With Colorado making marijuana a part of daily life legally, you have to wonder how many bets were taken on when reefer would be used in more swanky events. The classical music world is still known for being so stuffy that the idea of someone using marijuana there breeds only slightly humorous visions of aging audience members protesting (or partaking). But the Colorado Symphony decided to take it beyond the aging symphony buffs and into drawing in those most likely to use marijuana with a “Classically Cannabis” event recently. That title alone might have been enough to scare an older, conservative crowd, unless they’ve also started spiking their morning cereal with marijuana to get their day going.
What was the reaction when the Colorado Symphony allowed marijuana in their premises for the first time? It turns out it was by invite only (for now), and the marijuana smoking was confined to a separate room. Nevertheless, it was far from the usual setup for a classical concert. People were allowed to mingle without regular seating while the orchestra played. And the marijuana smoke managed to waft into the area where the music was playing.
Yes, this sounds like the first official meeting between a late 1960s rock concert and the classical world, 45 years late. What made this even more interesting is the attendees shelled out $75 to help support the Colorado Symphony change the entire landscape of what makes up a classical concert. The question is whether Colorado managed to change how a classical concert might work in the future, or if it was just an experiment that won’t be tried again any time soon.
Would Composers Mind an Audience Getting High?
Why classical music culture became so staid probably has more to do with early Carnegie Hall culture than anything in Europe. It was the Victorian Era that seemed to create the idea that you had to sit calmly in a chair and listen to the music without eating, or imbibing. In Europe, previously, things hadn’t been quite that staid, even if no one was allowed to act out in the audience. What’s interesting is that by the time modern composers started writing more experimental works that could be heightened by certain sensory experiences, the latter part of the Victorian Era had too stiff of an upper lip to enjoy it completely.
Some of the experimental Russian composers like Scriabin and Shostakovich created works that were intended to bring certain sensory experiences that could easily be enhanced with something extra. In Scriabin’s case, he used lighting effects, incense, and other sensory experiences to create a musical show not unlike that of what you’d experience with marijuana.
While Shostakovich was more or less writing symphonies out of duress when in Communist Russia, his modern harmonies could easily be assimilated on another level from what everyone was used to hearing in those days.
Long before then in the Baroque era, you have to wonder if Mozart would have been taking marijuana regularly had it been available. Had he inhaled, who knows if he wouldn’t have invented modern harmony 150 years earlier during one of his improvised keyboard sessions. He also might have encouraged people to smoke a bong while listening to one of his symphonies.
And let’s not forget all the contemporary composers of the last 60 years who already wrote things that come close to a trip. Impressionism, especially, might have a new appreciation under the guise of marijuana.
It’s not challenging to imagine a classical concert in Colorado later on where the audience partakes in marijuana first and then sits intently to listen. At this first show above, Debussy, Bach, Wagner and Puccini were played, according to the Denver Post. But you have to think what the works by those composers would sound like when you’ve had enough marijuana to affect your senses.
Would marijuana help classical concerts in the future if other states make marijuana legal? As state symphonies struggle to get younger audiences in, it could be a new way to make classical music more interesting, plus a safe environment to zone out.
Nevertheless, as Colorado proved at their “Classically Cannabis” event, even those who smoke marijuana in a back room can still be a bit conservative. Public consumption of marijuana also has legal consequences, which means smoking has to be done beforehand. That means there could be just as much quiet contemplation in the audience during future classical concerts as there was during the Victorian Era.