Music, Decadence, and Altered States of Mind: Drinking in the Drawing Room
In this Olio, we will take a look at music that was composed in an altered state of mind. We’ll also explore the altered state of consciousness that develops when music is combined with certain substances. The trend of accessing an altered state to aid in creation is not a new one: Hector Berlioz’s historic program symphony of the Romantic era for orchestra (“Symphonie Fantastique”) was modeled after the composer’s own experience with opium, and his contemporary Lyapunov, wrote the work ”Hashish: An Oriental Symphonic Poem” about marijuana.
Composers in the 1960’s minimalist movement, highly influenced by the presence of psychedelics and the trance-like and circular rhythms of gamelan music, paid homage to the drug-induced state in works like Terry Reiley’s ”Mescalin Mix” and kaleidoscopic and colorful works of Philip Glass and Steve Reich. Other contemporary voices in the modern music scene sought to recreate their fragmented experiences and warped narratives in works in John Cage’s Fontana Mix. Cage’s affinity for mushrooms and organically achieved altered states were of great interest to him as an artist, which he delves into in both the written word and composition.
Teacher: Whitney George
George holds an undergraduate degree from the California Institute of the Arts, a masters degree from Brooklyn College Conservatory, and is currently continuing her studies as a PhD candidate at the CUNY Grad Center. In addition to her composing and conducting, George teaches at Brooklyn College, works at the Hitchcock Institute of American Studies and is the Managing Director for New York’s AME.
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