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Goosebumps, Thrills, and Musical Chills

December 10, 2010‘s “The Body Odd” had this article posted today about the phenomenon of music giving us shivers.  As it would happen, there are actual scientists who study this stuff, and according to them the shivers have to do with a person’s personal bent of being open to experience (which apparently refers to people who are open to and enjoy the aesthetic side of life).

Even though the article wasn’t focused specifically on classical music, there were 2 things that jumped out at me:
1)  that, based on what this scientific research says, there are living, breathing people who don’t experience skin orgasms (honest, I’m not making the word up) when they hear a great great piece of music.  Like, never EVER!  (So sad!)  And,
2)  that a ton of people in the comments mentioned examples of classical music as being ones that gave them the chills.
Here are some of the pieces mentioned:
– Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (this would probably be my #1 choice)
– Mozart’s Dies Irae
– Handel’s Messiah
– Fauré’s Requiem
– Schubert’s Trout Quintet
– Wagner’s Flight of the Valkyries
– Wagner’s Pilgrim’s Chorus
– Dvořák’s Songs My Mother Taught Me
– Barber’s Adagio for Strings
– Handel’s Water Music
– Haydn’s Creation
Holst’s In the Bleak Midwinter
– Eric Whitacre’s Sleep
– Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor
– Puccini’s Nessun Dorma
Grieg’s Peer Gynt

So, what conclusions can be drawn here?  That classical music has the best chill-giving tunes? or that classical lovers tend to be more open to experience? or that we have particularly athletic hypothalami?  (It might be interesting to note that the other predominant stream of musical mentions had to do with contemporary Christian worship music – a world away from batons and black tie.)

Speaking for myself, I’d add Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture (one of the first pieces I fell in love with – *ba-dum-dump!*); the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s 5th Piano Concerto (“Emperor”), as well as B’s 7th Symphony; Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor, 1st movement; Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No.3; and a piece I’ve blogged about before, Eric Whitacre’s When David Heard.

Those are the ones that immediately come to mind, but I might have to update as I think of more.  Think, Sonic – what are you missing?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 15, 2010 11:19 am

    I am horrid with details, so I can’t remember the names of all the pieces, but actually this happens a LOT with me (and music). Mumford & Sons, Coldplay’s Viva album, Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Florence & the Machine, and countless, countless others. On the classical front, Handel’s Messiah is definitely high on the list – regardless of how often I’ve heard it (a lot)I still get goosebumps each time. I don’t remember the names of the others, silly me, but I promise, the classical world is one I find “orgasmic” 🙂 hahaha.

    I decided just this morning that heaven will consist of four things:

    1) because these things are the best things in life
    2) because these things are the only thing that transcend language and culture
    3) because these things are universal (relates to #2) in their ability to calm the soul and speak to the hearts in all of us.

    I like this post. But I am a goosebump-experiencer, so that could be why. 🙂



  1. Variations on a “Hallelujah” « sonicgypsy

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