Very Powerful Session

Note: Since first posting this a reader has done a very detailed analysis of the output from BrainForm and it would appear that it isn’t doing precisely what I have described it as doing. In question is the actual distribution of frequency triplets. At this point we’re not questioning the effectiveness of BrainForm, only the means by which it achieves it. I’m looking back at the Visual Basic code to see if I can clarify the logic, and my reader is exploring new hows and whyfores. I really appreciate this kind of interaction!!!

I love discussions about how powerful a session or technique is. The great joy in discussing such things as this lies in the absence of any objective criteria. Everybody’s right, as there’s no definition of wrong.

There’s a few well established principles for session design. With nothing more than a gist of what behaviours are associated with each of the five broad bands of brainwave activity, sessions with a high probability of eliciting the desired effects can be created. There are no secrets required to write an alpha, theta or delta session that has every bit as much likelihood of ‘working’ as the most expensive downloads. Then, of course, there’s the realms of ‘psychoactive music’ – where the only rule that applies is that it must facilitate unusual perceptions.

A while ago I wrote a little program called ‘BrainForm’ that I posted on the Transparent user forum. If ability to twist the mind is taken as the highest priority, then BrainForm is capable of generating Very Powerful Sessions.

If you want to try a Very Very Powerful Session, find your old copy of BrainForm and set it up as shown. If you’re downloading BrainForm for the first time, make sure you read all the posts in the thread over there – BF is a bit fussy about installation and some of the other Transparent forum users were very, very helpful in ironing out bugs and finding workarounds.

When you’re all set up, hit ‘Generate’ and save the file somewhere you can find it. Once generated, find your file and play it in MediaPlayer or whatever.


Yup, that’s a 30 minute session. The general consensus regarding BrainForm sessions is that they aren’t pretty to listen to. Well, I challenge you to lay back with your AudioStrobe glasses on and the volume high (not silly high), and tough out the whole thirty minutes of the session generated with the settings above.

Used in this way, BrainForm is a very simple random music synthesizer. What I have found particularly engaging about these sessions is that my mind starts finding patterns in longer and longer segments of the sound, even though no such patterns are likely to be there. It’s quite hypnotic, much like looking for patterns in clouds. Another quirk is that sessions generated with the same settings differ only in random distribution, yet they can have quite different perceived rhythms.

The session is intense, insistent. Being both beta-based and demanding, it it the kind of session that could easily induce panic or anxiety in one prone to such things. Even with nothing particularly going on I find my stomach muscles tighten at times during these sessions. I believe its a very good session for thinking outside the square.

A BrainForm session is based on a stimulus pattern that I dreamed up while I was trying to imagine what I would really like to see and hear, what I thought I would find most stimulating. What I came up with was randomly generated pulse triplets. The three pulses within the triplet are spaced at the ‘target frequency’ – in this case between 12 and 20Hz. The pitch and amplitude of the pulses is proportional to the setting of the BF slider for that frequency. After a delay proportional to the last rate, another triplet is formed, at a frequency determined statistically from the spread of the BF sliders.

Sessions formed with BrainForm can be referred to as frequency independent sessions. There is no intention of entraining the brain to any particular frequency. What will happen is that a complex sequence of evoked potentials in the sensory regions will give all parts of the brain something to think about. By way of pure conjecture, I would venture that a whole brain highly active with asynchronous activity is probably more useful than one with isolated regions of synchronous activity. I often wonder what consideration is given to absolute potentials in EEG measurement – large volumes of asynchronous activity would not be seen as ripples in the EEG, but as an increased offset.

I hope you’ve now tried BrainForm and hated it. I get a real kick out of it, and an unanticipated side-effect of listening to these fast rise-time clicks is that my long standing tinnitus has diminished to barely a hiss.

In discussion of powerful sessions, we need to consider what we’re really saying. Methinks mostly what we mean is that there was something about a particular session that made it sufficiently engaging to make us stick with it for long enough to notice effects. It might be that the marketing carried significant weight for you. It might have been recommended by someone you trust. It might have a message that speaks to you. It might have the right aesthetics to appeal to you.

An observation I have made is that most people don’t like entrainment tracks to sound like entrainment tracks. The more skilfully a session designer can obscure the psychoactive elements without diminishing their effects too severely, the more popular the session is likely to be.

A common forum question is, ‘How quiet can I have the beats before they don’t work?” I ask the reciprocal question, “How loud can you have them before they become hopelessly annoying to you?” The evoked response to a stimulus is substantially proportional to the magnitude of the stimulus. Louder and sharper works better. But having you on a razor’s edge, teeth gritted, is going to work counter to anything but the most agressive pump-it-up session, so we do what we have to do. We trade raw power for palatability. We do that quite a lot in life – isn’t there something about “a softer easier way”?

During a session, keep in mind that there’s two quite distinct things going on. There’s the direct physiological effect of pulse stimulus to the visual and/or auditory centres. Then there’s your opinion, your judgement, your critique, your acceptance, your enjoyment, your intellectualisation of the sound and light experience. In between these poles is a whole gamut of perception to which we don’t usually pay attention.

It’s no secret that during my magickal days I made considerable use of entheogens to access unusual perceptions. Even now I make occasional use of the several very adequate herbals legally available in this country. The arrangement I have with these teacher plants is that whatever they show me, I try to find again without their help. Over the years I tried a lot of things, but the abyss between ordinary consciousness and that opened up by psychedelics has been too much for me to traverse bare-brained. AVS has provided the bridge, and with its help I can do most of the things that were previously only possible with spirit aid. Since using AVS many of the perspectives have become accessible to me in daily life.

I included the last paragraph for anyone who’s just come along to this blog, and hasn’t been reading my posts over on the Transparent or Mind Place forums for the last year or so. I’ve drawn my inspiration from many sources, and many of the more peculiar sessions that I have shared have come into existence through my efforts to emulate experiences I’ve had through shamanic or ritual techniques, with or without entheogens. One of my ambitions is to make these experiences accessible to others without the necessity for potentially hazardous, often illegal, substances and without resort to arcane and long-winded rituals. The universe perceived by a shaman is one stripped of both illusion and delusion. It is much easier to be accepting of what is when truly honest about oneself. Many of the sessions I write are intended to accompany introspection. Most ritual is little more than a symbolic representation of the self in macrocosm and microcosm, laid out in relation to the perceived universe, for inspection and reorganization. The most valuable function of ‘teacher plants’ is to nudge ego far enough into the background to allow a few self-truths to emerge.

AVS sessions can facilitate the deepest self-explorations. For myself, the most intense experiences arise when I’m deeply immersed in the unfamiliar. Any session that contains conventional musical elements contains objects of familiarity and interesting structures that my mind can attach to. Random sessions provide no such haven and the mind has no choice but to find it’s own way.

I hope these comments open the way for others to start experimenting with sessions that have little or no theoretical foundation other than a vague idea, such as, “I want to contemplate past influences, so I’ll target the theta range”. Forget about what anyone else might think, and write the session that speaks to you.

Have fun!!!


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  • Willi  On August 26, 2009 at 2:12 am

    is there an alternate location where BrainForm can be found other than the Transparent Forum?


  • craigtavs  On August 26, 2009 at 7:16 am

    Hi Willi,

    If you care to email me, I can reply with a copy.


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