Artists within the electronic dance music industry release new content at an incredibly fast pace. With such rapid expansion, it is easy for tracks to get lost in the shuffle however, there are always certain tracks that leave an undeniable imprint on us. Whether it be an uplifting trance classic, or a new bass-heavy release with powerful vocals, certain songs surge thru us with massive force and leave us breathless, and in awe, of what we’ve just experienced. They strike us, right in ‘the feels’, but have you ever wondered, why do we feel such powerful emotions when we listen to a song we connect with?
When we unify with a song, we sometimes experience physical sensations such as ‘tingles’ or goosebumps or more specifically, “skin orgasms”. Psyche Loui, both a professional violinist and pianist, in addition to a psychologist at Wesleyan University, abstracted the science behind the aforementioned “skin orgasms” with student, Luke Harrison.
Typically, physical reactions like tingles or goosebumps, ensue while experiencing situations of fight or flight, or those that safeguard wellbeing. That being said, how can we experience something as powerful as sex, without experiencing sex itself? Loui describes these occurrences as an “aesthetic experience [that] can be so intense you can’t do anything else,”. These sensations expand far beyond the bounds of shivers. In a study conducted with professional, and non-musicians in 1991 depicted that half of the total amount of participants encountered flushing, trembling, perspiration and sexual arousal upon listening to beloved pieces of music. This is likely where the coined idiom, “skin orgasm” derived from. Loui and Harrison have adopted “frisson”, in order to spare negative association while asking participants to describe their experienced sensations.
Individuals are typically able to identify acute points in a song that trigger musical “frisson”. Rapid harmonic changes, transferences from loud to soft, and incongruous accents that oppose the natural harmony of a track, all appear to prompt the onslaught of musical “frisson”. The final moments before, and after, the release of a pulsing baseline may generate such a sensation.
“Musical frisson elicit a physiological change that’s locked to a particular point in the music,” claims Loui.
What triggers our ability to experience goosebumps and “frissons” is a unique and outstanding element present in a particular song. Somewhere in the mix of mainstream and the unfamiliar, we find a piece of music that forcefully touches us (pun intended). The first time we listen to such a song, we are violated by the anticipation, the sensation cues the release of dopamine to both the caudate and the nucleus accumbens before and after the frisson occurs.
“You see a similar response when people take drugs or have sex, which may explain why we find shiver-inducing songs so addictive”, explains Loui.
Once we connect with a piece of music, the sensations we experience are heightened. We familiarize ourselves with the harmony and in turn, become conditioned to experience the sensation again, and again, and again. Below, you will find a track list EDMTunes writers have experienced musical “frissons” to. Sit back, enjoy, and let the shivers ensue.