Psychedelic guides have traditionally discouraged the use of songs with lyrics in favor of instrumental music. To quote an article by Ilsa Jerome on the MAPs website:
Most of the music used in psychedelic-assisted sessions is instrumental, and when there are vocals present, they are in an unfamiliar language. This is to make sure that the music is not conveying a specific meaning or telling a specific story. The music should also be culturally appropriate, making it easier to follow and convey emotion rather than drawing attention to itself by use of too 'strange' or jarring melodies or tones.
My approach flies in the face of this. In phonomancy, conveying a specific meaning--or put another way, a specific emotional state--is exactly what the programmed music is supposed to do. Why? Because a phonomantic rite is not a free-flowing experience. It's a narrative experience.
A narrative experience is a sequence of specific emotional states. In a phonomantic rite we intentionally enter those states because we want to a) increase our capacity to feel them, b) explore their aesthetic potentialities, and c) witness the visionary effects the emotion causes.
This seems so opposite of the standard therapeutic model that it's either utterly wrongheaded, or complete genius. At this point, honestly, it's hard to tell. I know it's working for me, and I think can justify it with a well worked-out theory. At this point what I really need is the opportunity to present these concepts to professional psychedelic therapists working in the field, to see if they're really so alien to work that's been done, and to debate if people reject it. The best way to sharpen one's thoughts is on the strop of other people's skepticism.
With all that said, yesterday I came up with an analogy that illustrates why I think songs with lyrics are able to more clearly communicate more focused emotions than instrumental music.
It's not that it's better than instrumental music. It's that it makes the emotion more accessible to more people, and for people to connect over shared feelings. I guess theoretically a classical music aficionado could find more solace in Mozart's Requiem than "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart," but if his two buddies also got dumped, and they wanted to put on a record to enjoy their misery together, unless they are all classic music nerds, odds are the Rev. Al Green will be the better choice.
I want to add one more thing, on a related note: lyrics in songs can be repurposed. That is to say, when you sing a song in an altered state of consciousness, it effectively becomes a magic spell. In the Tool song "46 & 2," the climatic C section goes,
See my Shadow changing
Stretching up and over me
Soften this old armor
Hoping I can clear a way by
Step into the Shadow
And coming out the other side
Step into the Shadow
46 & 2 are just ahead of me
You can just mindlessly sing along, or you can sing the words as a statement of intent, a proclamation you are making. If you experience them that way, you are, in that moment, a sorcerer working magic. Magic in the sense of an alteration of reality in according to one's will, and reality in this case being your own consciousness.
This is simply not available with instrumental music.