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Author Topic: Anatomy of a Tear-Jerker: Very cool article on why songs give you chills  (Read 7290 times)
mouser
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« on: February 12, 2012, 05:58:30 PM »

This is a very cool article on the science of why certain songs give you chills and goosebumps, using a recent song, Adele's "Someone Like You" as a perfect example.  You can watch a full video of the song here and I'd be surprised if it doesn't affect you:

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLQl3WQQoQ0" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLQl3WQQoQ0</a>

Then read about why it has that affect:

Quote
Twenty years ago, the British psychologist John Sloboda conducted a simple experiment. He asked music lovers to identify passages of songs that reliably set off a physical reaction, such as tears or goose bumps. Participants identified 20 tear-triggering passages, and when Dr. Sloboda analyzed their properties, a trend emerged: 18 contained a musical device called an "appoggiatura"...

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Deozaan
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« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2012, 06:16:22 PM »

I listened to it and I didn't cry or even get goose bumps. But I did notice a physical response:

When the chorus enters, Adele's voice jumps up an octave, and she belts out notes with increasing volume. The harmony shifts, and the lyrics become more dramatic: "Sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes it hurts instead."

When the music suddenly breaks from its expected pattern, our sympathetic nervous system goes on high alert; our hearts race and we start to sweat. Depending on the context, we interpret this state of arousal as positive or negative, happy or sad.

I'm not sure if it happened when she sang those exact lyrics, but there was a part of the song in which I felt my heart rate increase (in a manner not dissimilar from being slightly startled) after she began to sing louder and at a higher octave, as described in the article.

That said, the repetitive pattern that plays throughout the song reminds me of One Republic's Secrets (which starts at about 10 seconds in):

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHm9MG9xw1o" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHm9MG9xw1o</a>
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40hz
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« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2012, 08:38:42 PM »

The Blues and Jazz genres have made extensive use of one version of this technique, although it's usually called a "blue note" rather than an appoggiatura.

In rock music, Pink Floyd also uses this technique so much it's almost a trademark for their dark-themed "Floyd" sound. Listen to the song Perfectly Numb for a classic example. There's a warbling (for lack of a better word) note in the accompaniment that runs almost all the way through the song that triggers a constant state of angst for most listeners - which is perfectly in keeping with the subject of the song.

Fun stuff.

Did you know a band can build audience excitement if they make each succeeding song in their set start on a key slightly higher than the previous song? And it's even more effective if they do it using using a "circle of fifths" sequence (ex: F-C-G-D-A-E...) rather than a straight linear (ex: D-E-F-G-A...) progression?

Smart rock groups have been doing that for years. Thmbsup
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« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2012, 09:54:29 PM »

I teared up a little listening to Whitney Houston's rendition of the American National Anthem yesterday. To state the obvious: I'm not American. huh

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jeUINzHK9o" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jeUINzHK9o</a>

40, did you mean Comfortably Numb? It's one of my favorites, along with Coming Back To Life.
« Last Edit: February 12, 2012, 10:07:57 PM by nosh » Logged
Renegade
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« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2012, 10:45:52 PM »

The Blues and Jazz genres have made extensive use of one version of this technique, although it's usually called a "blue note" rather than an appoggiatura.

In rock music, Pink Floyd also uses this technique so much it's almost a trademark for their dark-themed "Floyd" sound. Listen to the song Perfectly Numb for a classic example. There's a warbling (for lack of a better word) note in the accompaniment that runs almost all the way through the song that triggers a constant state of angst for most listeners - which is perfectly in keeping with the subject of the song.

Fun stuff.

Did you know a band can build audience excitement if they make each succeeding song in their set start on a key slightly higher than the previous song? And it's even more effective if they do it using using a "circle of fifths" sequence (ex: F-C-G-D-A-E...) rather than a straight linear (ex: D-E-F-G-A...) progression?

Smart rock groups have been doing that for years. Thmbsup


I didn't know about that circle of fifths trick! Wow!

But I must bring to attention one small point of order/blasphemy...


In rock music, Pink Floyd...


Pink Floyd isn't "rock music" -- they are a divine religion! Grin tongue

And speaking of blue notes...


<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhV4me_k8Y8" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhV4me_k8Y8</a>


David Gilmour is a god.


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tomos
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« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2012, 09:47:54 AM »

[off-topic] with apologies, but I couldnt let this pass:
every single video shown here is blocked/censored here by GEMA Germany [/off-topic]




edit/ I guess I'd better go out and buy them all ;-)
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Tom
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« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2012, 09:56:50 AM »

[off-topic] with apologies, but I couldnt let this pass:
every single video shown here is blocked/censored here by GEMA Germany [/off-topic]




edit/ I guess I'd better go out and buy them all ;-)

http://ipredator.se/

http://www.privacy.io/

They might help some. Not sure.

Not free, but hey, they don't keep logs.

I wrote up a bit about them here:

http://cynic.me/2011/10/0...nsorhip-internet-freedom/

There's another there somewhere as well.

I also posted a link in Living Room about this stuff... It might help.

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tomos
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« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2012, 10:04:01 AM »

^ yeah, thanks Renegade. I dont want to derail this thread, but I couldnt let that pass.
(I actually already have Adele's album "21", and Pink Floyd, well, I had it once, but it's one of those tracks you hear anyways...)
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Tom
40hz
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« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2012, 10:08:40 AM »

@nosh - I did mean Comfortably Numb. Sorry. I was still not fully recovered from the prior night out (seeing Tab Benoit!) when I posted that. Thanks for spotting it! Thmbsup
« Last Edit: February 13, 2012, 10:26:11 AM by 40hz » Logged

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« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2012, 10:24:36 AM »

More on-topic ;-)

I'm reminded of a series of videos recommended here by app - it's a different slant:

"Is our response to music hard-wired or culturally determined? Is the reaction to rhythm and melody universal or influenced by environment? Join host John Schaefer, scientist Daniel Levitin and musical artist Bobby McFerrin for live performances and cross cultural demonstrations to illustrate musics note-worthy interaction with the brain and our emotions."

World Science Festival 2009: Notes & Neurons

[...]

Full playlist here: http://www.youtube.com/pl...t?list=PL5BD17DD8540C180B

it's slow to get going. 10 videos alltogether, all with the same annoying long intro... But it is interesting if you have the time (I mostly just listened to it myself).
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Tom
40hz
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« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2012, 10:30:46 AM »

If there is an underlying science to humanity's response to music, I sincerely hope it's never discovered. Seriously. I hope it never is.

There's enough systematic manipulation of humans by other humans going on already. Please don't give people additional sharp objects they can then go out and poke other people with.   Cry
« Last Edit: February 13, 2012, 10:57:48 AM by 40hz » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: February 13, 2012, 10:57:37 AM »

I wish I had listened to that song at any other time. Literally so. My thermostat turned off ~30 minutes ago due to a different mode, and that makes the room lotsa colder all of a sudden. (It does that every day, but I'm too lazy to reprogram the stupid thing.)

Now I can't be sure if the test succeeded or if it is just my thermostat is messing me up. smiley
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40hz
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« Reply #12 on: February 13, 2012, 11:02:20 AM »

I wish I had listened to that song at any other time. Literally so. My thermostat turned off ~30 minutes ago due to a different mode, and that makes the room lotsa colder all of a sudden. (It does that every day, but I'm too lazy to reprogram the stupid thing.)

Now I can't be sure if the test succeeded or if it is just my thermostat is messing me up. smiley

I could suggest a new adaptive thermostat design to look at. But I was mocked for mentioning it in another DC forum thread, so I won't.  tongue
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« Reply #13 on: February 13, 2012, 06:13:33 PM »

If there is an underlying science to humanity's response to music, I sincerely hope it's never discovered. Seriously. I hope it never is.

There's enough systematic manipulation of humans by other humans going on already. Please don't give people additional sharp objects they can then go out and poke other people with.   Cry

+10

For anyone that has looked at documents that go over how to manipulate people... well... they're out there if you like a good horror documentary.
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TaoPhoenix
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« Reply #14 on: February 14, 2012, 01:05:11 PM »

If there is an underlying science to humanity's response to music, I sincerely hope it's never discovered. Seriously. I hope it never is.

There's enough systematic manipulation of humans by other humans going on already. Please don't give people additional sharp objects they can then go out and poke other people with.   Cry

+10

For anyone that has looked at documents that go over how to manipulate people... well... they're out there if you like a good horror documentary.


Heh I've written some of my own theories about music's effect on people, mostly to explore why I like or don't like certain songs. I am fairly "Mathematical" in my tastes. Construct a song with the correct ingredients such as powerhouse singer, good lyrics, and a few musical finesses. One of the reasons I tend not to like a lot of "Alternative" stuff is that the singer doesn't have enough power, and the lyrics are also often a bit bland. "So I was sitting on a park bench, eating an apple, thinking "baby, I wish I never yelled at you", but if I treat you right you'll be okay, won't you?"

The power singer can often cover for bad lyrics, and good lyrics can be sung slow (Pink Floyd), but if it's all scrambled, then it becomes blah.

Speaking of power singers, RIP Whitney.
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« Reply #15 on: February 14, 2012, 01:08:23 PM »

Speaking of Octave Shifts, try this one :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKkOZIfKcxM

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40hz
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« Reply #16 on: February 14, 2012, 03:58:11 PM »

For me, the big problem with a lot of emo and alternative music is the way it gets put together.

I'm of the 'old' school that says the melody has to stand on its own without anything else or it's not really what you can call a song. It might well be a riff, or a soundscape, or a texture (Yay techno!) - but to me it's not a song because there isn't a beginning, middle, and end with something (i.e. a message or story) which gets developed, explored, and realized by the ending.

And a lot of the 'not-a-song' problem comes from people working out a chord progression or sequence and then squeezing a melody of sorts out of that rather than writing the melody first, and then layering the accompaniment on top of it.

And because the so-called melody this "chords first" practice produces has been pushed out rather than composed, it often tends to be bland and somewhat boring.

Occasionally, you'll get lucky and strike gold doing the chords first. But it's largely hit or miss proposition. And not a good strategy for a songwriter that's in it for the long haul.

Most one-hit-wonders are good examples of getting lucky with something they fell over rather than composed. But it's hard to keep getting that sort of luck over and over. It's panning for gold rather than scientifically prospecting and then systematically mining a lode or following a vein of precious metal.

Most successful songwriters are very meticulous about their craft even if they're self taught or do it almost subconsciously after a while. They usually start with a fairly good idea of where they want to go and work from there. Writing music is as much a craft as it is an art. And practicing songwriting yields major benefits there as well. Much like it does almost everything else when you think about it. Some people are afraid that if they analyze their process too much they'll hurt their "creativity." Without getting into a big argument about it (and there are other opinions about this) being afraid of having your inspiration or creativity dry up is the identifying mark of the amateur. Professionals, many of whom are true artists, know it's a false worry. Mastering craft and paying attention to it doesn't hurt art - it liberates it by pushing all the mechanics to the background and providing you with a collection of tools to get things done. Once you have that, you soon discover your ideas flow constantly now that you're no longer struggling with the tools of your craft.

A music instructor I had said the acid test as to whether you've actually written a song is if you can sing it a capella and can hear that it still works "without any frosting or garnishes."

I'd have to largely agree. He used to say: try doing it different ways. Does it work as a prog rock piece? How about a blues number. Does it work when you slow it down. Or speed it up? Could it be scored for an SATB choral group? A Mariachi Band? Would it sound good played on an accordion? How about an oboe? Or an acoustic guitar?

If the answer was yes to most of that, he'd smile and say: Well congratulations then. Looks like you just wrote yourself a song!

One interesting thing about that exercise was that your Muse often came up with another six ideas for new songs while you were doing it.



Like my instructor used to say: Musical ideas are cheap. Musical ideas are easy to come up with. It's writing a decent song using those ideas that's hard. Or is until you do it enough that you finally learn how to stay out of your own way.

All my experience in music over the years has confirmed the truth of what he taught me. Cool

Your own mileage may vary. Grin Thmbsup

« Last Edit: February 15, 2012, 07:36:22 AM by 40hz » Logged

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momonan
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« Reply #17 on: February 15, 2012, 07:16:09 AM »

Procol Harum "Whiter Shade of Pale" gets me from the FIRST sliding note on the organ.  I see Cody likes it, too.
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8jJ1ORIOes" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8jJ1ORIOes</a>
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mouser
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« Reply #18 on: February 15, 2012, 03:36:27 PM »

Quote
I see Cody likes it, too.
ha! took me a while to spot him.


See if this one gets you -- Our Town by Iris Dement.  It definitely does me.  I think her voice is doing that thing the essay talks about:
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghVAH_WX-9I" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghVAH_WX-9I</a>
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40hz
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« Reply #19 on: February 15, 2012, 04:47:37 PM »

Procol Harum "Whiter Shade of Pale" gets me from the FIRST sliding note on the organ.  I see Cody likes it, too.



Ah yes! Whiter Shade of Pale and one of my all-time favorites Procol Harum.

One of the best reworkings of the melodic design Bach used in Air from Orchestra Suite NĀ°3

Here's the original. Listen to the descending bass line and how the two separate melodies interweave along with the overall melodic progression. Then listen again to Whiter Shade of Pale. With a little musical imagination you can interweave and intermix the two tunes and play different parts of each back and forth. Something one of the groups I used to be in "way back when" used to do.

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZS-HWIFyLsE" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZS-HWIFyLsE</a>

Now listen to a bit of Whiter Shade:

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2LzSItsQ80" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2LzSItsQ80</a>

The best version of Air to listen to for analysis (and if you can find it) is on Wendy (formerly Walter) Carlos' seminal Switched-on Bach album. Because all the lines are played on a very clean analogue synthesizer you can really hear each individual voice within the piece more clearly than you can if you listen to it performed on traditional instruments or our more modern sampling and modelling synthesizers.

To go back to my earlier comment about trying the melody out different ways to see if it still holds together under different performance scenarios or stylistic interpretations check out some of these takes on Johan's little masterpiece:

On saxaphone:

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zpaPX_5hwo" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zpaPX_5hwo</a>

On a nylon string guitar:

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hozNtIzN5s" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hozNtIzN5s</a>

Bass and harmonica:

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LyGDO2rFMb8" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LyGDO2rFMb8</a>

There's many more up on youtube if you're interested.

So...did Bach write himself a song or what? Grin Thmbsup

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IainB
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« Reply #20 on: February 15, 2012, 06:21:38 PM »

Thanks for that mouser. Very interesting.
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« Reply #21 on: February 16, 2012, 08:16:02 PM »


See if this one gets you -- Our Town by Iris Dement.  It definitely does me.  I think her voice is doing that thing the essay talks about:


+1 Iris Dement.
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Edvard
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« Reply #22 on: February 17, 2012, 01:54:25 PM »

Could the same be said of "inspirational" music?
Like some of the old-time hymns, modern "epic" soundtrack tunes, northern European power metal, Greensleeves fer pete's sake...

Hmmm... maybe this explains why, even as a die-hard metal fan, I get bored with much of it unless it has a good melody (vocal or instrumental) somewhere in the midst of all the chaos; I said a good melody.

Good article, could use a few more details, but thought-provoking.
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