For a dominant species, humans are intensely fragile creatures.
Our inherent physical and emotional complexities are what assumedly distinguish us as a superior intelligence. And yet we suffer constantly. Sleep deprivation. Anxiety disorders. Supplement-based dietary withdrawals. Excessive recreational drug abuse. Self-inflicted heart conditions. Neurological turmoil. It’s fast becoming apparent that our bodies require relentless doctoring even if only to endure the menial demands of everyday millennial existence. Treatment for these omnipresent ailments seems to not only be a social gauntlet but a financially draining one at that. And what with this surging societal upset, business for the health industry’s psychoactive arm is begrudgingly booming.
No one can pre-empt our anatomical response to any particular sound. However, certain artists over the trajectory of their careers have actively involved themselves in the profession of music as therapy. Be it holistic nursing or simply guiding the listener towards a restful sleep, the use of ‘musicotherapy’ is gradually being recognised as a clinically legitimate form of medicine, or a limitless source for healing often overlooked by general practitioners. Grant yourself a few moments of relief with this benevolent collection of music explicitly designed for healing. Listen to a selection of cuts from the list in the Spotify playlist below.
Jon HopkinsAlarm Call, 2014
Waking up can be tiresome. Why? Potentially because of the mechanical rattling and raspy chimes that hiss out of your alarm systems. But back in 2014, Jon Hopkins was enlisted by Radio 1’s Rob Da Bank to contribute to his regular ‘Alarm Call’ series with the intention to lull our sleeping heads out of inertia and subconsciously prepare you for the working day ahead.
The result is a short but sensitive composition that seems to delicately coo a ‘good morning’. Hopkins is also heavily involved in The Sync Project, a large-scale initiative that aims to measure how structural properties of music impacts key biometrics such as heart rate and brain activity. His role as a ‘creative product thinker’ and advisor to the organisation is aimed at pushing the conversation of audial medicine forward among both music enthusiasts and consultants of the healthcare industry.
LaraajiCelestial Vibration, 1978
This 1978 debut from Edward Larry Gordon applied open-string zither and kalimba techniques to manifest a sense of trance-like hypnosis. The result is a colossal swirl of minimalist harps and spacial droning. Recently reissued by Soul Jazz, this work in particular is commonly performed live for meditational purposes at global yoga retreats. And akin to the treacly New Age leanings of his later compositions, Edward also founded and manages his own ‘Therapeutic Laughter Workshop’ where he mentors patients in the mindful benefits of laughing. But this arguably remains the artist’s masterpiece. Read our recent interview with Laraaji here.
Max RichterSleep, 2015
Intended as an aid for undisturbed sleep, Richter’s eight-hour record coalesces the science of brain inactivity with art. Having consulted esteemed neuroscientist and close collaborator David Eagleman, the British composer constructed 31 individual segments, all of which captain the listener through electronic-and-chamber ensembles formulaically meant to strengthen natural sleep cycles. Richter himself has referred to it as “a landscape…where people could fall asleep,” willing people to dream as they are doused in a labyrinth of luminous piano phrases and sobering electronics. A soft pillow of sounds that invites you to pause on the tumult of everyday life, if only for a fleeting eight hours.
Jeff BridgesSleeping Tapes, 2015
“The world is filled with too many restless people in need of rest,” said cult actor and part-time country musician Jeff Bridges. And his remedy for this instability was Sleeping Tapes; an ambient spoken word project with music supplied by composer and True Detective music creator, Keefus Ciancia. Awash with piano abstractions and fantastical humming exercises, Bridges is left to freely roam the annals of his drifting mind. His benevolent pondering gradually edges towards the boundaries of dreamy surreality with each passing track luring you towards a healthy doze. Released in 2015, all proceeds from the record’s sales went to Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign.
William BasinskiThe Disintegration Loops, 2002
Recorded throughout the 1980s and digitised in 2001 for preservation purposes, The Disintegration Loops is a series of tape loops consisting of fragmented music written specifically for easy-listening. However upon initial inspection of the loop recordings, Basinski noticed the tapes beginning to deteriorate as they played. The collection in its current digitised release format coincided with the 9/11 attacks providing a greater sense of melancholic purpose to the music. This tragedy, coupled with the corroding physicality of the recordings, forges a vivid metaphorical tableaux of life an death. Embracing this notion spotlights the frailty of existence, almost intended to cleanse us of unending remorse and eventually heal our splintered hearts. Read our interview with Basinski here.
Brian EnoQuiet Room for Montefiore, 2013
Four years ago, ambient polymath Brian Eno provided a sound and art installation for Montefiore Hospital in East Sussex. The hospital features two of Eno’s works, which endeavour to improve the physiological, psychological and biological wellbeing of its patients. Installed in the reception area, 77 Million Paintings for Montefiore utilises a ‘generative music’ system that remains in a completely random cyclical state. His second contribution, Quiet Room for Montefiore is a fixed soundtrack that can be heard exclusively for patients and staff in the hospital’s downstairs area. Both pieces further highlight Eno’s untouchable nous for creating functional mood-setting music.
Tangerine DreamPoland, 1984
In a modest sized clinic in Moscow, patients hoping to refuel their psychic biofields sit side by side in silence as extracts from Tangerine Dream’s fifth album, Poland, placidly airs over the tannoy system. It’s an abnormal celebration of the group’s music however this form of therapy helps in measuring the general qualitative contentment of the human body. And while the legitimacy of so-called healing ‘powers’ are evidently flawed, Tangerine Dream’s Poland has at least contributed to its studies and provided existential comfort for this clinic’s chi-drained clients.
Ernest HoodNeighbourhoods, 1975
Improvisational zither trills, smooth keyboards and late night field recordings of crickets all co-exist on Ernest Hood’s 1975 record, Neighbourhoods. Once a figurehead of The Pacific Northwest jazz scene, Hood found his creative province after a turn of polio restricted his guitar playing abilities. Here, the composer concentrates on “the formation of comfortable memories,” as he suggests in Neighbourhood‘s liner notes. It’s a highly personal record and one that encourages you to reflect on your childhood and the early social interactions that remain intrinsic to your intellectual understanding of the world. Neighbourhoods prompts us to practice the art of reminiscence in order to better our current selves.
Man At HomeNew Music for Bathing and Other Contemplative States, 2017
California based Man At Home claims to make “music for introverts,” which is “the next best thing to silence.” This, the artist’s debut, is a lush electro-acoustic chamber piece, separated in to three parts, that marries together stringed instruments with synthesisers in order to assist the listener in practicing ‘constructive relaxation’. As the title suggests, the aquatic bubbling of piano runs and melodic foaming of synth lines is best absorbed when immersed in two feet of water. It’s a soothing anaesthesia for the malady of a working day. A refined sonic opiate that lingers for hours.
Raymond ScottSoothing Sounds for Baby, 1964
Originally intended to lull somnambulant infants to sleep, this classic three-volume set from 1964 has since mutated from a parental tool for calming children to one of electronic music’s most galvanising artefacts. Predating the likes of Eno, Arvo Part, Popol Vuh, Kraftwerk, etc. Soothing Sounds for Baby is an exercise in left field electronics built for a domestic purpose. Scott created the majority of sounds on each record with instruments that he personally designed and produced, such as the Electronium and the keyboard sequencer, Clavivox. These documented techniques would later be regarded as archetypal but on initial release their primary function was to both ‘stimulate’ and ‘quieten’ agitated kids.
Philip GlassKoyaanisqatsi OST, 1983
Koyaanisqatsi, or Life Out of Balance if translated from its Hopi origins, is contentiously regarded as Philip Glass’s most recognised musical score. Directed by Godfrey Reggio with cinematography provided by Aron Fricke, the film captures time-lapsed footage of a fast-developing western world; municipal cities dissolve into the natural desert landscapes of an ever-strengthening United States. Glass’s contribution to the project has been cited in numerous reference books for yoga therapy due to its chaconne inspired basslines. According to yoga theorists, Horovitz and Elgelid, the score is the perfect companion to the savasana, or corpse pose.
George WinstonAutumn (1980), Winter into Spring (1982), December (1982)
If suffering from a severe bout of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a short-term prescription of William Ackerman and John Fahey collaborator, George Winston and his weather-heavy compositions may remedy this lack of serotonin. Recommended as a suggested therapy practice in holistic nursing, George Winston’s interpretation of intimate ‘rural folk’ with stride piano has been applied as a test for reducing anxiety levels in preoperative patients. His delicate, noninvasive approach to the keys is thoroughly tranquillising over these three temperate records.
Florian FrickeI Am One With The Earth OST (1983), Aguirre OST (1975)
Popol Vuh’s Florian Fricke has been paramount to the unification of neo-classical and meditative healing routines. In the early 1970s, the krautrock maestro dedicated himself to the teachings of musicotherapy and even went as far as to develop his own therapy exercise known as ‘The Alphabet of the Body’. Almost the entirety of Fricke’s work illustrates some form of contemplative mood but it’s his solo efforts that illuminate his knack for alleviating bodily tension. The breathing and humming techniques on I Am One With The Earth aim to ‘reconcile’ the relationship between earth and man. Aguirre‘s haunting celestial chanting coupled with its Moog synth line also lends heavily to this meditative mantra.
KitaroSacred Journey of Ku-Kai, 2003-2010
Released post-9/11, Sacred Journey of Ku-Kai is a series of ‘peace-themed’ albums that were inspired by the infamous Buddhist pilgrimage to 88 sacred Japanese temples on the island of Shikoku. Kitaro’s fundamental objective was to bring ‘peace of mind’ to an otherwise violent world. It’s incessantly New Age in its concept, which will most certainly churn some stomachs, yet the series rewarded the artist with huge commercial acclaim and multiple Grammy nominations. It also boasts recordings of the Japanese temple bells, which is not only a great feat on Kitaro’s part but also grants a genuinely soothing listening experience.
Ben VidaDamaged Particulates, 2016
Experimental composer, Ben Vida’s multisensory art project was originally commissioned by Unsound Festival NYC as a performance involving the physicality of sound. With the aid of a twin-sub sound system and 25 individual SubPacs attached behind seats, audience members found themselves situated directly in the midst of Vida’s productions. Low-frequencies pulsated through their bodies like the tingling sensation of bass ripples through club speakers. Its affiliation with musicotherapy practices is loose but the immersive nature of Vida’s work is something of a breakthrough in our understanding of physical responses to music.
Manuel GöttschingE2-E4 (1984), Inventions for Electric Guitar (1975)
In a recent interview with Crack, Göttsching spoke openly about the emotive nature of his music; “…this piece in particular is so versatile for the requirements of others,” he explained, “Some can dance, some can sleep…I once was asked ten questions about what type of music I would listen to in a certain situation and every response was E2-E4.” And that’s the overriding nature of Göttsching’s compositions. Both E2-E4 and Inventions… can, in some unassuming manner, play as the soundtrack to living out our everyday lives. From bathing to reading to exercising, Göttsching’s productions are amenable aids even in the most menial of circumstances.
Stars of the LidAnd Their Refinement of the Decline, 2007
It’s almost a superfluous act to select a single defining record by American drone luminaries Stars of the Lid, but the duo’s seventh outing seems to fully capsulise their unwavering grasp of minimalist ambience in its most intimate form. Peers have cited And Their Refinement of the Decline as a ‘drug for anxiety’ or an album to relieve you of any internal disquiet. Its sounds play out as both the hallucinatory peak of a late night pharmaceutical raid and the consoling sedative of an imminent post-rave comedown.
Hieroglyphic BeingThe Disco's of Imhotep, 2016
Last year, Chicago’s Jamal Moss, aka Hieroglyphic Being, gifted the world with The Disco’s of Imhotep. The lo-if nature of his experimental acid house productions were purposely manufactured to heal the listeners through what Moss refers to as rhythmic cubism. The record extracts ancient harmonies with the intent to enrich the soul by channelling the healing powers of Egyptian demigod, Imhotep. “It’s Sound Healing” Moss describes, “but the Ancestors would call it Frequency Medicine.” Regardless, The Disco’s of Imhotep is a mystical concoction of afrofuturist magic.
Marconi UnionWeightless, 2014
This eight minute track by elusive ambient trio Marconi Union from 2011 was released as a collaborative project with the British Academy of Sound Therapy. According to results published by commercial ‘neuromarketing’ institution, Mindlab, the track induces a 65% reduction in overall anxiety and even rested the pulse rates of the experiment’s test subjects by an average of 35%. The findings propelled the group into the mainstream consciousness and were featured in Time Magazine’s 2011 Inventors of the Year list for their compositional accomplishments.
Thom YorkeBedtime Mix, 2016
Comprising of tracks by Laurie Spiegel, William Winant and James Holden, Thom Yorke’s debut mix for Phil Taggart’s Sunday night program is purposely decelerated in pace. Here, the Radiohead frontman wanted to represent music that “evolves quietly and slowly like the weather”. It’s a drowsy, ponderous experience that requires you to detach yourself from your hurried waking mind. In return, this particular rendition of Taggart’s regular segment plays out like the final quavering of an eyelid before the body collectively enters its state of total shutdown. “If you’re still awake by the end of it,” Yorke said, “I’ve done something wrong. Night night. Lights out.”