“If you’ve been working on something for a few hours and you smoke a joint, it’s like hearing it again for the first time.”
-Lindsey Buckingham, Fleetwood Mac
The link between cannabis and creativity has always been a hot topic of speculation and (more recently) research. But what is it about putting on your favorite album or song as you light up that just feels so damn good? There’s nothing like the feeling of hearing a song again in a new way for the first time.
The Science Behind Cannabis & Its Link to Music
The prevailing theory for why this occurs, very briefly, is that when we process THC, our internal clocks speed up just a tiny bit. When this happens, the world around us feels (almost imperceptibly) to slow down as a result. As our reality “slows down,” we can better immerse ourselves in the finer details of the moment which might otherwise have passed us by. In other words, listening to music while high allows us to identify and appreciate a greater range of the rich auditory tapestry we hear when we listen to a song.
Where It All Started…Jazz & Improvisation
It helps to take a quick look at where the association between music and cannabis began in our modern times, beginning with Jazz music in the 1920s. Jazz was one of the first genres to become widely associated with cannabis consumption, not just among listeners but also with jazz musicians themselves.
At the time, jazz performance had begun to grow beyond the rigid limitations of traditional printed sheet music. The songs were rich, colorful, and at times unpredictable- often heavily improvised. Cannabis effectively served as a tool for these musicians to break outside of the confines of their own musical limitations and perception. As James Munch (the one-time “official expert” on cannabis for the United States government) once described it;
“Because the chief effect [of cannabis] as far as [jazz musicians] were concerned was that it lengthens the sense of time, and therefore they could get more grace beats into their music than they could if they simply followed the written copy… In other words, if you’re a musician, you’re going to play the thing the way it’s printed on a sheet. But if you’re using cannabis, you’re going to work in about twice as much music between the first note and the second note. That’s what made jazz musicians. The idea that they could jazz things up, liven them up, you see.”
While there is still a lot that needs to be studied and understood about how cannabis use affects our perception of music and creative pursuits, enough is known to acknowledge the link between the two. It almost serves as proof that many of the elements we experience in the world around us aren’t as finite and defined as they can seem at first.
More than anything, combining cannabis and music helps us remember that creativity is not a passive, observer activity. Rather, it is meant to be consumed, interpreted, and re-imagined infinitely.
TRY THIS AT HOME
MUSICIANS: If you want to experiment with expanding your musical perceptions, messing around with different tunings, time signatures, and modulations is a great place to start. Chances are, if you’ve never played around with these elements much, your muscle memory is pretty ingrained towards playing a specific way. Playing with these alternate tools in a way forces you to unlearn
MUSIC LOVERS: No explanation needed- light ‘er up and go to town.