What music gives you a “frisson”?

Uh, what? A frisson? Just watch…

Yeah, that goosebumpy feeling you get when you hear some music that really affects/connects with you. Now, this particular video features a track called “IĀ put?? a spell on you” by Sonique but I swear that when I saw this ad while in Finland in ’98, it featured the much more impressiveĀ “Energy 52 – Nalin & Kane Remix” by Cafe Del Mar - recently voted the #1 dance track of the last 20 years – but hopefully you get the picture. Know this track? Jump straight to the frisson section of the song here. Watch those arm hairs :)

For me, the first one that I can remember is actually “I will survive” by Gloria Gaynor – I must have been 5 or 6 at the time. I had obviously no idea what the hell it was about, but I could feel that there was something in that music that was more than I could hear.

Fast forward many years, I’ve caught a few more frisson generating tracks along the way, like:

to name just a few. It’s a personal thing – what buzzes me need not buzz you, but I’ve always wondered if there is any universality to it – is there one track, or one aspect of the musical progression that will affect everybody this way?

Unfortunately, as far as I’ve been able to google, no one has found one yet. But, the always reliable folks over at NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” recently broadcast a fascinating show called “‘The Power Of Music’ To Affect The Brain“. The whole thing is well worth a listen but what was particularly interesting to me was this excerpt:

Mr. PATEL: Yes, well, I also want to point this caller in to some research that has been done by a colleague of mine, Dr. Robert Zatorre at the Montreal Neurological Institute, very elegant experiments, actually having people in brain imagining machines, while they are experiencing these musical chills.

So they bring in their own CDs that give them this response, and like your caller mentioned, they often know the exact moment, down to the chord, where they’re going to get that response. And it’s pretty reliable. And looking inside the brain to see what’s going on.

And this is also – Dan Leviton has been involved in some of this work, and one of the neat findings is the activation of these very ancient reward centers of the brain that have been associated with things like food and reproduction and biologically important behaviors being activated by people listening to instrumental music and getting this response to music.

CONAN: It’s the old dopamine rush.

Mr. PATEL: Yes, it’s – yes.

So finally they took some ppl, stuck them inside PET and FMRI machines and had a look while they experienced these “musically induced frissons”. Fascinating results, you can read the summaries here and detailed jargon-heavy PDFs are linked therefrom if you can hack it.

My take? Frisson is real, and is medically/chemically like a non-addicting sexy drug injection, both before it happens and as it happens.

Like I said, it’s a personal thing, and can be a good icebreaker conversation if the party mood is right. You should know though, that there are some unfortunate souls whose brains simply don’t get music at all. No frisson for them :(

Have you experienced a frisson with a particular piece of music? Let me know in the comments – bonus if you can add a link to it :)

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One Response to What music gives you a “frisson”?

  1. jamesie says:

    difficult to beat underworld:http://youtu.be/PpG3ij7SmOo or the chemical brothers http://youtu.be/tdT7GEhpM9A

    I hope that doesn’t give away my age though