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  • Dear Musician - Music's Frisson Experience

    The Frisson Experience may set you apart as a human being…and a musician!

    By Dendy Jarrett | (edited)


    by Dendy Jarrett


    If you haven’t experienced it yourself, you certainly know people who have. If you have experienced it, you know it! Music causes your skin to tingle, and during a particularly harmonic hit or climax in the music, it happens – Frisson!


    Frisson (n. – a French term) is a sudden strong feeling of excitement or fear; a thrill. That “skin tingle” leads to the formation of something we call chill or goose bumps.

    And not everyone has this experience. Turns out that studies show that you have to be “open to the experience.”


    Interestingly, the openness to experience the emotions that music evokes can range from every gamut of music genres. Participants in studies performed at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro measured skin responses, no matter if they were listening to classical or contemporary music.


    In a previous Dear Musician we explored What’s the Meaning of Music? In that article we slanted the emotional feelings of music toward the lyrical message. The Frisson Experience tends to result from a combination, however, of the entire make-up of the song—from lyric to chord progression to dynamics.


    The thing that is important to note about the Frisson Experience is that it means “aesthetic chills” – and is similar to the same feelings that can make the hair on the back of your neck stand up when you are confronted with a frightening experience. Some even refer to the Frisson Experience as having a “skin orgasm.”


    But the one thing that I think is missing about this phenomenon is the notion that it must be spontaneous. The only thing that may tip you off that it’s coming is that a particular passage of a song is building to what is certainly an impending musical climax.


    I’ve experienced Music’s Frisson Experience first hand. I know other musicians who have, as well. None of us really thought much about the scientific reasons behind why we experienced it. We just thought we were getting off on the music. Truth is, however, if you are a musician and are immersed in music on an intellectual level, you may be far more likely to experience this sensation. You likely experience music on a deeper level than just the aural experience. The research that has been done does show that The Frisson Experience may set you apart as a human being…and a musician! So keep making better music. -HC-





    Dendy Jarrett is the Publisher and Executive Director of Harmony Central. He has been heavily involved at the executive level in many aspects of the drum and percussion industry for over 25 years and has been a professional player since he was 16. His articles and product reviews have been featured in InTune Monthly, Gig Magazine, DRUM! and Modern Drummer Magazines.



    Edited by Dendy Jarrett

    Sub Title: The Frisson Experience may set you apart as a human being…and a musician!

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    I can buy into that. But, I have to put it in the context of writing only. In the way back when I was learning cover licks, songs and progressing through the stages of learning on the coattails of published artists, I found a deep satisfaction for each small step. The overall of it culminated in achieving a plateau of the familiar and then moving on to the next, unfamiliar steps. It was then when I realized my influences were  umbilicals and it was harder to break them  than it was to make them.


    For me, the frustration of feeling like a minion to my early musical influences put me on a hiatus from playing. Life's coincidental challenges demanded more of my time so off I went away from music.


    Twenty-nine years later...

    I returned to music with renewed inspiration and a desire to pick up where I left off - writing.  This is my time and it has its share of Frisson Experiences that I do not think (for me) I'd have known had I remained a cover player.


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