Memorable Moments in Music for Psychedelic Therapy: Azure
Sharing a brief analysis of Greg Haines’ Azure, which has become a well-known selection from Mendel Kaelen’s playlist used in the 2016 psilocybin for depression study at Imperial College London.
Within the playlist, ‘Azure’ by Greg Haines (2012) is situated around the ‘peak’ timeframe of the session (02:34:41), being well within the realms of psychoactive effect. Moreover, the song exhibits distinct examples of what Hinton & Kirmayer term ‘metabole’ – “a sudden shift in the music which brings about a change in perception from one state to another” (1). ‘Azure’ was also one of the only songs that received specific mention in post-session interviews due to its memorable affect (2).
The image below depicts the Waveform of Azure, displaying ‘peak-music’ tropes of slow build to climax, tonal expansion and ‘metabole’ shifts from slow progression to rising intensity (metabole 1) then back to resolution/ calm (metabole 2).
“There’s one track [Greg Haines – Azure] that gets really really really intense.” (p.152)
“[Greg Haines – Azure] I felt like I was sort of the highest I could get, it was like the absolute, the top of everything.” (p.152)
“[Greg Haines – Azure] just builds and builds. You’re holding on to an extent, you
just kind of go up and you’re like ‘ok, where am I? Can I go any further?’” (p.156)”
“[Greg Haines – Azure] really really beautiful, overwhelming, but really peaceful
as well.” (p.159)
“In the beginning part, the uh, the Greg Haines stuff was, pffff.. f*%#ing, in
another planet!” (p.172)
Azure is situated within the neoclassical genre. The first two-thirds of the song consist of a slowly building simultaneous multi-strand of wind-like pianos, violins, and accompanying ambient overlays. As is mentioned in the participant reports, this intensifies significantly in terms of loudness, tonal density and the addition of arpeggiator synthesiser strands which signify building momentum.
The song builds to a climax (catharsis), where note-holds are extended, and the simultaneous musical multi-strands evolve into a less-differentiated dynamic force. This drops-out rapidly at ’12:23’, and a quiet ambient outro ensues with intermittent violin and vocal layering, signifying a ‘metabole’ shifting experience from great intensity/ catharsis to peacefulness and resolution.
Azure, among the other songs in the playlist represents a musical gestalt – where the emotive and transformative power of the music is co-authored by the experience of the listener (with or without psychedelic influence), and their emergent personal associations to it – resulting in a therapeutic experience that simultaneously anchors and propels (3).
These moments of shift foster a crucial sense of direction within a session, as well as encouraging the release and processing of emotion, supported by moments of respite and calm.
We have been grateful to work closely with Greg over the last few years, who has become one of the more prolific contributors to Wavepaths.
Have you experienced Azure in a therapeutic setting, or while journeying at home? Let us know in the Wavepaths community!
References(1) Hinton, D.E. and Kirmayer, L.J., 2017. The flexibility hypothesis of healing. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry, 41(1), pp.3-34.
(2) Kaelen, M., 2017. The psychological and human brain effects of music in combination with psychedelic drugs.
(3) Belser, A. B., Agin-Liebes, G., Friedman, H. L., Guss, J., Bossis, A. P., & Ross, S., 2017. Patient experiences of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy: An interpretative phenomenological analysis. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 57, 354–388.