Hear a Neuroscientist-Curated 712-Track Playlist of Music that Causes Frisson, or Musical Chills

Image by Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

This Spo­ti­fy playlist (play below) con­tains music by Prince and the Grate­ful Dead, Weez­er and Bil­lie Hol­l­i­day, Kanye West and Johannes Brahms, Hans Zim­mer and David Bowie, Wolf­gang Amadeus Mozart and Radio­head. Per­haps you’d expect such a range from a 712-track playlist that runs near­ly 66 hours. Yet what you’ll hear if you lis­ten to it isn’t just the col­lec­tion of a mod­ern-day “eclec­tic” music-lover, but a neu­ro­sci­en­tist-curat­ed arrange­ment of pieces that all cause us to expe­ri­ence the same sen­sa­tion: fris­son.

As usu­al, it takes a French word to evoke a con­di­tion or expe­ri­ence that oth­er terms sim­ply don’t encom­pass. Quot­ing one def­i­n­i­tion that calls fris­son “a sud­den feel­ing or sen­sa­tion of excite­ment, emo­tion or thrill,” Big Think’s Sam Gilbert also cites a recent study sug­gest­ing that “one can expe­ri­ence fris­son when star­ing at a bril­liant sun­set or a beau­ti­ful paint­ing; when real­iz­ing a deep insight or truth; when read­ing a par­tic­u­lar­ly res­o­nant line of poet­ry; or when watch­ing the cli­max of a film.”

Gilbert notes that fris­son has also been described as a “pilo­erec­tion” or “skin orgasm,” about which researchers have not­ed sim­i­lar “bio­log­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal com­po­nents to sex­u­al orgasm.” As for what trig­gers it, he points to an argu­ment made by musi­col­o­gist David Huron: “If we ini­tial­ly feel bad, and then we feel good, the good feel­ing tends to be stronger than if the good expe­ri­ence occurred with­out the pre­ced­ing bad feel­ing.” When music induces two suf­fi­cient­ly dif­fer­ent kinds of emo­tions, each is height­ened by the con­trast between them.

Con­trast plays a part in artis­tic pow­er across media: not just music but film, lit­er­a­ture, dra­ma, paint­ing, and much else besides. But to achieve max­i­mum effect, the artist must make use of it in a way that, as Gilbert finds argued in a Fron­tiers in Psy­chol­o­gy arti­cle, caus­es “vio­lat­ed expec­ta­tion.” A fris­son-rich song primes us to expect one thing and then deliv­ers anoth­er, ide­al­ly in a way that pro­duces a strong emo­tion­al con­trast. No mat­ter your degree of musi­cophil­ia, some of the 712 tracks on this playlist will be new to you, allow­ing you to expe­ri­ence their ver­sion of this phe­nom­e­non for the first time. Oth­ers will be deeply famil­iar — yet some­how, after all these years or even decades of lis­ten­ing, still able to bring the fris­son.

via Big Think

Relat­ed con­tent:

Music That Helps You Write: A Free Spo­ti­fy Playlist of Your Selec­tions

How Good Are Your Head­phones? This 150-Song Playlist, Fea­tur­ing Steely Dan, Pink Floyd & More, Will Test Them Out

Eve­lyn Glen­nie (a Musi­cian Who Hap­pens to Be Deaf) Shows How We Can Lis­ten to Music with Our Entire Bod­ies

Why Do Sad Peo­ple Like to Lis­ten to Sad Music? Psy­chol­o­gists Answer the Ques­tion in Two Stud­ies

The Dis­tor­tion of Sound: A Short Film on How We’ve Cre­at­ed “a McDonald’s Gen­er­a­tion of Music Con­sumers”

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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