Why Music Sounds Good When You’re High

Why Music Sounds Good When You’re High

Music and Cannabis: Why Music Sounds Good When You're High

Cannabis enhances most things. It makes food taste incredible, fitness more enjoyable, and sleep more rejuvenating – but can cannabis make music sound better? 

Cannabis and music have clear cultural ties, and many artists have credited weed as the source of their musical prowess. From timeless hits like “Got to Get You Into My Life” by The Beatles to “Kaya” by Bob Marley, it’s evident that some of the most prolific creatives have used the plant to enhance their sonic talents. 

Like most aspects of cannabis, the plant’s connection to music is rich, complex, and multifaceted. So along with its cultural impact, let’s get into the science behind one of the world’s greatest pairings. 

Nature’s Duet

The love affair between musicians and cannabis traces back to the early 20th century. Jazz stars of the 20s would light up reefer and tea – slang for cannabis, since the drug was vilified and on the cusp of criminalization – singing tributes to the substance. Many of this era’s greatest, such as Louis Armstrong, praised the plant for boosting creativity, calming nerves, and making the hardships he faced as a black man more tolerable. 

Though its origins stem from jazz and reggae, odes to cannabis can be heard in country, rock n roll, indie, and hip-hop music. In today’s culture, artists like Snoop Dogg and Rihanna have infamously touted their love for cannabis – with some musicians even coming out with their own cannabis lines. 

Anecdotally, it’s evident that cannabis and music share a deep relationship – but what’s happening inside our minds that not only helps us create music but makes it sound better? 

Your Brain on Music (And Cannabis) 

Cannabis is an “entheogen,” which roughly translates to “generating the God within.” In looser terms, marijuana has the unique ability to bring us closer to the divine and find a deeper appreciation for all. On a molecular level, the compounds in cannabis are shown to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression. By relieving these everyday tensions, a weight is lifted off our shoulders, and we’re able to create and appreciate more naturally. In short, one of the reasons music becomes more enjoyable when you’re high is simply because you feel better. 

At the same time, THC alters our perception of time. If you’re a smoker, you likely already know, it feels as if time slows down. When researching this phenomenon, one study found that, “stoned subjects failed to reproduce a correct metric counting of time intervals and tended to expand the estimated units.” On average, stoned subjects expanded a 15-second time interval to 16.7 seconds, with some expanding to 19 seconds. The sober subjects, on the other hand, correctly counted time. 

These qualities combined, being a mood-enhancer and distorting time, make cannabis a perfect remedy that enables us to truly live in the moment. In terms of music, which relies on time for rhythm, its impact is great. When time feels as if it slows down, the space between the notes feels longer, allowing us to connect with the music and zero in on each note. In a 1970s interview, one physician remarked, “If you’re using marijuana, you’re going to work in about twice as much music in-between the first note and the second note. That’s what made jazz musicians.” 

Though the music isn’t changing itself, the way we perceive it does. Not only is our perception of time distorted, but the cannabinoids in marijuana alter the way our brain processes video and audio information. For example, various studies in the 70s found that our ability to hear higher frequencies was improved (and preferred) when we’re high. 

Together these factors – being in a better mood, time (and rhythm) slowing down, a deeper appreciation for all, and better audio and video processing – make listening to music while high a completely immersive experience. All things considered, we’re not surprised that cannabis has been the subject of many great artists’ love ballads. 

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