AudioStrobe CDs

I made a mistake earlier today. I told a couple of people I’d be reviewing my favourite AudioStrobe CDs. I listened to them both again this evening and I don’t want to review them. Instead I’m going to talk about what I think AudioStrobe CDs are.

I have the full set of AS CDs that have been sold by MindPlace for some time. I think it’s a pretty representative sample of the genre, and the creators include some quite venerable names from the industry.

Most of them I don’t particularly like. They were an interesting ride, but not necessarily one I’d want to take again soon. There’s a few I quite enjoy, or that have something especially interesting about them. And there’s two that I listen to when I feel like immersing myself in sound and light for the sheer pleasure of doing so.

The problem I’m having with the idea of a “review” is that I can’t think of anything objective to distinguish the ones I like from the ones I don’t. All use varying blends of electronica, synthesized natural instruments, nature sounds, percussion (often ethnic) and ooh-aah or mantra type vocals. This genre doesn’t require conformity to any rules of composition (don’t get me wrong – I’m no musician, but I know when someone is just making sounds).

What makes such music of dubious merit not only forgiveable, but entirely acceptable, is that in conjunction with the lights, it is psychoactive. I need to come at this from several angles.

First, while some of these CDs do include entrainment (a couple focus on it), most have no target frequency and do not use sustained beats. I have done quite a bit of experimentation with random and frequency independent AVS sessions. The legendary pRoshi uses non-repetitive photic stimulus. It’s an area that needs a lot more attention – I’ve had some of my most pleasing experiences with random stimulus. Loosely structured music with the photic stimulation arranged aesthetically as opposed to by formula serves much the same purpose, giving the brain a general purpose workout.

Then there’s the fact that one individual who is obviously like-minded insofar as s/he is also into exploring their mind, has spent an amount of time putting together an audiovisual expression of what does it for them. I’m not sure to what extent we’re being invited to be critical of the craftsmanship – the artist is working with the most personal of media, direct manipulation of the senses. I may not “like” the material in any conventional sense, but it is almost certainly something I have never seen or heard before.

Finally, the closed eye visuals that occur during an AS session are not wholly produced by the light. The sound and light interacts in the brain, the sounds influencing the structure and movement of the patterns. (Check this out – set up a constant quick flash, say 18Hz, with NP2/MWS/mind machine and while you’re viewing, get someone to clap their hands nearby – you’ll see the lights flicker.) Once you let go of “looking with the eyes”, recognising that the outermost place that any of the imagery can possibly exist is the retina, there is a degree of synaesthesia, seeing sound and hearing light that is very easy to overlook. Our conscious mind is a tenacious and nosy participant when it comes to experiences. It is doing everything it can to dismantle and analyse what you’re seeing and hearing, but that’s silly, this is mind candy, let it go.

My favourites are Dreams in the Minds Eye (Dr Jeffrey Thompson) and Tibetan Highlands(Richard Karma Moffett). The artists make sounds that please me. I will confess to having bit of a thing about Tibet – monks chanting does it for me every time. Dreams features the type of sounds that I try to make when I’m playing with the synthesizer. There’s some wonderful hypnotic repetitive stretches – I love it when an interesting phrase is gently repeated so many times that the whole phrase becomes a beat.

I don’t think any of the CDs I have would stand up to serious musical critique, but it has to be remembered that this is a very small market. Those of us who lie around with flashing glasses on are a minority. Also keep in mind that many of us have the tools to create such material, but we don’t. We do, however frequent user forums bemoaning the lack of AudioStrobe titles. Well, the new AudioStrobe.com shop has all the latest titles, and it looks as though they’re working to grow the market. Hopefully we’ll see a lot more creative individuals take the gamble and share their conception of a great mental voyage.

The only meaningful criteria I can apply to an AudioStrobe title is whether or not it’s psychoactive, and whether it’s sufficiently listenable to listen to. All of the CDs I have meet these criteria and I have no doubt that others will find their favourites in the ones that I find not so much.

Cheers,
Craig

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Comments

  • WillieG  On August 22, 2009 at 12:55 am

    Craig,

    I’m new to the whole AVS thing, but interested in creating AS files. I heard some AS samples from different sources and some include masked tones (Binaural, Isochronic, etc). Others are pure musical in nature. Im more interested in the latter. How do they accomplish entrainment with pure music. I know it’s possible and music, but its very rhythmic nature is, entrancing. But I’m interested in the technical aspect of it. How can you create an entraining effect with music alone. Can you recommend any reading/sites that talk about this?
    Thanks.

  • craigtavs  On August 22, 2009 at 8:25 am

    Hi Willie,

    I’m not a musician, but I love dabbling with keyboards. There’s any number of strategies for creating psychoactive music. Any of the entrainment types, binaural, monaural, isochronic, can be replicated by pretty much any synthesiser. There’s discussion of such things on quite a few electronic music forums (none I could suggest, I’ve just stumbled on posts during searches). Another way to go is to create appropriate background tracks and then add entrainment effects in Neuroprogrammer or Mind Workstation. MWS is an absolute powerhouse for adding psychoactive effects and reduces the necesssity to understand the audio-engineering side of forming beats. They also provide a convenient way of creating the AS track, although AS can be controlled in a variety of ways (there’s bits bout this scattered through a few posts).

    There’s heaps of free music software to download, and just playing around with it gives an idea of what can be done. See my post “Making Sound”.

    Another thing to consider is that photic stimulation is usually sufficient, so any compatible music can be used for the audio side of a session. Half the Laxman sessions use music without beats of any sort, leaving the lights to do the brainwave part – very effective, and great for those who find beats intrusive.

    Apart from the few areas where I’ve needed to go deeper, when I beg, borrow or buy specialised books, I find all I need to know by reading websites, lots of websites. Everything anyone could ever want to know is out there – the trick is to gradually learn enough to know what information is good and what’s B.S. Mostly I find introductory or popular learning books use far too many words to say far too little – web info is usually quicker to the point and it’s easy to shuffle between material too advanced and not quite advanced enough, so that I can make sure I’ve really understood. Search engines are my friend.

    I’m with you on your other comment too – it really is my greatest pleasure turning “unknown” into “known”, even when I know that my “knowing” is still incomplete.

    Cheers,
    Craig

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