I’m researching the history of ecstasy and ecstatic experiences in modern western culture, how spiritual ecstasy got pathologised from the Enlightenment to the present day, and how people found new ways to get out of their heads. An important part of that story is rock & roll and other forms of pop and dance music, Read more…

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It’s that time of year again, when people all over Britain go off for the traditional New Year’s Vipassana retreat. But not me – this year, I decided to keep it old school. I went on a Benedictine retreat. Last Sunday, I traveled down to the Isle of Wight, to stay at Quarr Abbey (it’s Read more…

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Today I’m going to a seminar at Queen Mary, University of London, on music and well-being. It’s one of the best things about being a sort-of-academic – you get to hang out for a day with experts in a field. Today, that includes Roger Scruton, who is the British philosopher I most respect, although I Read more…

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Laura Marling’s new album, Once I Was An Eagle, is that rare pleasure – an album to which you listen all the way through, and then want to start again at the beginning. There are only one or two albums like that a year, for me at least. Fleet Foxes’ debut album was one such. Read more…

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At the moment I’m researching the cultural practices of ecstasy in the 20th century, which has given me the excuse to read some fine books on the history of pop music. The latest is Matthew Collin’s Altered State: The Story of Ecstasy Culture and Acid House, first published way back in 1997 and since updated. Read more…

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