Music, Drugs & Altered States of Mind

Hector Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique

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.

Join us for an evening of drinks, debauchery, and decadence​ as we listen to some music that was created "under the influence" and analyze the artist's work in light of our own ideas about drugs and consciousness. 


Recommended reading from Penguin Press:

The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce's Ulysses by Kevin Birmingham

“Terrific…. The Most Dangerous Book is the fullest account anybody has made of the publication history of Ulysses. Birmingham’s brilliant study makes you realize how important owning this book, the physical book, has always been to people.”  - The New Yorker




Location: Strong Rope Brewery

574 President St, Brooklyn, NY 11215

Strong Rope Brewery creates handcrafted local and organic ales featuring seasonal offerings that will use the freshest vegetables, fruits, herbs, and spices showcasing the New York State farmers and malters we work with to create great tasting beer.




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Other upcoming Olios


Jan 22

Living Room Salon | Our Struggle with Free Will

Taught by Jeanne Proust
7:30 p.m. at Living Room

Sign Up - $15

Jan 24

Living Room Salon | Tough Poetry in Dark Times

Taught by Geoff Klock
7:30 p.m. at Living Room

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Jan 31

The Dangerous Pleasure of Art

Taught by Geoff Klock
7:30 p.m. at Blender Workspace

Sign Up - $20

Feb 1

Feb 2

OlioHouse | Our Stories, Our Bodies: Rape Culture in American History

Taught by Jamie Warren
noon at OlioHouse | Wassaic, NY

Sign Up - $150

Feb 6

Olio Seminar | Space, Time, & Work: Understanding Labor

Taught by Lauren Hudson
7:30 p.m. at Berg'n

Sign Up - $75

Feb 8

Rethinking Refugee Trauma and Mental Health

Taught by Kim Nguyen
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20

Feb 9

OlioHouse | The Love Symposium

Taught by Skye Cleary
noon at OlioHouse | Wassaic, NY

Sign Up - $150

Feb 15

Philosophy and Friendship

Taught by Jeanne Proust
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20

Feb 21

Living Room Salon | Music and Environmentalism

Taught by Kristy Barbacane
7 p.m. at Living Room

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Feb 25

What Would Buffy Do? Radical Feminism and the Slayer

Taught by Jamie Warren
7:30 p.m. at Neuehouse Madison Sq.

Sign Up - $20

Feb 28

Into the Mystic: Music & the Moving Image

Taught by Whitney George
7:30 p.m. at Blender Workspace

Sign Up - $20

May 29

Composing Beauty: Mapplethorpe’s Quest for Perfection

Taught by Jeanne Proust
7 p.m. at BAM Fisher

Sign Up - $20


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