The role of psychoactive drugs in the conception, performance, and appreciation of sixties psychedelic music in California and the Southwest
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This dissertation examines the various ways in which the experience of psychoactive drugs such as marijuana, LSD, and other substances influenced the development of psychedelic music on the West Coast during the Sixties. The first chapter of this work chronicles the evolution of mainstream America's understanding of psychoactive drugs. It focuses, in particular, on the role of mid-century figures such as Aldous Huxley, Ken Kesey, and Timothy Leary in disseminating the psychedelic paradigm, which held that certain psychoactive substances were capable of helping individuals gain a greater understanding of themselves, others, and the nature of existence. The second chapter of this work explores how the term "psychedelic," and the experiences the term espouses, came to be used as musical descriptors. It specifically details the various ways that amateur participation, musical eclecticism, and technological advances resulted in highly innovative works that provided surreal experiences similar to the drugs that shared their name. Chapter three explores self-report and laboratory research concerning the subjective effects of marijuana and LSD on the experience of sound, music, and creativity. It also presents new findings from a self-report study of 181 participants, which examined the various ways that marijuana affects the appreciation of specific musical sounds. The fourth and final chapter performs a psycho-aesthetic analysis of three examples of psychedelic music using the findings discussed in chapter three and theories from the field of music cognition. It posits various ways in which a direct relationship can be appreciated between the subjective effects of certain psychedelic substances and the experience of psychedelic music. In some instances, it asserts that psychedelic music can be understood to be emulating the effects of substances through its incorporation of sounds and musical structures that are emblematic of the specific effects of these drugs. In others, it suggests that these drugs enhance the experience of psychedelic music by playing upon the altered sensibilities of listeners who were experiencing its sounds under their effects.