection.
It would be remiss not to mention classical music as a noteworthy genre for those looking for music to soundtrack their ketamine assisted therapy experience. For one, the sound of the piano or the orchestra is a beautifully colorful palette of sound. Moreover, the positive cognitive impacts of listening to classical music have been extensively studied. Dr. Gordon Shaw, a physicist and professor at the University of California, believed that listening to Mozart could be helpful to warm up areas of the brain that contribute to abstract reasoning. In this curation, you’ll find a selection of works and compilations of classical music for different moods and tones.
- Chopin: Preludes Op.28 – Spotify Link
Formerly used to designate an opening work, Chopin’s Preludes instead stand alone as self-contained units, each communicating a specific idea or feeling. Chopin questioned prevailing beliefs about the value of brief musical forms by publishing the 24 preludes as a single opus, which included miniatures that could either be used to introduce other music or as self-standing works. He cycles through each of the 24 keys in this work of 24 preludes and each one is beautifully played by Maurizio Pollini in this album recording.
- Mozart: The Piano Sonatas – Spotify Link
Charles Ives famously pigeonholed Mozart’s Sonatas as ‘lady finger music’ and – yes – the music is oftentimes delicate and twinkly. Nonetheless, these canonical cornerstones of classical music are a brilliant selection for anyone looking for a slightly more whimsical, uplifting classical soundtrack to a ketamine induced experience. This album consists of five discs so there is a large scope for discovery for anyone unfamiliar with these beautiful piano sonatas.
- Debussy: Estampes; Pour le piano; 6 épigraphes antiques – Spotify Link
Debussy is considered one of the great French impressionists; an artist concerned with depicting a visual impression of the moment, especially in terms of the shifting effect of light and color. The visual element of the ketamine induced experience can be incredibly colorful, distinct and moving. This visually inspired piano music is pensive, striking and visceral. Take for example: Les soirs illuminés par l’ardeur du charbon (or ‘Evenings illuminated by the heat of the coal’). The piece’s name indicates both warmth, light and comfort, whilst also providing the notion of the end of the day and incoming night. Let the music transport you, to make an impression on you as the artist himself was impressed.
- Classical bangers – Spotify Link
Not only does this playlist sport a brilliant edit of Bach in his hypermodern shades, but also is an eclectic record-box of classical tunes spanning from the Baroque to the Modern.
The author Michael Hicks points out that ‘psychedelic’ is an adjective often used flippantly, vaguely or inaccurately. As he puts it:
To understand what makes music stylistically “psychedelic,” one should consider three fundamental effects of LSD: dechronization, depersonalization, and dynamization. Dechronization permits the drug user to move outside of conventional perceptions of time. Depersonalization allows the user to lose the self and gain an “awareness of undifferentiated unity.” Dynamization, as Timothy Leary wrote, makes everything from floors to lamps seem to bend, as “familiar forms dissolve into moving, dancing structures”… Music that is truly “psychedelic” mimics these three effects.
Michael Hicks, Sixties Rock: Garage, Psychedelic and Other Satisfactions (2000)
Ketamine’s cultural history renders it less implicated in a historically identifiable musical movement than magic mushrooms mushrooms and acid. It was predominantly LSD and psilocybin that one associates with the psychedelic music of the 1960s (and beyond into the new wave psychedelic music of Tame Impala etc.). Yet, Hick’s aesthetic observations about the psychedelic experience and music pertaining to it, is applicable to elements of the ketamine induced experience too. Find here a list of albums which seem to bend time and space with their psychedelic aesthetics.
- Anandar Shankar (US Internet Release) – Spotify Link
Although less known than his uncle, Ravi Shankar, Ananda Shanker’s impact on the 70s’ underground psychedelic scene was remarkable. Combining Western electronics with Indian music, Ananda Shankar’s music is a fusion of 60s song writing and droney / sitar imbued Indian instrumentation. Here the listener will likely find familiarity in the arrangements of songs by the likes of The Rolling Stones and The Doors, and beauty in the Indian instrumentation.
- The Dark Side Of The Moon (2011 Remastered version) – Spotify Link
This album is almost stereotypically related to psychedelia. At times ponderous and loopy and at others soulful, sublime and climactic, The Dark Side of The Moon is truly a colossus of psychedelic rock. Originally conceived to be an album about the struggles of musicianship, Pink Floyd soon expanded the scope of the album’s concern: Money is about wealth, Time is about death, Brain Damage is about madness etc. Undoubtedly many will yawn at the sight of this album on a curation for the ketamine induced experience, but this album has stood the test of time for a reason.
- Lonerism – Spotify Link
Tame Impala, an Australian psychedelic rock band formed in 2007, are well known as modern psychedelic rock musicians. Lonerism (2012) is echoey and dreamy. The band seem to meld the sounds of 60s psychedelia into a more modern indie / alternative rock production. The effect is a mesmerizing and ethereal album sure to transport its listener to a cosmic realm.
- Neo-Psychedelic Rock – Spotify Link
Spotify have nailed this one: A brilliant selection of psychedelic rock songs produced from the 90s onwards. Here you can find more Tame Impala, the beautiful tones of Mud Honey and the colourful drones of Fuckin Whatever amongst plenty of other bangers.
- Alan Watts Lectures (Podcast) – Spotify Link
Alan Watts is a great guru, spiritual leader and philosopher. His words incorporate Buddhist philosophy, psychedelic insight, Taoism and Jungian philosophy. He believed in and taught the concept of interbeing: The interconnectedness and interdependence of all things in the universe. In these podcasts, you can listen to his lectures (some require payment but many are free). The speeches function as guided meditations, bringing the listener into mindful self awareness and are all underscored by ethereal ambient backing tracks.
Other recommendable genres:
|Post punk||A more avant-garde, experimental version of its predecessor is post-punk. Compared to the faster and more abrasive form of punk, post-punk music might be slower, more lyrically complex, and have more emotional overtones.||The Soft Boys|
|The Tear Drop Explodes|
|Echo and The Bunnymen|
|Chill-wave||Synth based psychedelic music. Often described as: cassette-oriented, sun-baked, laid-back, warped, hazy, emotionally distant, slightly out of focus.||Ariel Pink|
|‘Synthedelia’ (techno, acid house, trance, Goa)||A fusion of psychedelia, electronic music, and Avant-Garde music, originating in the 1960s and produced ever since.||Aphex Twin|
As Alan Watts elucidates in this article’s opening quote; music has a pertinence to the present. Music is something which happens in real time. We hear and respond to it as we are drawn into the ‘expanded present’, as Watts puts it. Listening to music constitutes a meaningful engagement with what is going on in one’s environment. It allows us to surrender ourselves focally, emotionally and mentally to a real world sonic event.
The mindful engagement with the present that the act of listening to music encourages is conducive to a meaningful ketamine induced experience. Being present, being situated, being responsive are all important precursive states for the reception of ketamine assisted therapy. Enjoy this curation and use it as a means of discovering the perfect soundtrack for your experience.