Music, emotions and phenomena of frisson...

Here are few of very interesting observations intimately connected with the music listening and the phenomena of  frisson.

Psychology of Music, indicate that those who intellectually immerse themselves in music (rather than just letting it flow over them) might experience frisson more often and more intensely than others.

Have you ever been listening to a great piece of music and felt a chill run up your spine? Or goosebumps tickle your arms and shoulders?

The experience is called frisson (pronounced free-sawn), a French term meaning "aesthetic chills," and it feels like waves of pleasure running all over your skin. Some researchers have even dubbed it a 'skin orgasm.'

Music and Emotion

Can we have auditory stimuli that systematically elicit specific emotions in healthy adult listeners? This question is a perfect window, it would seem, into one of the most elusive processes that has occupied modern psychology since William James, Carl Stumpf, and many others. Peter Lang was perhaps the most influential psychologist to entertain this idea over the last few decades. Although Lang is far better known for his International Affective Picture System (IAPS), he also developed a set of acoustic stimuli representing specific emotions (International Affective Digital Sounds, IADS). Instead of every-day sound materials as used by Lang, however, in 2008 we set out to use a different class of auditory stimuli: fully-orchestrated music excerpts from commercial recordings. We thought this would be a fairly easy and straightforward task, only to find out that music that evokes a specific affective tone over a prolonged period of time is, in fact, not as prominent and easy to find as one might think. Our full results from this enquiry are published in Psychology of Music (Kreutz, Ott, Teichmann, Osawa and Vaitl, 2008). Despite all of the limitations that have prevailed since the publication of our work, we acknowledge the fact that a few researchers have found our approach useful as a starting point to develop the idea further. It seems that psychometric norms of sets of music excerpts to evoke specific emotions are within reach as well as the systematic investigation of underlying mechanisms. Importantly, the search for biological correlates of musically-induced emotions has led to great advances in the few years since our study has been published. What comes next? It is impossible to tell whether the potential of our work has been exhausted – but more importantly, the field of music and emotion has clearly developed further and we are most grateful to have our share in it.

Prof Gunter Kreutz, Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg
Dr Ulrich Ott, Justus-Liebig University Giessen

Original articles: here and here.