Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Frisson in time

Songs that make you shiver: the magnitude and psychological reaction of musical masterpieces
Courtesy of Pink Floyd IMBD

Have you ever been jamming out to a phenomenal song and felt shivers run throughout your body that reach all the way up to the top of your head, extending into even your fingertips? If the answer is yes, then you have experienced frisson. Frisson is a psychophysiological response to particular stimuli. Psychologically speaking, our brains love to make predictions, and when it comes to music, our brains are wired to predict the next beat, line, formula, pitch etc. So, when a certain piece of music strikes your brain with an unpredictable beat, it throws your mind off and triggers an emotional and physical response from a violation of expectations. The unexpected is something the human mind loves even more than the expected.

To me, it is a euphoric feeling, almost like being rebirthed, scoring the winning goal of a soccer game or biting into a freshly baked cinnamon bun. Frisson is felt differently from person to person but comes from a similar place through feeling emotional connections within the music.

The first time I vividly remember feeling frisson was when I watched “A Star is Born” starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. As I listened closely, I started to feel a sensation of intense goosebumps and dopamine shoot throughout my body. I felt every hair on my body stand up, and my mind went through an exceptional crashing wave of exhilaration. At the time, I had no idea what had happened, or why, but I knew I needed to feel it again. I rewound the movie to listen to Lady Gaga sing “I’ll Always Remember Us This Way” again and then it hit me once again.

I settled with her musical abilities and started diving deeper into other songs that had given me that feeling before. As I kept digging for more, I found that I could feel frisson through just thinking of a song that has given me frisson in the past. After that, I started finding a plethora of songs that made me feel this specific way.

“Pigs (Three Different Ones)” by Pink Floyd gave me the feeling of frisson throughout, mostly through instrumentals. Another one of my favorites of all time is  “Brown Eyed Women (live at Cornell 1977)” by The Grateful Dead. If you have not listened to this version or song, I highly recommend taking a listen if you are interested in hearing one of the best guitar solos I have ever heard. Do not shy away from “Oh Well (Pt.1) Live at Wembley Arena (1980)” by Fleetwood Mac, “Dream Girl” by No Vacation, “The Great Gig in the Sky” by Pink Floyd and of course “Me and your Mama” by Childish Gambino. These songs give me chills, but I was curious to see what other people’s experiences are and what songs fueled their musical frisson. Was there any correlation between the songs that give us this feeling?

Anjali Shukla, a third year biology major, first introduced me to frission.

She says “X-factor,” by Ms. Lauryn Hill and “Wuthering Heights,” by Kate Bush make her feel this emotion.

“Have you noticed any similarities in your frisson songs you like? For example, a common beat, theme, rhythm, tone?” I asked her.

“A lot of feminine voices, a lot of them have a nostalgic feel, or are romantic in some way,” she said.

I also asked Garret Jacobsmeier, a third year finance major, what he thinks of frisson. Jacobmeiser was the one who introduced me to “Brown Eyed Women (Live at Cornell 1977).”

“Do you have any songs that make you feel frisson?” I asked.

“Yeah, the first song I always think of is ‘What Would I Want? Sky’ by Animal Collective. That’s the number one, other than that “Brown Eyed Women (Live at Cornell 1977)” like you, I adore that song,” he replied.

 Is there a certain part of the song that really makes you feel it?” I asked.

“Yes, so the song begins with a really long sort of spacey drumline, where these drums pound constantly and this vocal in the background comes in and out, and then back and forth. Then out of nowhere this drum piece comes in and it slows down and starts to open up, it literally feels like a storm has ended … it opens into an airy scythe line.”

Finally, I asked Robert Wade, a first year hotel management major, what songs make him feel frisson.

“I’m going to go with,  ‘I have nothing’ by Whitney Houston … that’s frisson right there, chills,” he said.

Frisson is a common, yet beautiful feeling that is not neglected, especially for intense music lovers. It is definitely a feeling that is felt widely, but the type of songs and parts that give the feeling are contrasting. One song might make someone feel frisson based on memories associated with it, some may feel it purely from the beat drop. Nonetheless, all give us the good kind of shivers.

AnnaMarie Romano can be reached at [email protected].

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