I have my reasons to dislike Wired Magazine — trendy, faux-savvy, shoddy fact-checkers that they are — but they can do a sensible interview. To wit, see this piece on Oliver Sacks, the neurologist who told us about mistaking wives for hats. Sacks tells his interviewer, Steve Silberman, a great deal about his experiences with music.
I intensely dislike any reference to supernaturalism, but I think there can be profound mystical feelings which do not have to call on fictitious agencies like angels and demons and deities. The whole natural world is bathed in wonder and beauty and mystery. The feeling of the holy, the sacred, the wonderful, the mystical, can be divorced from anything theological, and is conveyed very powerfully in music.
While many a scientist has expressed a similar sentiment, Sacks also reveals that the pleasures of the academic lifestyle were not restricted to horticulture, at least not in the 1960s.
One day in 1964, I constructed a sort of pharmacological mountain, and at its peak, I said, “I want to see indigo, now!” As if thrown by a paintbrush, a huge, trembling drop of purest indigo appeared on the wall â€” the color of heaven. For months after that, I kept looking for that color. It was like the lost chord.
Sacks saw the color again, after hearing Monteverdi’s Vespers at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but the lapis lazuli snuffboxes which had appeared such a wonderful indigo turned out to be blue and mauve and pink when he looked at them again. “It took a mountain of amphetamine, mescaline, and cannabis to launch me into that space,” he says, “But Monteverdi did it too.”