Dude, that chord was like so totally bright

Ah, the Netherlands. A place with mesmerizingly intricate dikes, tulips, head-to-toe orange-covered football fans, deliciously dank marijuana, heavenly hash...uh...Olivier Messiaen...and...huh?...Mark Swed?

Yes, that’s right, folks. We’re going to Amsterdam, where L.A. Times’ Mark Swed had the pleasure to take in some of Messiaen’s music in a city celebrating the synaesthete’s Catholic birdcalls.

There have been some things even the most dazed Dutch, hazy-headed from the legal hash and marijuana sold in "coffee shops," probably couldn't have missed this month in their teeming capital.

Really? Because, let’s face it, quenching the munchies is practically a full-time job.

This month at the Concertgebouw, the celebrated main concert hall, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra performed his first great orchestral work ("L'Ascension"), his last ("Éclairs sur l'Au-delà") and his most famous (the "Turangalîla" Symphony). The Radio Philharmonic took on the evening-long "La Transfiguration de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ." Dutch pianist Ralph van Raat played "Vingt regards sur L'Enfant-Jésus." Messiaen's organ music was heard around town. And the Netherlands Opera produced his glorious epic opera, "Saint François d'Assise" -- gloriously.

Whoa. I see. There’s no way those drugged-out Nederlanders could have missed all that, even with a full-blown case of the munchies.

(sigh) I want to move to Amsterdam.

Why the Dutch have taken to this eccentric composer besotted by birds and mystical Catholicism is anyone's guess.

Hmmm. The way you set up your review (with your “hazy-headed” Dutch)...well, I might have a couple of guesses. Nice use of “besotted,” though.

But Amsterdam's enlightened accommodation of innovation and tradition, to say nothing of its acceptance of unconventionality, may have something to do with the city's fervent embrace of Messiaen.

Uh...interesting. But I wouldn’t have guessed that is why “hazy-headed” Dutch like Messiaen. Instead, I would have made this connection:

...synesthesia may arise through "disinhibited feedback" or a reduction in the amount of inhibition along feedback pathways. Normally, the balance of excitation and inhibition are maintained. However, if normal feedback were not adequately inhibited, then signals coming from later multi-sensory stages of processing might influence earlier stages of processing, such that tones would activate visual cortical areas in synesthetes more than in non-synesthetes. In this case, it might explain why some users of psychedelic drugs such as LSD or mescaline report synesthetic experiences while under the influence of the drug.

And pyschedelic drugs are generally known to mean: hallucinogens.

Marijuana and hashish, two substances derived from the hemp plant (Cannabis sativa), are also considered natural hallucinogens...


Their effects include a feeling of relaxation, faster heart rate, the sensation that time is passing more slowly, and a greater sense of hearing...

Which brings me to Richard Cytowic:

...of course LSD and peyote and mescal and even marijuana can produce synesthesia, usually visual and auditory, so that sounds can become colours and shapes, and I think people are -- that's fairly common knowledge...

Is it any wonder that the potheads found their way to concerts of a synaesthete’s music? Ever hear of the saying, “It takes one to know one?”

Just so happens that, dudes, this totally blows my mind:

The Dutch enjoy a special relationship with this opera [Saint François d’Assise], which is more than five hours long and has next to no action. The central scene is St. Francis preaching, for some 45 minutes, to the birds -- and that comes at the end of a two-hour second act. It takes him an additional hour to die in the last act.

Whoa. Dudes.

[Sorry, science-minded people. I no longer have access to Pub Med.]


Sator Arepo said...


You win the award for most colors of text in a post so far.

The gauntlet is thrown, sir.


Murderface said...

You don't need PubMed when you have erowid, at least not for science-y psychoactive drug knowledge, anyway.

Empiricus said...

I totally never heard of that. Thanks. What a cool site.

I just felt bad about my inability to access peer-reviewed stuff, stuff I'd prefer to reference.

Doesn't that description of Saint Francois d"Assise make you want to light up?

Murderface said...

Erowid is the shit, to be sure. They repost a lot of peer-reviewed articles, so they're a great source. I found out about them through an online newsletter for medical toxicologists, actually. They're a pretty go-to source for a lot of clinicians who deal with folks who party too hard.

An opera "more than five hours long [with] next to no action" might call for something stronger than lighting up, I think...

Plus, think of how hard the munchies would accumulate over 5 hours! That sounds interminable!