Can music help us heal? What role can music play in the future of mental health therapy?
Music has always been an integral part of spiritual practice. From church hymns to indigenous ayahuasca ceremonies, music has been used to bring us out of our cluttered minds and towards a more mindful present. This marriage of music and spiritual therapy has come so far that it’s now an accepted component of academic research and FDA clinical trials. “Functional music” is officially a thing.
Which is why it was a natural progression to launch Microdose Music, the first record label dedicated to the creation of music for psychedelic therapy, healing, and the pursuit of wellness.
We sat down with Paul Nolan, DJ, music producer, and co-founder of Microdose Music.
How did this project get started? What was the inspiration?
It began to take form at the Wonderland conference last year. I performed and the feedback that we were getting from a lot of frontline people involved in actually administering psychedelic therapy, was that the one thing that they were having challenges with was the music because.
We decided to do it ourselves. We have the expertise in-house, as I’m not just a music producer in the traditional sense. Personally, I’ve had a lot of benefit from interacting with psychedelics myself and also gained the qualification as a sound therapist. So it kind of left me in a unique position to be able to create something like this, and I think it just needed an organization like Microdose and myself coming together to make it happen.
There’s very little music out there specifically designed for these types of therapeutic modalities. It’s the first of its kind record label. Creating music and activations specifically designed from the ground up for use with psychedelic therapy modality.
And there are many other uses for functional music, including yoga, meditation, sleep, deep learning, and so much more.
It seems the options are currently pretty limited. Therapy providers need to search Spotify for a “meditation” or “ayahuasca” playlist and hope they get something decent?
Whether or not it’s a ceremony in the jungle or, a much more clinical situation like saying MDMA assisted therapy session, music is one of the most important aspects of that therapeutic model. Not only did I hear a lot of that from therapists themselves, but people who have participated in these, saying they feel like I would have got a lot more out of the experience if the music was better because the music wasn’t really helping me, get to the place I needed to get to.
So that is really where the ethos and the concept of Microdose Music was born — understanding that there was a need to help bridge that gap. Because I’ve been very fortunate myself in a personal context to have musical experiences, as a result of ceremonies that I’ve done in the past that have, really, really elevated and optimized the experience for me and help me to get to a place, I really needed to get to. So it’s in the spirit of having a very deep intention of helping as many other people have that experience as well.
The first album will be launching shortly?
Yes. The first album is out on the 28th of July. I’ve worked with a number of really legendary artists in both the music and film world, but this is my first solo album as an artist.
It’s very autobiographical and I’ve put a lot of my own experiences into it. But I’ve made it less descriptive and less prescriptive if that makes sense. What I learned working with film music composers, is sometimes you have to leave an opaque space in order to allow people to project onto the musical experience.
My own healing journey is there as the contour and the narrative of the album, but I’ve very much left the space open, opened the door, with the intention to help people in a psychedelic therapy situation.
How would you describe the style of music?
It’s very effective. And it has a real acoustic quality to it. So there’s a lot of orchestral strings, but then there’s a lot of quite experimental sounds in there because I’m constantly morphing sounds and getting them to change, to expand them, and then getting them to contract. And there are synthesized portions, using vintage synthesizers. A lot of that neoclassical kind of sound.
So I would say that there is a tip of the hat to the likes of John Hopkins and Max Cooper.
In conjunction with the album and record label launch — you’re also having a music summit?
Yes, that’s right. On release day, 28th of July, we’re gonna have an online summit with the other founders of Microdose Music. We’ll go into a little bit more depth about Microdose Music as a label and what the future plans are gonna be. And then there’s gonna be another really interesting panel on the link and the relationship between music, visual media, and psychedelics. With some really interesting people across the spectrum, including Tom Middleton, a legendary electronic music, and a neuroscientist, an expert in sleep who’s been creating functional music and functional audio for wellness for quite some time. And we’ll also have Eileen Hall, the visual artist who created the artwork for John Hopkins’ album Music for Psychedelic Therapy, and a number of other experts across the field of visual arts, communication, tech, psychedelics etc.
And then I’m going to give my first live performance of the album in its entirety.
“Dissolve” by Paul Nolan will be available on major streaming platforms in both stereo and Dolby Atmos formats, including Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music, on July 28th, 2023.
The album is currently available for pre-order on Bandcamp, with samples available for listening now.
To celebrate the release of ‘Dissolve’ and the launch of Microdose Music, an online summit, hosted by Microdose Media, will also take place on July 28th. The summit will include panels and speakers on the cutting edge of music, neuroscience, art, psychedelics and visual presentation.
Confirmed speakers include Tom Middleton, electronic music artist, neuroscientist and sleep expert; Alexandre Tannous, a renowned ethnomusicologist; Eileen Hall, visual artist and head of the Tayos Cave Project in Ecuador; Jeff Rona, Hollywood film composer and Microdose Music Artist, and many more.
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