During 1960s rock, folk, pop- all kinds of music, visual art and culture in general underwent a metaphorical change. Musicians and artists in UK and US transcended consciousness to enter a psychedelic state to create some of the best music and art. They broke all possible rules and genre barriers to express the actual surreal state of mind under the influence of mind altering drugs. This whole new cult came to be known as ‘Psychedelic rock’ ,‘Psychedelic’ culture etc.
The basic aim of the artists was to go to a different dimension of consciousness and perception. What better way to transcend consciousness than using mind altering psychedelic drugs? What began as an experiment with single songs like ‘Hesitation Blues’ in early 60s became a raging cult at the end of it. Hippie culture too found its expression in psychedelic art forms. This culture simply swept through San Francisco and California and parts of Britain. It was an urge to express the unexpressed emotions. Beatles, Pink Floyd, Jim Morrison, Jimmy Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane and many others jumped into this drugs and music bandwagon and created some of the best surreal masterpieces.
Bands like Pink Floyd who were heavily into psychedelic music even experimented with lights and sound effects in their shows and became raging hits. The very creation of music underwent sea change. Improvisations and modifications became a style of performance. The music unveiled the influence of drugs, gradual alteration of state of mind and the entire journey from real to surreal world. It was like imprisoned soul was finding an ultimate escape route.
Musically it was a liberating experience too. Classical genres never gave artists freedom to improvise and innovate. There were sacred grammar rules which need to be followed. But human mind is like a soul bird with its own songs which does not follow any rules of singing. Its born with a melody and a scream.
While Psychedelic music was almost killed by the emerging punk scene, it took a rebirth during the 1990s. The bands of the Elephant 6 collective, Kyuss and other stoner rockers, Beta Band, Super Furry Animals have contributed to the re-emergence of psychedelic rock. Interestingly, Psychedelic music then and now have been connected to hallucinogenic drugs, especially LSD.
The usage of LSD, free sex and thinking and hippy lifestyle was the hallmark of the psychedelic movement which surprisingly started in Goa, India. It is here that psychedelic trance has emerged yet again much to the shock and disgust of the Catholic locals. While the Catholics and Pagans in Goa fume and burn over the re-emergence of psychedelic music in the form of Goan trance and also increase in the usage of psychedelic drugs like LSD, Datura and others, the movement itself has caught up in Europe and other parts of the world.
In a world that is plagued by hatred, violence and banality, altered states of mind seem to produce an ideal world where a person can create his own subjective reality rich in music, sensations and perceptions. Free love, free thinking and extensions of sensation and perception seem to be finding a new ground in this otherwise cold and unfeeling world.
Ecstasy, which has also been closely linked to Psychedelia, builds immunity in the user and hence the feeling wears off. This is perhaps why many people in to psychedelic movements are reverting back to good old LSD. “My body is a temple” is a phrase often used and misused. Psychedelic movements may help this notion to gain a new meaning where the body becomes a medium to experience sensations which are otherwise not possible to experience in a normal state of mind.
The beats, the chemicals, and the free flowing love seem to be taking a rebirth. The gentle waves, soft sand and loving pair of arms may take a new meaning when the blood rushes through ones veins, filling up ears and extremities, making one hear colors and see sounds. The frantic energy of decibels and sweat and grime on the sandy dance floor could create feelings of joy, ecstasy and something that is orgasmic.
This new phase of modern psychedelic music and culture seem to be more confident and virulent than the days of Pink Floyd and Beatles, for there is a vengeance against the violence and hatred perpetrated by the “moral upholders”. The very popularity of psychedelic cult shows the human urge to break free of one’s own consciousness and go into a hallucinatory state even if it’s a momentary escape from harsh reality, all kinds of insecurities and fears.
References: “Pink Floyd.” Microsoft® Student 2008 [DVD]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2007.
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