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The Science Behind: Musical Chills

Have you ever felt chills while listening to music? Goosebumps travelling up your arm while listening to that one song. That sensation is called musical frisson (free-sawn). Frisson is a french word that means “to shiver”.

Why do they happen?

When listening to music it mostly happens due to emotionally moving music. It can also happen when you are pleasantly surprised by music. Music that has sudden high notes, unexpected harmonies has commonly caused people to experience frisson.

Is this the same for everybody?

No, people experience frisson for different musical passages. This depends on a trait called “Openness to Experience”. People who have this trait tend to have unusually active imaginations, and have a tendency to try and predict the music that is to come. There are many other behaviors related to this trait both emotional and cognitive.

Can other things cause frisson?

Yes, things like a beautiful piece of art or a particularly moving scene in a movie can cause frisson. Also, things like nails on chalkboard, the tart taste of lemon, affectionate touches can also cause you to have goosebumps

Songs that are known to cause frisson

1. "I Dreamed A Dream", Susan Boyle, BGT Audition (2009)

2. "Sinnerman", Nina Simone

3. "Hallelujah", Jeff Buckley

4. "Going To California", Led Zeppelin

5. "Hands Away", Interpol

Its fine if you do not experience frisson while listening to these songs. It is different for everybody depending on their preferences and mood. There is also a frisson Reddit group in which people post many different things which makes them experience frisson.



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