Art and Drugs
by Noise Pollution
Last night, I took my sleeping meds. I took them as normal! At least initially. Ambien gets you into kind of a fevered state of mind where you have impulses and you act on them and have almost no filter between those two things. And once that hit me, I apparently felt the need to take a couple more.
What a goddamn night it was.
I think. My memories are quite hazy. I didn’t engage with anyone, which is good. I threw up. A lot. I wrote a song.
Now, normally the garbage I write on Ambien is nonsensical and is filled with me mashing on the keyboard hoping that I will manage to get my point across through sheer force of will. I never do. Half the time I delete it all in the morning, the other half I keep it for the sake of laughing at myself. Last night, however, I had this fucking crazy breakthrough and wrote one of the most complicated lyrical pieces I have ever written. It’s seriously beyond me. It is a better song than I am capable of writing. So much so that me writing out the lyrics here is a futile endeavor because the way it is written doesn’t allow it to be expressed effectively through writing.
It’s a lyric that requires two people to be singing at once. They each are singing different parts, but there are select lines and words shared between both parts that are sung by both people at the same time and harmonized. I mean, I’m sure this concept has been used before. There’s no way I’m the first person to do it. It’s probably been used in countless musicals written by composers with far more talent than I will ever have. But this is the first time I have ever written something like this.
And, you know, it’s also… done well. And for a good reason. There’s an artistic reason that I have these two vocal parts separate and converge throughout the song. I’m comparing and contrasting two different lifestyles; two different kinds of depression. I’m following a character who has his life together but can’t manage to feel good and also a character who is a drug addict who uses substances to deal with the awful feelings. At the end of the first character’s track, he talks about the fact that through all his attempts at positive change there is “still/this pain.” The second character ends by saying he will find a way to “still/this pain.” and it’s all harmonized and sounds wonderful and goddammit I wish I could consistently write like this.
It’s kind of frustrating how deeply drugs are tied to art. For people who have either never used a mind-altering substance or have long since quit, the idea that someone needs to get high in order to make something sounds… it sounds kind of offensive, doesn’t it? It comes off like that person is just not creative or talented enough to manage to create without some sort of handicap. Either that, or it gives off the feeling that without drugs, you’re not a real artist. And that’s clearly not true! Drugs aren’t required to make great art. But I think it’s wrong to deny that they’re a potentially useful stepping stone on the path to creation. And I think it’s wrong to criticize people who use them for that purpose. I mean, back when I was seventeen and on all sorts of shit, I wasn’t using it to create, exactly, but I still felt a kind of artistic attachment to the process of getting high. I was getting high for the sake of finding new angles to see the world with. I wanted to feel different ways of thinking. Taking certain drugs felt like a 6-12 hour excursion into the mind of an artist. It felt like a performance art piece but… backwards? Like I was feeling for the sake of evoking a performance rather than performing for the sake of evoking a feeling. It was very bizarre and unhealthy but honestly, I learned a whole lot from it. And amazing art does come from drug use. And, you know, I think that’s probably okay.