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Sound mind

Sound mind explores the use of music and psychedelic images as mood enhancers through interactive lying down concerts. 


These drugs have been used by human beings for millennia, and are currently taking centre stage in mental health discourses as pharmacological mechanisms for improving depressive symptoms, with clinical trials in the last decade showing promising therapeutic potential. However, these drugs are controversial and not without side effects, so what if the positive effects could be achieved without drugs, instead drawing on music, visuals and technology?

To test this, the project team brought together several elements in two concerts. The music programme featured American minimalist composer Terry Riley, amongst others. Riley is famed for his 1964 ‘In C’ composition, and was fascinated by psychedelic drugs and their power in combination with music. His music has been described as creating 'a portal to ecstatic states, arrived at by different paths'. The audience were asked to lie down, rather than be seated in the traditional way, drawing on the work of the New York hypnotic school of the 1960's, which moved away from Carnegie Hall style concerts into downtown lofts where music performances were relaxed gatherings of people sitting or lying on the floor for hours on end, free to come and go as they pleased. Images were projected that had been inspired by psychedelic literature and created by a visual artist onto large screens above the heads of the audience.Sound-Mind3Christina McMaster, courtesy of Carlos Lumiere

The Sound mind team’s lying down concert and visual experience allowed imaginations and creativity to run freely in a relaxed setting and also allowed for a deeply visceral experience, altering perception of time, our world, ourselves and others.

What the audience saw and heard was carefully curated, combining music by Terry Riley, Gyorgy Ligeti, Erik Satie, Galina Ustvolskaya, Wolfgang Rihm and others, performed by Christina McMaster; with visual projections created by King’s Artist Teresa Albor. The concerts took place at the Kings College Chapel, and at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience on the Denmark Hill Campus.

Beyond this event, the project team plan to create a full virtual reality experience and commission a specific piece of music. They will also explore the applications of the concept for treatment of depression, moving from testing in general population samples, to testing in clinical samples. Sound-Mind

Photo courtesy of Thea Marlow

Project events

Sound mind concert one at the SGDP Building, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience                                                                           

Sound mind concert two at the Chapel, Strand Campus                                  Invited audience members were presented with a programme of carefully selected works including Brahms, Rihm, Cage and Riley, performed by pianist and artistic lead Christina McMaster and friends.                                                   This was an arts and sciences research project and participants were asked to complete a series of brief questionnaires during and after the performance so that the project team could measure the effect of the event on the audiences' wellbeing. Participation in the research element of the event was compulsory and those not willing to take part were unable to attend.                                        

Project legacy film


Project team                                                      

Christina McMaster hailed as ‘One to watch’ by International piano Magazine, is a highly innovative pianist and curator with a continually growing reputation for bold and vivacious performances of uniquely crafted programmes. She was St John’s Smith Square Young artist in residence 2016-17 and recently appointed Associate of the Royal Academy of Music.                                                     Christina has performed extensively in major venues including at the Southbank Centre, Cheltenham Festival, Dartington International Summer School, a European tour with EUYO, Aldeburgh Festival, Symphony Space in New York along with broadcasts and live performances on BBC Radio 3 and Classic FM. She has won numerous prizes including the Jacob Barnes Award, The Royal Academy Christian Carpenter Prize, The CAVATINA Chamber music prize and audience prize in the Jacques Samuels Intercollegiate Competition.                   She has collaborated with a diverse mix of genres and arts, recently working with string players Kristine and Margarita Balanas, the Ligeti Quartet, cellist/singer Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Opera Director Daisy Evans. Christina is also a dedicated performer, commissioner and discoverer of new music, working with established composers including Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Tansy Davies and Stephen Montague as well as emerging composers – collaborating most recently with Freya Waley-Cohen and Ayanna Witter-Johnson. 

In 2015 she launched her debut album Pinks & Blues on her own label to a sell-out audience at St James’ Theatre, the album is a fusion of jazz and blues influenced classical and contemporary music. She has also recorded a collection of Satie inspired works by Richard Fowles to mark the eccentric composer's 150th anniversary.                                                                                           Christina teaches Post-Graduates at the Royal Academy of Music and curates for its annual Piano Festival. She is a passionate educator and has given masterclasses and lectures at Cambridge University, Denison University, Ohio and in February 2017 hosted a study day at St John’s Smith Square comprising talks, composition, song-writing and yoga with live music. She regularly gives workshops for young people including a recent piano trio workshop at St Johns Smith Square supported by the CAVATINA Chamber Music Trust.                       She attended the Purcell School, Trinity Laban where she studied with Douglas Finch and the Royal Academy of Music with Joanna MacGregor. She has a particular interest in French music of the 20th Century and regularly has sessions with Maestro Bernard Flavigny (pupil of Alfred Cortot and Walter Gieseking)  

Dr Sally Marlow is a Public Engagement Fellow based in the Department of Psychological Medicine, where she is responsible for initiating, developing and delivering media and public engagement initiatives, and artistic collaborations, to support the strategic direction of the Additions Department, and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience and King’s College London more widely. She is also a BBC Broadcaster, and has developed and presented several documentaries for BBC Radio 3, Radio 4 and the World Service, and has appeared as a commentator for numerous BBC television and radio programmes. She works as an advisor on several BBC documentary and drama shows, and is Associate Editor for Culture at The Psychologist. Sally has a research portfolio, and her interests include addiction and its links to mental health, particularly in women; mental health issues in children and adolescents; and how the arts can contribute to addiction and mental health in innovative ways.

Teresa Albor is an American artist and writer residing in the UK. Her work explores “big questions” through the use of multi-media including but not limited to performance, video, photography, interactive installations and community engagement. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, with recent projects including the performance Solidarity not charity; The things we leave behind, presented in Peckham, London in March 2017; a performative presentation at the Sacred Places Conference in Liverpool in April 2017; and in June 2017, NO MORE MISS AMERICA at the Golden Key, Prague, performed with the Rude and Unruly Women collective.

Sound mind: exploring the use of music and psychedelic images as mood enhancers is a collaboration between King’s College London’s Department of Psychological Medicine  and Christina McMaster, brokered and supported by the Cultural Institute at King’s.

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