Musical Meaning with LSD

This month has been another great one for the psychedelic community; with a highlight being the release of two fascinating papers which take us a step closer to understanding exactly how LSD works in the brain.

I summarise these two articles in more depth here, but for now I wanted to focus on an overlooked part of one of the studies: and it’s to do with music.

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Most of us are aware that LSD is supposed to enhance your appreciation for music – it’s probably the main thing that attracted me to the substance, and I’m sure at least some people out there are the same. I wanted to be able to appreciate music in a new way, I wanted to experience my favourite sounds in new dimensions and with expanded sensations.

Although I would soon learn that there is a lot more to LSD than letting you see pretty patterns or hear new sounds, there was still a lot of truth in the saying that LSD changes the way you hear music. Songs I’d listened to hundreds of times before had a new depth, a new character… imagine all your favourite songs being re-invented, or refreshed back to their original, first-listen glory.

There have been a handful of studies before on psychedelics and music; most recently this one, which showed that LSD heightens people’s emotional response to music. And of course, we have the slightly less reputable studies from pretty much every band of the 60s and 70s.

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This most recent study looking at LSD and music tells us something interesting about the way psychedelics change our perception of the world. Participants were told to pick several pieces of music which they described as personally meaningful. They were then played pieces of music they had never heard before, some of which they described as feeling neutral about, and some they described as being personally meaningless. After being given a dose of LSD, the participants were played all the songs again, and told to rate the degree of personal meaning each song held now. The LSD totally changed the way people felt about the songs – the ‘neutral’ and ‘meaningless’ pieces of music they had been played were now rated as significantly more meaningful.

Sure, this is probably something most LSD users could have told you without needing a lab – but it’s important we understand psychedelics from a scientific point of view if the psychedelic community is going to maintain its traction.

The finding from this study shows that LSD is doing something dramatic to the way we attribute meaning to the world. LSD makes otherwise meaningless things becomes more significant and important.

This also supports previous findings that LSD makes us think more associatively – allowing us to make connections between things we usually wouldn’t (I’ve written about this before here).

We think findings like these will help to convince psychiatrists and therapists of the value of psychedelics as a therapeutic tool, and help reduce the stigma of psychedelic use.

Note: if you want to take LSD as an experiment in musical perception, be aware that it is a powerful psychedelic that can cause traumatic experiences when used irresponsibly. Here is a guide on the safest way to prepare for an LSD trip.

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4 thoughts on “Musical Meaning with LSD

  1. I think I’ve told you before but I love your blog thank you for having it.

    In this post is pretty cool.

    Just a comment on the last bit: for me the whole point of psychedelics was mystery. I mean yes, there’s all the stuff about places and spaces in attitude and all this stuff about going into helping one to make sure they have a good trip; I had one friend Goodfriend in particular who actually did lose his mind on a bad trip. And I’ve had a friend acquaintance who back in 1966 was given a glass of LSD to take and when I met him in 1996 here only been living on his own for just a few years; from 1965 or 66 until about 1985 or 86 he was completely nonfunctional, had to have a full-time aid, could not wipe his own butt nor do anything on his own. He told me that in 1985 or something around then that he said something to his aid and the aid responded in a manner that made him realize that he had said something coherent.

    So I fully understand the “safe” aspect of wanting to take LSD.

    But yet somehow I was always pushing the envelope. I wanted to find the ends of the trip through the radical opening that LSD grants.

    I fear that if we nail down the trip a valid Stevie to too many safe protocols that we were completely missed a significant aspect of being human.

    But of course that being said your effort of my effort are almost the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. … and then on a slightly philosophical note: the setting down of guidelines in order to have some sort of good psychedelic experience is really similar and probably nothing less then any other sort of cultural mythological guidelines that we typically call religious or spiritual concerning the eating of hallucinogenic substances. For example the peyote. Or mushrooms.

    I think it important to understand that we are not finding out something new or E sensual or actual about psychedelics and their effects on human beings. We are finding out our cultural appropriation’s of psychedelics so far as the lead themselves into an institutional structure of reality. This “science” of psychedelics is not something more than say what the American Indians new or the Hindus knew or any other culture that used intoxicating substances knew. We are finding out exactly are mythological meaning of psychedelics and intoxicants.

    The significance of this is that it functions within our mythology as if we are finding out something essential to hallucinogenic’s and humanity or the universe. Indeed; those that would see that we’re finding out something “more” of or to psychedelics as a substance and the psychedelic experience as some sort of human experience that is significant, are indeed the clerics of real religion. But it is indeed the psychedelic experience that will show us that these essential substrates are merely meaningful coincidences of real object meaning, and not some sort of path that leads back into a true history of the evolution of man and plants on this planet.

    We are speaking of large swaths of time, what we could call deep time as opposed to historical traditional time. Insomuch as we might come upon some sort of progress of knowledge for our universe in humanity, there by do we have and they are in do we have a functioning mythology, and within this mythology so far as we investigate the terms that seem to equate to objects truths, we develop religious institutional postures.

    For sure; in another thousand or 2000 years there will be another organization of terms that sees our understanding our science our belief in the effect of psychedelics so far as we are investigating these are facts, as on one hand nearly one stage in the Progressive understanding of human beings in the universe, and to merely a repetition of cultural mythological primacy.

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  3. sorry your post here inspired me so I’m leaving these lengthy comments. I hope that’s OK. Lol.

    …for what are we saying really when we find drugs of sorts and then we start to see their benefit as well as their hazardsand then begin to prescribe Ways to use these substances without risk?

    I’d say we are exactly making a convention out of them, institutionalizing substances, domesticating objects.

    But what we find then also in this natural kind of safeguarding for people we care about, which in this case may be the general brotherhood and sisterhood and of humanity, we are really creating limitations, defining the limits of what is “good”. But in fact we find not only in these intoxicants but in spiritual practice in general that risk is what allows for the greater understanding of good.

    We find in many religious spiritual cultural traditions that this reality is but a phase, that life itself in living is only good within a certain confine.

    We find that my life in itself has no value beyond what I might do for others, and where I risk beyond the limitations established for what is good, we might see that I achieve the greater good.

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