Column: Science

by Jon Hopkins

Tickets To Turiya’s Sonic Shore
As far back as I can remember, my brain has had the ability to drift into a weird non-waking, non-sleeping state. My consciousness would float off and drift around aimlessly above me. It would often happen when at school, and would generally end with me coming round to see a teacher shouting my name directly into my face, having tried and failed to get my attention for the past few minutes. Through teenage years certain music started having the ability to send me into this zone. It would invariably be electronic music based around repetition, but repetition with very gradual changes. The first time I heard “Climatic Phase 3” by Seefeel, following a profound trip I had whilst listening to it, I had the realization that music could alter mind states, and in particular allow the listener to drift into this “fourth state” of consciousness—not awake, not sleep, not dreaming, but somewhere in between.

In my early twenties I found life as a struggling, near-bankrupt musician to be exhausting. I started looking for ways to help my mind and my body let go of the ridiculous amounts of tension I was holding, which were preventing me from sleeping and were starting to make me ill. I came across a relaxation technique known as Autogenic Training. I found that in a 15-minute session, by using a set of simple visualizations, I could completely switch off my mind and body and enter a meditative state. These visualizations were learnt by listening to recordings of the AT practitioner repeating simple phrases, which would travel very slowly from the left speaker to the right and back again, in a loop, getting quieter and quieter. I found my consciousness could latch onto this audio, and follow it as it moved and descended through the stereo field, and that focusing on this movement would stop all other thoughts from intruding. And once other thoughts had stopped, this “fourth state” could be achieved.

I have always incorporated things that affect me deeply in my life into my music—sometimes consciously, but often unconsciously. At the time of writing my third album Insides, I first noticed elements of these hypnotic techniques appearing in my music. Specifically on the track “Light Through The Veins,” which loops one simple, slow nine-note figure for nine minutes, whilst other elements gradually evolve from it, and form a structure in which it can exist. I found when listening back to the finished track that it could transport me, stop my thoughts, and send me to a state of near-euphoria. I was discovering that what music could do to my consciousness was similar to the self-hypnosis techniques I had learnt, but much deeper and more beautiful. It seemed logical therefore, when writing Immunity, to try and push this element further, even to make it the theme of the record. Each track therefore is a further exploration into hypnotic techniques and how they can be brought into musical structures. The title Immunity refers to the feeling music can give you, when you allow it to truly transport you, and when you allow yourself to float free of all other thoughts.