Deconstructing "IMAGO: a bilateral journey of transformation", Part 3
Updated: Jan 13
(Topics in This Section Include "Cross Panning", "Strength Pacing" and Final Thoughts)
This is the final segment of an in-depth discussion between the composer and co-producer of "IMAGO: a bilateral journey of transformation". Topics in this section include the relative merits of various panning rates, ideal bilateral strength levels, "zerostarting", cross-panning, further focus on IMAGO's "ascent motif", and some final reflections.
(Again, the font for George is yellow and for Sam is white.)
OK, let's go just a little more into the bilateral characteristics of IMAGO. What are the cpm parameters? It sounds like several rates occur through the composition.
Yes, there are a number of different rates throughout IMAGO. The slowest cycling frequency is 5.8 cpm, which means that the music travels from right to left and back about 5.8 times per minute. This panning rate corresponds to 16 beats (4 measures) of music at 93bpm. The fastest rate is 2 beats (1/2 measure) or 46.5 cpm. This fast rate is only approached gradually, appearing towards the end of the 2nd movement and in select passages in the 3rd movement.
The conventional wisdom is that a slow bilateral rate is best suited for periods of slow and stable processing and integration while faster bilateral rates “raise the heat and stir the pot”, so to speak.
The conventional wisdom is that a slow bilateral rate is best suited for periods of slow and stable processing and integration while faster bilateral rates “raise the heat and stir the pot”, so to speak. The album “From Old Illusions to New Conclusions”, which is specifically designed to be used by EMDR and Brainspotting therapists, never exceeds 12 cycles per minute. I was impressed with how you reached 46 cpm in a way that seemed almost unnoticeable. It’s another example of the benefit that comes from starting slowly before building up bilateral momentum.
I always made sure to time the cpm to the tempo of the music so that it could seem more integrated, more “part of the story”. Throughout IMAGO the cpm tends to shift faster when the music is more familiar and dramatic. For example, when the arpeggiated lines in the 3rd movement are first introduced the cpm is around 15.5. About a quarter of the way though this movement the cpm increases all the way to 46.5. In this way some movements are much more intense in terms of bilateral speed. I also made sure to follow your suggestion to reduce bilateral strength whenever the cycling rate increases.
You’re correct that I feel strongly that forcing a brain to travel “too far too fast” is tiring and ineffective. Traveling short distances fast or longer distances slowly is the ticket to success. IMAGO gets it just right.
Before we wrap up this discussion let’s be sure to talk about one of my favorite bilateral innovations in IMAGO. I’m taking about how the panning strength is zero at the beginning of specific phrases, instrumentation and tonalities and then gradually increases as either these phrases are repeated or the musical dynamic intensifies. There's some pretty intricate stuff going on here!
As the sound becomes more familiar it seems more capable of tolerating and even benefitting from increased bilateral intensity.
I was glad I was able to help push the envelope here by programming this effect. I always enjoyed the opportunity to implement a technique that had never been done before. When I’m listening to the bilateral music, I get particularly immersed when the music is familiar. The first time a phrase comes around it’s new, like a first impression, and the listener's attention shifts towards that, which is why the bilateral strength was often reduced at the outset of phrases or when new material was introduced. As the sound becomes more familiar it seems more capable of tolerating and even benefitting from increased bilateral intensity.
Let’s finish the discussion we started earlier about the use of multiple simultaneous levels of bilateral stimulation. I’d like you to say a little more about how the bilateral strengths of the high, middle and low frequencies relate to each other.
In order to carefully modulate the bilateral strength throughout IMAGO I set up a system that allowed me to control three separate strengths using one master bilateral panning strength knob. I programmed it so that the low frequencies (below 166.7Hz here) were scaled at 20% strength, the mid frequencies (between 166.7 and 1015.9Hz) were scaled to 33% strength and the high frequencies (everything about 1015.9Hz) were scaled to 80%.
Any reason you maxed the bilateral strength at 80%?
I was simply following your list of best practices by making sure the bilateral strength is never overwhelming. You told me that a bls above 80% usually needs some serious justification.
The bilateral panning strength in IMAGO is almost always changing, including when it returns to zero for the introduction of new material and then slowly ramps back up to its more intense values.
The strength knob I described above never hits 100%, although it does get close occasionally for just a moment, so at no point does the bilateral strength level actually reach 80%. I haven’t done the hard math, but perhaps 50-60% is the average. The bilateral panning strength in IMAGO is almost always changing, including when it returns to zero for the introduction of new material and then slowly ramps back up to its more intense values.
The bilateral cross-panning in the 4th movement is really the only truly successful example of that technique I have ever heard. How did it come about?
The butterfly itself is such a light, airy creature, with such a nice symmetry. Again, the bilateral panning is very visual for me. At the risk of describing it too much, I could “see” how the bi-directionality, where the panning positions “cross in the middle”, would provide a kind of left-right symmetry that mirrors the body of the butterfly itself.
The kind of insanely fast gentle guitar notes seemed to suit bilateral cross-panning perfectly as they contain a lot of mid-high frequency information. I played these parts with a lot of palm muting and “pick sound” so that it’s almost percussive in nature. These little details gave the butterfly part the texture I wanted and I think helps with “locating” these sounds in the panning field. Having 2 guitar parts for this movement also gave me just the right kind of texture for the cross-panning.
I felt that the listener was by this point amply primed to some new bilateral dynamics here, and the cross panning seemed to push the listening experience to a whole new level.
Finally, I felt that the listener was by this point amply primed to some new bilateral dynamics here, and the cross panning seemed to push the listening experience to a whole new level. As I mentioned before, the 4th movement is somewhat irregular in the minute details of its form, but it’s actually a very simple ABA structure. This, in a way, also has a left-right symmetry.
I promise this is my last reference to the "ascent motif" to wrap up my theory that it planted 9 to 12 precisely located “sound spots” that the hundreds of individual notes swarming the fourth movement are building upon to diversify potential neural pathway development.
Sounds good to me!
OK, one last question: did you have any idea at the outset of this project how successful it was going to turn out as a musical vehicle destined to promote personal transformation?
I honestly had (and perhaps still have) no idea! I’m looking forward to getting feedback on this topic, and to understand new or improved ways to make this kind of music even more effective in the future. I’ve spent a lot of time listening to music while praying, meditating, studying, or working, so I did get the sense that this would be very effective music for purposes I can’t even fully imagine yet.
The most challenging aspect of this project, beyond the technical considerations, was just working on this project while trying to keep myself and my family sane during the onset of the pandemic. I started working on this just before the Covid-19 pandemic upset the apple cart of everyone’s routine, mine included. I have 3 young children who were all sent home for digital learning, and it was just a very disruptive, challenging time for everyone. So IMAGO took about 29 months to complete from start to finish.
Perhaps that lengthy period of time helped provide the space for IMAGO to fully develop into the wholly realized creation the world is now able to experience.
Now that it’s been released I hope that IMAGO can be used to improve the emotional health and well-being of people who hear it.
I think you’re right. Now that it’s been released I hope that IMAGO can be used to improve the emotional health and well-being of people who hear it. It certainly gave me something to hope for, something to escape within during that difficult time, and now that it’s completed I am so proud.
End of transcript.