Emotions in psychedelic music are a complicated thing… let me explain 🙂
First I think I need to point out, that in my opinion it does not matter for the psychedelic-ness of music if there is emotion or not, but if there is emotion things are a lot more complicated.
But what is “psychedelic music” anyway? Here is an attempt of an official definition. It basically says psychedelic music should mimic specific effects of LSD. I have a very similar approach, however I exclude the LSD: I consider music psychedelic if it “makes me trip”.
I’m of the opinion that psychedelic music should be able to bring the listener into a certain “trance”. Furthermore it should have the ability to lead the listener into himself or out of himself, allowing amazing musical and psychological experiences. I’m talking about trips out and insides ones mind. This definition of psychedelic music doesn’t include or exclude any kind of emotion but demands something much more complex.
Some people say everything can be psychedelic. Sure. Listening to a loud 4/4 kick drum for a day or bang your head against a wall for an hour will also put you into a trance and probably cause some kind of psychedelic experience. Just as well as listening to any repetitive noise will at some point. But in my opinion this would be like the difference of opening a can with a can opener versus just banging it with a hammer until it breaks. I prefer the can opener and I don’t consider music psychedelic which trips the listener practically by force by almost violently hammering him into trance.
Back to the topic, emotions in psychedelic music: In my experience the majority of psychedelic electronic music avoids any direct expression of emotion, by simply not using any melody. Of course the listener will always experience individual emotions, like human beings experience pretty much all the time emotions, but when I say psychedelic electronic music avoids emotion I mean that is mostly not directly expressed by the music.
This avoidance of emotion in electronic psychedelic music is understandable and in my opinion not a bad thing at all, since it offers many opportunities. Avoiding emotion leaves more doors open and therefore allows the listener more individual experiences. It’s a good thing and I enjoy it very much if it is well done (can opener style, not hammer style)
Including emotion in psychedelic music means the music will influence the emotions of the listener more, the experience, the trip will become a bit less individual, more guided. This requires a lot of responsibility in songwriting of psychedelic music, since, when putting the listener into a state of trance, it is possible to guide the listener into emotional corners so deep in himself, that it can even be difficult to get out alone.
In my opinion this means that overall the emotions, unconditionally, have to be genuine and deep-routed, because in a state of trust and trance everything else could be very confusing. Hence, in my eyes, the writer of emotional, psychedelic music has to be very careful, has to offer complete trips and stories and has to bring the listener back to a good place Just as a hypnotist has to wake you up after hypnosis.
In my experience it seems as if many writers of psychedelic trance in particular, are not aware of the power of emotion in combination with psychedelic song structures and work relatively irresponsible with emotions. Unsolved, unended stories or emotions, ungenuine emotions, superficial emotions can be a problem since they (in case the listener was fully trusting the artist) can leave the listener in a, say, “displeasing” state or simply confuse him. In combination with certain drugs this can even lead to bad trips. But mostly this leads to people just stopping to trust any emotion in psychedelic music, because they made unpleasant experiences.
This of course all applies to “normal” music as well, but in my opinion the effect is much bigger in psychedelic music.
I do my very best to write emotional, psychedelic music, which take the listener onto a beautiful or demanding trip into oneself but still bring everyone back safe. It is a lot of work, a lot of reflection, a lot of time which I let pass before I release music.
Unfortunately my experience is, that many new listeners don’t trust my music in the first place. I believe it has a lot to do with the fear of being left in a bad emotional state or being “lied to” by inauthentic, superficial emotions. In my eyes this is partly caused by too many artists irresponsibly creating “malfunctioning” emotional, psychedelic (and other) music and partly because people want to avoid the confrontation which emotional, psychedelic music can offer.
However it is not obvious or dangerous per se: Emotional psychedelic music can only “function” and “malfunction” when someone listens to it with an open mind and heart. To protect from that, listeners often close their mind and heart as a precaution or, sadly, by using certain emotionally numbing drugs like amphetamine, cocaine, ketamine. These drugs, unfortunately, have become common place in most venues of electronic psychedelic music and are completely incompatible with emotional psychedelic music because they block the very channel this music tries to access.
I hope that artists making psychedelic music become more aware of the responsibility they have and that listeners of psychedelic electronic music become more open to the kind of emotional psychedelic electronic music I make. Some think it’s just fun, but for me psychedelic music is much more than that. It’s a very complex form of art and it needs a lot of practice. It can be heart and soul healing and has tremendous psychological potential of done right.