Time flies when youʼre having fun.
When attempting to describe the finer points of the physics it isnʼt often that you can quote Doctor Who, but with regards to time, the Doctor has it spot on. Well, sort of…
‘People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly… time-y wimey… stuff.’
So, if we assume that time is a man-made (brain-maintained) construct, and that our perceptions of time can be altered, this puts us in a very interesting position. Especially with regards to music and sounds. If time seemed longer, what would this do to our favourite pop songs? Would we really have to listen to Adele for longer than previously thought? Well, potentially, yes. To the lay person the song will sound the same length it always has, but to a person under the influence of certain drugs a three minute power ballad could feel like a two-hour marathon of emotion.
This is down to the fact that the brain has an ingenious, yet fallible, way of keeping rhythm. Certain brain circuits, such as those present in the pre-frontal cortex, emit ‘pacemaker pulses’ which are then stored with regards to certain events. For example, the playing of one note on the piano would equal a certain number of pulses. This number of pulses is then remembered, to be used later when you hear the same note a second, third or fourth time.
Now, drugs which cause the release of the chemical dopamine can influence this brain ticking. Drugs, such as amphetamines, increase the firing of neurons which release dopamine, speeding up the sparking rate of pacemaker pulses. This makes the music last a shorter period of time. Whereas, other chemicals, such as the active ingredient of the anti-psychotic- Haloperidol, cause the release of acetylcholine within the brain. This makes events last longer, as it takes more physical time for the same number of pacemaker pulses to be counted up.
This apparent time-manipulation was first experimented with by jazz musicians and cannabis use. According to a 2009 study by Finnish scientist Jörg Fachner the earliest phase, post consumption, leads to players and listeners alike being ‘more sensitive to sound, having a keener appreciation of rhythmic timing with reduced inhibitions’ all apparently leading to a more enjoyable experience. Dr James Munch, an employee of the US Drug Enforcement Agency in the 30’s, has been quoted as saying ‘you’re going to work in about twice as much music in-between the first and second note.’ Therefore allowing musicians under the influence to, for want of a better phrase, jazz up their music a little more.
With this in mind it’s pretty easy to see why albums such as The Beatles’ Rubber Soul and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon were so revolutionary. They were made and listened to by people not hearing the same timings as the majority of people around them. And who knows, perhaps this excuses Ringo’s drumming after all.
For a bit more info about this why not check out the book that Jörg co-wrote with David Aldridge; Music and Altered States: Consciousness, Transcendence, Therapy and Addictions.