#776: Designing Music Rituals for Psychedelic Journeys with East Forest

East Forest has been crafting musical rituals for psilocybin journeys for the past decade, and he just released a five-hour album titled “Music For Mushrooms: A Soundtrack For The Psychedelic Practitioner” coincidentally just a few days after Denver decriminalized magic mushrooms. East Forest kicked off Consciousness Hacking’s Awakened Futures Summit, with an immersive concert in the round while others guided the group through a Cacao ceremony, which is a legal psychoactive substance that lasts about an hour or so. East Forest has also been collaborating with Consciousness Hacking’s founder Mikey Siegel’s Group Flow experiments that use biometric data from the audience to explore group synchrony and collective flow states, like for example using people’s heartbeats as a music instrument or eventually aggregating biometric information to dynamically respond to the audience.

East Forest also collaborated with Ram Dass where he asked him questions and then edited his wisdom teaching answers into musical poems that are being released this year in four different chapters. He’s already released the first and second chapters, and just released the third chapter on the Summer solstice with the final chapter coming out in August.

I had a chance to catch up with East Forest on the first day of the Awakened Future Summit where we talked about his past decade of musical exploration within the psychedelic underground. He’s tells the story of his journey of cultivating a musical tradition that’s specifically crafted for psilocybin journeys. We also talk about creating sonic architectures that are tailored for psychedelic journeys, and how he blends different genres in order to cultivate a tradition that’s designed to help people go in inner journeys of transformation. His uses quite a lot of looping, which allows him to perform live and dynamically respond to the energy that’s arising in the room. He also uses quite a bit of recorded sounds from nature to create polychronic rhythms and a connection to nature, which creates an immersive experience that takes you around the world bringing in sounds that are indigenous to specific regions.

He also talks about how the future of 360 audio is going to take off once there are consumer-ready mixing platforms that can take what he’s doing in 2D, and then be able to spatialize it within a room. He’s already performing in-the-round on the same level as his audience, and so this type of musical ritual designed for inner journeys would be perfect for further exploration of spatial audio delievered through ambisonic speakers. He’s got a lot of ideas, and is looking for technology collaborators to help to push the bleeding edge of what’s possible with immersive and interactive music rituals and concerts designed for contemplative and transformative experiences.


This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to the Voices of VR Podcast. So at the Awaken Futures Summit, at the very beginning of the first day, they start off with a cacao ritual. And Ys Forest is a musician who just recently released an album called Music for Mushrooms, a soundtrack for the psychedelic practitioner. So, East Forest has been working in the realm of the psychedelic underground for the last decade, and he's been creating these psilocybin journeys, and these ritualistic and ceremonial set and setting for people to take these psychedelic journeys. And so, at the beginning of the Wake & Future Summit, they couldn't use psychedelics, so they used the psychoactive substance of cacao, and did a whole cacao ceremony, where they give a little bit of a taste of what it would be like to go through one of these more involved five-hour psychedelic journeys. And eSports has also been collaborating with Mikey Siegel and Conscious is Hacking and doing these variety of different experiments of using biometric feedback and be able to feed that into giving people real-time feedback of their heartbeats and kind of these variety of different experiments of what's it mean to be able to use these music technologies and create an immersive experience. And so at the beginning of this entire Summit they started with this cacao ceremony in part to create this Embodied experience of some of the things that they're talking about and they didn't want to just dive into talking about things intellectually but they actually wanted to have a bit of an embodied experience of creating these deeper ritualistic contexts and transformative experiences and And it turns out that after talking to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, they're also creating a very similar protocol. As they start to get these psychedelic drugs approved by FDA, they're not just gonna put people into this empty room and give them a psychedelic journey. They actually have a whole guideline for the deeper setting and the aesthetics and the whole experiential design of administering psychedelics. With that, there's this pulling from these different indigenous traditions, but also cultivating a whole new secularized ritualistic context for immersive experiences like a psychedelic journey. But all of these other immersive theater type of experiences also have this entering into the magic circle and having these different ceremonial ritualistic aspects as well. So I think there's a lot of really interesting things of what East Forest is doing that had the entire audience there at the Waken Future Summit have a bit of a direct experience of some of these different things that he's starting to experiment and do with music and breaking down the fourth wall and having people around him in a circle and take people on these audio journeys and create these different soundscapes. So that's what we're covering on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast. So this interview with East Forest happened on Saturday, May 18th, 2019 at the Awaken Future Summit in San Francisco, California. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:03:11.676] East Forest: I'm East Forest, and I'm making music for going inside for introspective states. And in the live sphere, that's taking place with this East Forest ceremony experience that I'm doing, which is a mixture of concert and ritual. And in the studio recording space, I'm making music. Well, the two projects right now is a Ram Dass project, so it's combining new teachings and recordings I got from Ram Dass into modern music as a way of transmitting those teachings. And then a second project is called Music for Mushrooms, a soundtrack for The Psychedelic Practitioner, which is a mouthful, but it's a five-hour project designed to guide someone through a psilocybin experience start to finish.

[00:03:58.667] Kent Bye: Yeah, I actually am a big fan of your work, actually. I've listened to a lot of the music and previous albums, but I bought the music for Mushrooms and just played it in the background as I was working, and I actually found that it helped me get in a little bit of a focused flow state. I think the rise of ambient music is happening a lot more with people that are listening to music while they work, and I haven't used it to go on a Mushroom journey or work with any sort of psychedelic practitioners, but Maybe you could tell me a bit about how that project came about because you talk about being in this psychedelic underground for the number of years doing these ceremonies and so maybe talk a bit about how this project kind of evolved over the years.

[00:04:40.332] East Forest: Yeah, and by the way, I think it would work for, I mean, enjoy the music on its own. And I think because it comes from that ceremonial space, it's very sacred and intentional. And it sort of imbibes, if you're putting it on in the background, it gives a really wonderful heart feeling just in the background. So it sort of lifts up the space you're in if you're working. So I think it actually would work off-label shall we say for a lot of things whether it's yoga or meditating or just in the background you know to kind of create good vibes while you're doing your other stuff. But it was created from guiding psilocybin ceremonies for 10 years and just learning what works and testing things and creating a musical lexicon and creating this process and I recorded it in a ceremony so it's actually from that space and in those spaces when I'm making music I'm improvising the music so making it up in the moment and it's live so you're hearing something that it's being birthed you're hearing something for the first time and that's to me interesting and it's coming from the energy of the Mushroom experience and responding to it So there's some value in that sense of it's responsive to the natural flow of a group ceremony experience. And that's unique. And I don't think there's another record out there like that, at least not that they've said so. And certainly not at that length where it's giving you something that you could use cohesively from start to finish.

[00:06:14.471] Kent Bye: Yeah, I had a chance to see a documentary on the Grateful Dead at Sundance a number of years ago, and it was, I think, a six-hour documentary, but they were showing how the band members of the Grateful Dead would go on these psychedelic journeys, but then subtly tune in to the energy and the vibe of the crowd and have this kind of feedback loop. But do you feel like there's a similar element of really trying to tune in to the subtle energies of what's emerging in the moment, of the group energy, and trying to reflect that with music?

[00:06:43.085] East Forest: Definitely, it's a conversation. It's funny because the Dead, you know, people went to their shows to take acid. That was the whole point. And so they were sort of like, we're going to help you through this experience by creating lots of music. That's probably why they started jamming and all that. It's sort of a similar experience. The context of mine was more intentional in a spiritual sense, in a quote sacred sense, and in that ceremonial container. But absolutely, it's sort of what I was speaking to before. It's responding to what's happening in the space. Therefore, that's informing the music. There are different techniques, you know, I don't need to go into about ebbs and flow and tension and release and melodic structure, but these are things that help the psilocybin experience and help someone go through it. And there are things you could do that would be not helpful, right? And so these are things that are hopefully making it easier for you to go through that experience and therefore have a more positive experience.

[00:07:38.409] Kent Bye: I actually wanted to dive into some of those techniques because I think in the process of creating immersive experiences, there's this process of creating consonants and dissonant cycles that I feel like narrative tension, as well as music, typically with chord progressions, does that. But for you, I got this sense of there's two main orientations towards time and cultures that are more monochronic and cultures that are more polychronic. And I feel like that music from a more monochronic perspective has a clear narrative arc that as you're listening to it, it's like a three minute structure that's pretty set. But I felt like there's some element of emergent polychronic cycles that you're doing in the sense that it's doing sounds from nature and things that have their own rhythm and their own sort of layering those different rhythms on top of each other. And so you're doing a lot of layering that seems to be more polychronic or trying to have this more sense of emergent structure rather than a fixed linear narrative. But I don't know, how do you describe the techniques and what you do?

[00:08:43.962] East Forest: Well, it definitely isn't set to any structure there are songs and it's interesting because I come from a background of making standard pop music as when I was younger and so it does have a backbone of It's melodic when people say ambient. It's so it's not washes of tone. It's actually melodies and it's rhythm almost in the entire thing there's a sense of rhythm to it and And all that stuff is familiar to our Western ear. In addition to the instrumentation, pianos, like Fender Rhodes and organs and piano, these things are familiar. It's not like I'm playing a strange instrument you haven't heard before. Or it's not like I'm just playing a rattle, like in a traditional ayahuasca karo song. So that familiarity brings a comfort. And the chord progressions and things, I think your body and your brain are like, oh, I know this world, so to speak, but I haven't heard it maybe put together this way. And then the way I'm singing in sort of a falsetto vocalizations, we joke it's called language light or light language, meaning it's like I'm not actually saying English words. So I'm making it up as I go along. It's just inspired language. But that's intentional because it's not activating the language parts of our brain while you're in that experience as to not bring you back into that thinking space. It's more of a feeling space. So, techniques like that, I think, like I said, bring some comfort of familiarity, but I want to be very free in this space to go where I'm inspired to go. And that inspiration, I hope, is coming from that place of responding to the energy of the room. And that's something that's very difficult to describe where that comes from, but it does feel like you're responding. And that's something that's hard to describe. You're just learning that over time, intuition about energy in this space. and I like to feel free to let this that's what there's a wonderful freedom in that space to do whatever you want like if you feel like the song wants to keep going you just keep going there's nothing like I have to end here if it ends up being a 40 minute song that's a good because I need to fill time right so it's like whatever when that song ends I just need to keep playing so it's gonna be a new idea and sometimes you sense Each song creates a sonic architecture, and it creates a world that they are going to be in. And it's often good for that world to be about 15 to 30 minutes, I found, to be in that psychedelic space, and it's good for it to change. And it's good for there to be a break or a pause, and that's why I usually have a nature field recording, there's several minutes where you just can process and rest and be in this neutral space, like a palate cleanser. And then we start to build slowly into a new space that's very different, because the instrumentation is different. And that creates a new sonic space for them to be, which usually then drives a new experience. So you can't hold on to any experience in a psychedelic space. It always changes, whether it's good or bad. That's probably a good thing. So if someone's in a very beautiful space, we're just moving them so they're not just staying in the bliss, perhaps. But more importantly, if they're in a difficult, challenging space, The music shifting into something new can help them move into a new space. It kind of keeps the wheels turning. It keeps the process moving forward over four, five, six hours.

[00:11:52.835] Kent Bye: Yeah, and I'm curious to hear you talk a bit about the cultural shifts that are happening around psychedelics and psychedelic culture because, you know, we were just talking to Rick Doblin, the founder of the MAPS, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Research, and that there's been quite a lot of studies and cultural shift when it comes to acceptance for doing very specific applications in a therapeutic context of different types of psilocybin, MDMA, other psychedelics that can be used to help treat all sorts of PTSD and trauma, anxiety, dealing with death, end of life. So all these specific applications, but also just more generally openness of people maybe using psychedelics off-label or they're just using them on their own, microdosing. There's Michael Pollan's book, How to Change Your Mind, and we're here at this conference on consciousness hacking, Awakened Futures, that is explicitly about the combination of psychedelics, technology, and meditation. So there's this huge cultural shift that I see is happening, but you've been, in some ways, kind of in the trenches, on the front lines, and I'm just curious to hear your perspective of what you're seeing in terms of what's changing and shifting right now.

[00:12:59.120] East Forest: Well, there's definitely a shift in the culture of wins more in the last year or two. And as you said, this conference is part of that. Someone said on stage, what's your name, Leone, from MAPS? But when you kind of put psychedelic something in the title, the tickets start selling. Lately, there's evidence that Esalen recently, they did a week-long psychedelic integration or something like that, it was called, with some pretty heavy hitters. I think Rick was there and Michael Pollan. Anyway, it had a 1,000-person wait list. It was insane. So there's absolutely a hunger for this. And it's hard to say what the specific effect is. Michael Pollan's book was a big one, I think, in normalizing it. But he was sort of picking up on this larger shift, which I think is partially generational. And the other half of it, to me, seems to be a symptom of the times. It's kind of the idea that the crazier things get, there's also the other half of that, which is like the better things are getting too at the same time, this yin-yang effect. And so here we are in the land of the Trumpian land, which is sort of like just a way of the barometer of how crazy weird things are. at the same time we have these progressive fronts like Denver's decriminalization of psilocybin or the legalization of a lot of recreational use of marijuana and so on so I think it's because it's needed and some people are finally getting either there obviously there's people who've wanted this all along but some people are getting desperate And I've noticed myself people looking to these medicines because they're struggling and they're finally giving it real consideration because it's been a re-education campaign going on where things like they might have read Michael Pollan's book and they saw some other story and they're sort of saying, you know, I really want to try this. I've hearing that a lot. lot they're just want to try it because there's the reading about the benefits instead of all these ridiculous horror stories that maybe relies about it's gonna burn a hole in your brain or change your DNA or maybe it does for the good but So I think it's just because it's needed probably and there could be some more metaphysical reasons going on how it is just sort of like emerging right when it needs to emerge but I think we still have a long way to go and And the reason why I made this record is because I think we need tools to use this stuff in a more intentional way. And that was a gap I saw where that doesn't exist. And so I kind of had it already, and it was in the shadows. And I thought, well, I felt the courage to just come out and say this is what I have. And I don't know if I would if I didn't have that courage several years ago, because I didn't really talk about it as publicly. I kind of talked around it. I made the same music, but I didn't put it out and say, hey, this is what it's for. Put it in a title and throw it out there. Yeah.

[00:15:52.395] Kent Bye: Well, it seems like it's catching on and climbing up the charts in the new age tracks on iTunes. Maybe you could talk a bit about the response that you're getting from it so far.

[00:16:00.860] East Forest: Well, it hasn't been that long, yeah, but it's very, it was very surprising to see it chart because it's actually difficult for it to chart beyond for what it is. It's, you know, the way things chart, it's how many spins it gets and so forth and purchases. A, people don't purchase much music anymore, and B, even if they were to spin this record and they loved it, they spin one song for 40 minutes, that's one spin versus someone's record that's 30 minutes long, it's 11 tracks, whatever. So I actually said to some friends is like, oh, there's no way it's gonna chart and I don't really care anyway Because it's impossible for it to chart and then it started charting and I was like, this is so odd and then people started like Retweeting it and talking about it and and then it went all the way to number one in that chart and I was just like this is such a crazy another barometer of the times it really blew my mind and I Look, I care more that it is a useful tool for people and I think it will be that over hopefully decades. But it's a wonderful story to talk about that it came out two days after the decriminalization of psilocybin in Denver. And I was working on this for 10 years and then two days later. It's amazing synchronicity And so it's just sort of all falling into place in such an interesting interesting way It's beyond me and I just interested to see where it goes because as a composer once you release something and put it out You kind of sky putting your child in a boat and then it sails off you just sort of watch it and see what happens It's no longer in my control And I'm really curious and interested in seeing its applications both on and off label, shall we say.

[00:17:39.548] Kent Bye: Well, in the psychedelic community, there's a lot of talk about set and setting, and it feels like there's, with your music for Mushrooms, the soundtrack for The Psychedelic Practitioner, that you're able to, in some ways, give it that ritualistic, ceremonial context. What is that context? How do you define that context? What is that ritual space or that set and setting that you're trying to achieve with this?

[00:18:02.910] East Forest: Yes, I am trying to bring ceremony back into psilocybin or mushrooms because it's almost never part of that context, that drug. For instance, ayahuasca never divorced itself from the ceremonial context. Almost everyone has an ayahuasca experience inside an ayahuasca ceremony. And that's probably why it even works, because it's not something you'd want to do recreationally. And so I find that to be very interesting. So the music as well is very old and ancient, the Ikaro songs, and it stayed with it. And psilocybin didn't have that tradition that came along with it. It did have some traditions, but it didn't travel into Americas with that. So it's sort of this orphan in the ceremonial sense, and people just didn't really know what they could be doing with it as a tool. And ceremony is a tool, it's one of the oldest technologies we have, probably for many millennia. It's a way to talk to our brain and our body and code into ourselves to say this is important. It's a way to get ourselves in sort of beauty and trance spaces to communicate with our unconscious, our subconscious. And these are ways to heal. And these are ways to access those spaces. And this is technologies we've developed. I think it's really cool that it usually involves beauty. It's about ritual. And rituals are things we do all the time quite blindly, whether it's brushing our teeth or making our coffee. So the element of choice that you bring into it, that level of how you choose to interact with it, the consciousness that you bring to it, the intentionality, is sort of the basic building blocks of ceremony, maybe with beauty as well. And it's very simple. but that context is a key into this lock of a greater sense of self and the greater power of these tools and it's something that I think we've sloughed aside because we want our technology to be something made by Sony or Tesla but like there's so many things that have been with us all along that there's probably a reason why they've been used for a long time because they worked they worked and it's not something you have to buy

[00:20:06.277] Kent Bye: Well, at the opening of the Awakened Futures Summit here, you did a whole sound healing ceremony. There was a whole element of cacao that was happening as well. And so maybe you could talk a bit about coming here in this, what is typically a San Francisco conference center. I've actually been in this conference center doing interviews about virtual reality in 2016. So that was in 2016, and now it's three years later, 2019, and now there's this cross section of psychedelics, technology, and meditation. It's sort of like all of my interests from other parts of my life are all kind of colliding in this real surreal way. Just curious to hear a bit about, like, as you come into a situation like this and do this performance, a little bit of, like, what you were trying to achieve this morning.

[00:20:49.692] East Forest: Yeah, well, it's three of the aspects, too, that were really interesting, so I think it was also resonating for me in that way. I think with the ceremonies, first off, the ceremonies this morning, I try to get away from the term sound healing. Not that that's a bad term, but for me, it was definitely more of a mixture of like a concert and, I mean, I call it the East Forest Ceremony, but today it was a little more collaborative because we had the cacao and we had Dustin DiPerna or Marissa Radweppner doing the meditation element. I think what we wanted to do is create something that was embodied in a felt experience and ceremonial. Again, a ritualistic way to enter into this conference. So it's not just us all talking and being in our brains. It's like, what if we start this with a felt experience? Do it in a way where we can really tap in and get in touch. It felt right energetically and It's also just happens to be that's why Mikey asked me to do it. But for me it felt like if we didn't do that It would almost be a disservice to be talking about it all weekend But not actually sort of sitting down and doing it so they used cacao because that was a psychoactive so to speak Medicine we could do legally that was also would work in an hour. Essentially it was you know, it's an hour and a half ceremony. So

[00:22:07.574] Kent Bye: How long do your performances in this ceremonial context usually last? I mean, this album is five hours long. Is that usually how long they last?

[00:22:15.597] East Forest: Well, the East Forest Ceremony concert series I'm doing, it's about an hour and a half or two hours, you know, the actual event. But that's a little different than what you're doing in a psilocybin ceremony. I mean, like I said, what you hear on that Music for Mushrooms record that's from a psilocybin ceremony, something I do publicly when I do the ceremony space. It's similar, but it moves a little more. It's a little more entertaining. And I use the Ram Dass material in it too, from that record and other songs of mine. So it's again, it's a mixture of concert and ceremony and ritual. It's not just purely like a sound healer. I'm hitting bowls and stuff. It's like, it's, it's, I want it to be entertaining and I want it to have an element of theatricality. and there's something to watch and anyone could walk into this and get something out of it and it's a felt experience so I don't want them to have anything they can argue with and that would make them tune out.

[00:23:06.342] Kent Bye: Now, I'm curious to hear your thoughts on time and the looping of time, because there's a lot of your work that you're looping segments that you're playing live, but then you're sort of adding and laying on top of each other. But to me, it feels like there's something interesting about what that means to be able to kind of be looping those little segments or melodies on top of each other like that.

[00:23:26.115] East Forest: Well, it started very practically because I just needed to play solo and guide people for a long time. So that's the only reason it started. But I did notice there was a benefit to being able to layer things and then take away those layers. So it helps with that element of tension and release, which is often helpful in a psychedelic setting. Musically, it's helpful because you can create a chorus of things, whether it's your voice or pianos or anything, and build those things up. But I'm also able to take them away and bring them back, like bricks. And it's actually, bricks is a very literal way of how it works. It's sort of, you can make bricks upon bricks and you can duplicate those bricks and it's kind of like a grid. So it's hard for me to talk about because it's something I just have been doing for so long that I don't think about it. I don't know. But it's like doing the whole process feels like I'm playing a game of Simon and Twister at the same time. It's a lot of knobs and feet action and hand action while you're performing. It's gotten to be very familiar, but it's still very odd and strange.

[00:24:32.748] Kent Bye: It's fun to watch because you're doing this action with a lot of intention Then it starts looping and then you start to sort of see those moments when you're sort of adding or taking things away And you are almost always sort of turning or moving things at the same time So it's like, you know, there's a part of a mystery of like what's actually happening, but you can see the impact of it But still there's a lot of things where you're doing stuff where you know, it's imperceptible of what you're doing but there's a lot of constant tweaking but almost like a crafting of something as it's emerging, but that deep listening of listening and then doing that live element there.

[00:25:04.425] East Forest: Yeah, that's what I like about the East Forest Ceremony Concert is that you could just watch like a concert and be entertained on that level. Or you could close your eyes and go on a journey or lie down on that level, and it would work. So I like that it has those elements, especially when it's done in the round. That's how I like to do it. So it's this breaking down the fourth wall of me on a stage entertaining you. It's more like, oh, I'm right here with you, and I can watch this co-creative process, and I'm looping them. And I like to do a lot of that kind of stuff. And that just, to me, makes it more theatrical and more fun to watch and entertaining. The entertaining part is just so we're speaking the language of modern times that you can do this and enjoy it as opposed to I mean slap on a gong for an hour and a half and it may be actually quite transformative for your consciousness but for some people it's just like where's my doorway in so I'm trying to make a lot of doorways in to build bridges to groups that might not normally you know might not normally respond to this this is something I'm hoping I could do this in the Midwest to a conservative crowd and it would work for them too that's my goal so it's not just so the choir I

[00:26:11.567] Kent Bye: Can you talk a bit about how this project that you did with Ram Dass came about?

[00:26:16.488] East Forest: He's just been a teacher of mine silently for a long, long time, whether it's reading his books or hearing his talks. And I had the idea of doing a record where I put his voice to music, essentially. And I mean, long story short, as I pitched the idea to his foundation, and eventually got them to think it was a good idea and then I went out there in June and asked questions to him and over a few days and recorded his responses and brought that back into the studio and composed music and brought a bunch of featured guests on and it's still unfolding but we've released half of it and the full record comes out on August 9th, 2019. And it's been amazing because he's 88 years old and has so much to share. I mean, he spoke publicly for 50 years. He's a master. And the stuff he gave me is just so beautiful and so incredible, like the way he crafted. It's funny, but poetic and striking and with just the right amount of words. And he had a stroke 20 years ago and has aphasia, so it's difficult for him to connect the thoughts he has into vocalized words. But his thoughts are all there. It's hard for him to speak, essentially. So he has very long pauses in between his words. And something might take him 30 minutes to say, and I would take out the pauses, and it's one minute of a teaching. But what's cool is the people who interface with him now, obviously when he speaks, it's labored and slow. But he comes alive inside the music because the pauses now are assets because I can move it into the rhythm of the music. You don't even notice them. So all of a sudden he's just sort of alive and speaking. But it's his voice is like the way it is now. It's an 88 year old. It sounds like Gandalf, I say. And then what he's saying is sort of like you're connecting with it in a new way because you're no longer struggling to follow the train of thought. It's just like he woke up or something. And he's speaking about things that are modern and relevant to today, whether it's dark thoughts or technology and these sorts of things. So I think it's a very powerful piece of relevancy and wisdom, which wisdom is not something that's honored and appreciated too much these days. And this is a guy that, boy, does he have a lot to share with us. And it's so neat. It's not an old story that doesn't matter anymore. It's about today. And it's beautiful he was committed to continuing to teach. that and not saying no to me he said yes there was yeah let's do more more more more more more like I can't even get out of this wheelchair but let's keep going so it's beautiful.

[00:28:54.773] Kent Bye: Is there an established musical tradition that would do this type of interviews and then set it to music or is this kind of like a new genre?

[00:29:01.378] East Forest: Yeah, no, I mean, it's I guess it's sort of been done mostly where people take old recordings like Alan Watts stuff or something around Ginsburg. I've heard a few things out there. But for me, it was really important to record him in person and get new recordings. That was a really important part of the story of this record. And I just felt intuitively that was important. And that was a big ask, because he has 50,000 hours of recorded talking. So they're like, just use what you want. And I was like, yeah, I want some new stuff. But they're like, that doesn't make any sense. But eventually, I got them to agree. So there's not an official name for it. I mean, I guess it's very cross-genre. And the music I make does cross-genre, whether it's from contemporary classical to almost hip-hop to pop to ambient to experimental. It kind of involves a lot of different things.

[00:29:49.502] Kent Bye: Involves a lot of acoustic instruments like pianos and strings, but also some electronic beats sometimes but sometimes not Well, there also seems to be a lot of field recordings of nature And so do you find that there's a certain brain entrainment that happens when you use those types of nature sounds?

[00:30:06.713] East Forest: Yes. I use nature sounds in a lot of my music, but not all my music. It certainly was a lot at the beginning. And I do that because nature is something that we are often very disconnected to, but it's so much who we are. And so I'm trying to bring the sound of that wilderness that is still us from the wilderness into our ears, because most people won't travel out to those wilderness spaces. So I bring it to you. And I found that through the recording, it still had in it the character and the soul of that space. I like to use it like an instrument, like a cricket. There are, I think, about 900 different kinds of crickets, and they're all different. And it's sort of like a tambourine in the sense that it might fall into the, say, 10 kilohertz range of the frequency spectrum. So you can use it like an instrument. It's like a tambourine's coming in or something. But it also has that character of a soul, of a space, and that soul of the different spaces of this planet. So the field recordings on the Ram Dass record are a bit more subtle, but they're actually all from Maui. They're all from around his house. And so I brought one of these little recorders like you have while I was there. I was there for a week recording him, and on my off time, I went around and recorded sounds. Because that's where he's been for 20 years, and so it seemed appropriate, as opposed to something from somewhere else.

[00:31:27.667] Kent Bye: Great. And what has been some of the reaction of people that have gone through some of these psilocybin ceremonies with your music?

[00:31:34.577] East Forest: profound. I'd say most people's experience is profoundly positive. I don't have exact numbers, but anecdotally it feels like 90%, 95%. And that has a lot to do with their preparation and their integration afterwards and their preparation of the body and their minds and their intention going in and the music itself working with that stuff. So you put all that, all those pieces of a pie together and it makes a more reliable measure of success. as opposed to just taking it and rolling the dice, which could be really great. It also could be quite traumatic, and I've heard that story, unfortunately, a lot. And so that's one of the benefits of ceremony, too. It creates a level of safety.

[00:32:13.929] Kent Bye: Are you going to be doing a lot of performances in Denver now?

[00:32:19.620] East Forest: Well, it's not legalized there yet. What does that even quite means? It means like decriminalized. So like if we do it, it's just not that big of a deal. But that is a great question. I mean, so it was only a week ago, so I don't know. Maybe? We'll see. I don't know. I mean, I'll tell you this. I'm not the guy who's going to be doing concerts and it's like a party and we're all taking motions. That's not me. So it's like, I would only do public concerts that was in that vein if I felt it was a strong enough container to take people through that with respect, integrity, and safety. And that's not easy to do in large groups. I don't know. I frankly wouldn't be comfortable doing that. If we could find out a way to do it, Maybe, but there's a lot of boxes we'd have to check. So I feel good about holding people's hearts and consciousness in such a vulnerable way. To do that with many, many people at once is not something I know has been done before with integrity. It's probably just like, hey, do what you want and good luck, but that's just not who I am.

[00:33:18.053] Kent Bye: Well, it reminds me of in the immersive theater space, there's things like Trespass Adventures, where they would come together and they would go to, say, an abandoned honeymoon hotel. But they weren't actually have permission to be there, but it had to be a private context to get invited into these experiences. And so it sounds like it's maybe similar. In order to really get into experience these, then you have to kind of get the special invite or information to even be invited into this specific context. At least that's how it sounds like it's been done up to this point.

[00:33:47.772] East Forest: It's true. It's underground, but there is an energy to it. I often find that if someone needs to do it or wants to do it, it comes to them often. So that can sound frustrating to people, but that's often the case.

[00:34:02.078] Kent Bye: Great. And so what's next for you? What's on the horizon?

[00:34:07.101] East Forest: I am finishing the Ram Dass record. And as I said, it comes out on August 9th and touring it all over the country and possibly the world. So I'm on the road a lot. I'm doing this East Forest concert ceremony series all over the place. I don't know when this podcast comes out, but basically eastforest.org. You can see where I'm performing and I'm just continuing to perform and do what I do and see what happens next.

[00:34:34.589] Kent Bye: I wanted to ask you, because we're at this Awaking Futures conference, where is the cross-section of psychedelics and technology and meditation, and so how do you see these other immersive technologies that are out there and how all these things are coming together, especially from your perspective, you know, being an electronic musician, but if you see there's other elements that you would want to potentially incorporate or these different trends that you see within this immersive technology space.

[00:34:59.325] East Forest: Yeah, there's a few. I'm curious about 360 mixing, which is probably definitely, I know it's coming. I have a feeling that's going to shift music from mono to stereo. It'll be stereo to 360. And when people have headphones, so that's just how we'll be mixing music. So it's a very different way to mix music. And I've tried to get on some beta testing for that, but I haven't yet.

[00:35:19.690] Kent Bye: There's some Bose AR frames in the Traverse platform from Jessica Burlhart. There's some existing platforms that are out there, but also the QC35s from Bose. They have accelerometers in them and stuff, so you can already start to do a little bit of spatial audio production with the headphones. In some ways it requires, there's like Mach 1 has their own technology or there's Unity programs or using game engines. And so most of the stuff that is out there is, you know, using game engine technologies or, you know, rolling your own or using something like Mach 1 approach. But it's not something that is consumer available at this point.

[00:35:55.799] East Forest: There's also not an off-the-shelf mixing platform right now for that. And I've talked to people who are developing that, some startups, but there isn't. So there's that practicality, like, well, how do you... It's not like it's mixing in 5.1, it's quite beyond that. Speaking of VR, that's the other thing. I'm quite curious about ways of using VR space to alter consciousness, sort of take the ceremony experience to VR. That's really interesting to me. And then the other thing is I'm interested in using essentially biofeedback type sensors, something quite clean where we could measure like heart rate or emotional response or things like that and aggregate that data. And it's affecting the music I'm playing live or the lights, but I think the music. So it's not just like what you think, but how you're actually your body's responding. And as a group, that might change things like the music itself and the tempo. I've played with stuff like that, but it's just been my biofeedback, whether it's my brainwaves, but I want to do it with the audience. And that's just sort of a, that tech exists. So that's just more of a monetary thing and getting someone to help me program that stuff up.

[00:37:00.764] Kent Bye: Great. And, uh, and finally, what do you think the ultimate potential of all these immersive technologies and psychedelics might be and what they might be able to enable?

[00:37:12.116] East Forest: I hope it leads us towards less of a sense of separateness and more of a sense of connection with others in the world. I mean, that's what we need and that's what everyone's sort of looking for. I mean, the only game in town is wanting to return to God, so to speak, however you view God. And that's the hunger we all have, whether it's through heroin or Monday Night Football or whatever it is, or conferences like this or taking psychedelics or whatever it is. All roads lead to Rome. I don't think there's any wrong path, but there are definitely paths with more suffering. And I just don't like to see people suffer, or myself or others. So hopefully it ends. We end suffering, Kent.

[00:37:50.601] Kent Bye: That's what we want. That's a noble goal, for sure. Is there anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say to the immersive consciousness hacking community?

[00:38:00.785] East Forest: Well, I love this whole, like you said, when I saw psychedelics, meditation and technology, and Mikey and I were talking, I was like, dude, that's, that is totally up my alley. So it's like, I think it would make I'd love to be there and just be part of this community. It's great to meet everybody who has been like, lots of old connections like yourself, and a lot of other people. And I think it's great. I definitely think we're on a wave here. And I'm really excited to see where it goes.

[00:38:29.870] Kent Bye: Awesome. Great. Well, thank you so much for joining me. So thank you. Thanks, buddy. So that was East Forest. He's a musician who just recently released a album called Music for Mushrooms, a soundtrack for The Psychedelic Practitioner, as well as a series of music featuring Ram Dass. So I have a number of different takeaways about this interview is that first of all, Well, it's striking to me that there is no existing ritualistic structure around the use of psilocybin and mushrooms. And like East Forest was saying, just two days before he released his album that he'd been working on for 10 years, Denver announces that they're decriminalizing psychedelics, specifically anything that grows out of the ground. specifically after talking to maps it sounds like the police are not going to be prosecuting people if They have these mushrooms and I think what that means is that there is just going to be a deep prioritization It's not like it's legal and it's creating access It's just decriminalized and I think actually Oakland within the last couple of weeks also announced that they have decriminalized ayahuasca and psilocybin and these different psychedelics and So there seems to be something that's shifting and East Forest has really been at the forefront of this psychedelic revolution that's been happening underground for the last decade or so. Giving these different concert series and really being this practitioner who is trying to cultivate this music experience that pairs well with psychedelic experiences. I highly recommend people checking out music for mushrooms, a soundtrack for the psychedelic practitioner. It's a five hour musical journey that gives you this sense of these different tracks that have this buildup and release and this layering of different nature sounds and a lot of live recording, and then looping that on top of each other. And he's really responding to the group energy. And so the music is coming out of this psilocybin psychedelic journey and experience that he's been crafting as a musical form for the last decade or so. And the fact that it got to the number one of the charts and the new age section of iTunes, I think is speaking a lot because you know, there's people that number one, don't buy a lot of music already, but number two, these tracks are like 30 to 40 minutes in a five hour album. So the fact that there was enough people that were listening to it, that it got up to number one, I think speaks to the larger zeitgeist that's happening right now, which. which I feel is a bit of this psychedelic revolution. Talking to Joshua Fields, he was talking about how Consciousness Hacking did this talk focusing on psychedelics, immersive technologies, and the future of meditation, and it sold out within a week for 600 people. East Forest was talking about at Esalen, there was a psychedelic integration that had over 1,000 people on a wait list. So I feel like people are hungry for more information and guidance to be able to understand more about psychedelics. And East Forest has also been seeing that there's people just really curious, especially with this Michael Pollan book, How to Change Your Mind, people are just really curious to try out. So there's this whole re-education campaign that's happening right now that's not just focusing on the negative aspects of psychedelics, but there's been a lot more positive press in terms of the therapeutic benefits of these psychedelic experiences. So just the other thing that was really interesting about what he was doing at the waking future summit is that going to the big open room, he'd be in the center of the room. So really breaking down that fourth wall and people are sitting in a circle around him. And so you have different orientation where people are going on their own inner journeys and you're able to be, I guess, immersed within the experience and a lot more. in a different way than if he was like on stage. I think it's kind of like this structure that makes it feel a little bit more of an indigenous circle. And I think it just opens up the crowd for new interactions in a new way. So I feel like that music in general is going to go in a bit of this turn, which is breaking down the fourth wall and the music being a catalyst for a deep inner contemplative experience. And so I think because of that, there is this blending of these different techniques, whether it's like pulling in sounds from nature or live looping, but there's a rough structure and a method that he's using, but there's a lot of this deep, deep listening. And in watching the Grateful Dead documentary, the musicians would talk about how they would go on these psychedelic trips and then they'd be listening to the audience and be responding to the audience. And I think anybody who does theater and is a musician, they know that there's a bit of like a group energy that happens from the collective and a bit of the performative process is to develop that intuition to be able to tune into that invisible energy and to be able to read it and be able to help modulate it and guide it in different ways. And that's what East Forest has been doing for the last decade. And, you know, this process that he did with Ram Dass is also interesting because he's taking these wisdom teachings and asking Ram Dass these very specific and pointed questions about the nature of the world today, and then taking those answers and then putting it within the deeper context of this poetic music that makes it much more impactful in terms of listening to the poetry of these insights. It's a beautiful piece, and it's interesting to see that is also a project that he's been working on as well. innovating and pioneering this blend of documentary wisdom traditions and kind of the fusion of all these different things coming together and in some ways creating this new culture around these different types of wisdom practices. So the final point here is just that East Forest is using all these different ways of building ebbs and flows, tension and release and the melodic structure. And that it's not just him banging on a gong for hours and hours, which you see in some sound healing context, but he doesn't like to call it sound healing. It's more of this ceremonial ritualistic music that is having enough of a familiarity for people, for them to be able to hold on and to understand. the constructs of these chord progressions and allow them to really just tune in and listen to this 90-minute concert series or within these different underground psychedelic rituals and ceremonies where it's a whole like five-hour experience where you're going through an entire journey. and that he's creating these architectures of these soundscapes. He talks about how each song is about 15 minutes and that's enough to kind of build up an entire sonic architecture that is another world that people are entering into. And that within the psychedelic journey, you are always going into these different shifts and nothing is static and you're kind of moving in from one phase to the next. And so within his journey, he's kind of having these pauses where he's just playing nature sounds and then going into the next whole sonic architecture that he's building up. But that, you know, the psilocybin doesn't necessarily have its own musical tradition and that he's really trying to create and cultivate an entire musical tradition that didn't exist before that is being built around these psychedelic experiences. And it sounds like he's been doing a lot of experiments with biometric feedback and starting to look at like, what's it mean to be able to actually get in some hard quantified information from people's biometric data and then start to play with that in a musical context and then aggregate and add that all together. And to see how the biometrics of the group would start to be able to be fed back into the collective. And so what was that mean to be able to have a level of group synchrony that you could then feed back into that audience? and that right now with the immersive technologies there isn't any commercial off-the-shelf way to be able to mix 360 degree experiences but i expect that that's going to be a big part of where this is all going just the way that he's in the center and there's a circle of people around him it'd be amazing to have a series of an array of ambisonic speakers to be able to give these whole spatialized experiences and i feel like this is just where things are going to be going in terms of like that's the next step once you start to get a full level of immersion then you're able to mix things in 3D space and give people a whole other realm of immersion and to really very specifically architect these sonic architectures of these soundscapes. So that's all that I have for today, and I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast. And if you enjoy the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a licensed supported podcast, and so I do rely upon your donations in order to continue to bring you this coverage. So you can become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash voices of VR. Thanks for listening.

More from this show