why marijuana makes music sound so much better

December 24, 2016 11:00 AM
Look no further, bro. Light up a spliff and dive into the chill tunes, but concentrate for a few more sentences.

Look no further, bro. Light up a spliff and dive into the chill tunes, but concentrate for a few more sentences. This question can be tackled scientifically and its premise can be explained phenomenologically. 

First, the science. The corpus callosum connects the two hemispheres of the brain.  THC, the active ingredient in marijuana credited with the “high” sensation, attaches to cannabinoid receptors, located throughout the brain. Some of these receptors break down the division between the spheres of your brain, allowing music to be “connected” across the hemispheres. This accounts for anecdotal accounts of synesthesia, the experience of seeing music as colors or visual patterns, rather than a mere, and more common, auditory experience. Second, like other drugs, marijuana rewards users with a flood of dopamine, enhancing pleasure, and affects the ventral striatum, an area in the brain involved in the prediction and feeling of reward – so everything should be better, not just music. Third, cannabis works on the neocortex and basil ganglia, responsible for higher cognitive functions and planning, respectively. 

Phenomenologically when executive functions are down regulated, listeners can turn off analytical musings, stop planning for what comes next, and allow pleasure receptors to dominate the experience. Listeners are completely “in the moment,” hearing the music note to note with fewer expectations and little short-term memory of what just preceded it.

And what makes a song a good song to listen to when stoned? In researching this, my overarching idea on what makes a good song even better after the effects of cannabis is that the song feels alive.  Reggae, metal, indie, dub, rap, electronic, genre matters little; everyone has their own tastes. The key, I think, is that there is sufficient sound to flood the senses and that the song feels “alive,” that it is recorded in a way as to allow the listener to feel like they could close their eyes and be in the room with the artist creating it.

In the table below, and expanded on my Spotify playlist, called Sonic Ablutions (search for jbvannatta, then find the playlist), I have identified some songs for your aural pleasure, trying to avoid some of the more cliché ‘stoner’ artists like The Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd and Bob Marley. As a control group, I have listed songs that I think sound good while drinking whiskey with ample input from a couple of master distillers. Get altered and get out the headphones.

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