Why Music Gives Us the Chills
By Corey Binns, Special to LiveScience
posted: 20 November 2006 02:30 pm ET
For a willing music audience, the art of drawing emotion from notes is classic.
Composers play with subtle, intricate changes and rates of change to try and elicit emotion. In recent studies, scientists found that people already familiar with the music are more likely to catch a chill at key moments:
When a symphony turns from loud to quiet
Upon entry of a solo voice or instrument
When two singers have contrasting voices
People covered in goose bumps also tend to be driven more by rewards, and less inclined to be thrill- and adventure-seekers, according to research conducted at the Institute for Music Physiology and Musicians’ Medicine in Hanover, Germany.
"Our results suggest that chills depend very much on our ability to interpret the music," said Oliver Grewe, a biologist and musicologist at the institute. "Music is a recreative activity. Even if it is relaxing to listen to, the listener has to recreate its meaning, the feelings it expresses. It is the listener who gives life to the emotions in music."
The researchers' latest findings are currently being reviewed for journal publication, while their previous research has been published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.
Music can do more than just give you goose bumps. A melody can:
Ease labor pain
Reduce the need for sedation during surgery
Evoke strong memories
Listening to your favorite hits can shift your breathing pattern and speed up your heart rate.
Shivers down the spine even show up in brain scans, according to research at McGill University. As chills grow in intensity, bloodflow increases between areas of the brain associated with euphoria-inducing vices like food, sex, and drugs.
In the near future, the German research team plans to further study the central nervous system's reactions to music that gives fans the chills.
I rarely mix my musical writing with my more esoteric beliefs, but if I have learned anything in this lifetime, it is that music is a special thing, to this planet, to this species.
Music is a form of mathematics, translated to sound. That same math rules colour- and thus hertz (vision) can become megahertz (sound). I refer the listener to a piece by Manneheim Steamroller on the album Seven. In it, the composer took the colours of the rainow, coverted each to a note, gave each note an instrument, and effectively played the rainbow. Don't tell me things are not interconnected-I know better. Crops circles translate to the diatonic scale- again: music. Who will finally play them, and what will the sound created do, to us and this world, and our horrid self-centered perception of this blue-green speck of solar dust?
It is said by the Hindus that to create the Universes, Bramha breathed out a single word- AUM. The cascade of that mighty combination of three sounds still tumbles thru the stars. We are not equipped to hear it, but we DO feel it, and react to it. It is no coincidence that the sounds made by tibetan singing bowls played well sound exactly like recordings made by NASA's Voyager probes of the vibrating rings of debris around planets in our own solar system. What further journeys await us as we reach further, both in and out of our known world.
I challenge the reader to listen with a more open ear, to all that is around her/him.
Here's a starting point.