Why Music Gives Me Goose Bumps

No new album review today, but a slightly different topic, still related to music.

Goose bumps

One of my very early and quite popular blog posts was about the emotional impact of music. I called it “Top 10 Music That Gives Me Goose Bumps”, followed by two posts with readers suggestions to the same topic (you’ll find them here and here, please do check them out as they give some excellent music recommendations).

To me, emotional music up to a point that it triggers physical reaction, is totally normal. Right? Music touches us very deeply, that’s why we all listen to it, and crazy people like me even spend a significant amount of there spare time writing about it (with a much larger chunk of the same spare time spent listening to it).

So, this must be a universal thing, right?

Turns out it’s not.

Some science

I actually have a science background (even if I moved out of science early in my career). So I’m still very interested in science, even if today instead of having a subscription to Science (yes, I had that in my early years, a bit over the top I admit if you’re not in acacemia), I now follow science more via the layman’s press and increasingly also via social media.

I came across this article Brain connectivity reflects human aesthetic responses to musicpublished in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience late 2016.

It already starts with an interesting statement: Humans routinely experience pleasure in response to higher order stimuli that confer no clear evolutionary advantage. They then quickly explain that it is highly unlikely that our appreciation of arts has no evolutionary advantage, because otherwise it would not have survived that long.

Later in that article they describe the fact that not everyone experiences intense emotional responses to music. It’s hard for me to believe when you’re so passionate about a topic, but by observation, I must admit they are right.

And here comes the fun part: Real-time ratings of experienced pleasure and psychophysiological measures recorded during music listening showed quantifiable differences between individuals who report experiencing chills and individuals who do not. Ok, chills probably is the better word than goose bumps (clearly showing that I’m not a native speaker).

So, what are those differences? Well, it turns out it’s all about white matter connectivity. Turns out, if you’re reading this blog, your brain is probably wired somewhat differently to the average population.

I assume we should just enjoy the fact that our brains have developed such a powerful connectivity, and go back to enjoying music immediately!

Music That Gives My Readers Goose Bumps – Part II

As promised in my previous posts on this topic (check them out here and here), I still needed to publish more of my readers recommendations of Music that gives them (and me as well) goose bumps. By the way, if you want some scientific insight to what’s happening during these goose bumps moments, it has even been studies and published in NATURE: (see here for link). Their summary is that “These results indicate that intense pleasure in response to music can lead to dopamine release in the striatal system”, in a nutshell you produce your own drugs! Nice isn’t it? Here we go (again, no particular order).

Mahler: Symphony no. 5 – the famous Adagietto, well known from the movie Death in Venice among others

Here played by Claudio Abbado

Orff: Cour d’amours from the Carmina Burana – well, I’m not a big fan of this work in general, but I must admit that part is touching:

Several Wagner operas were mentioned, for example:

Parsifal – Final Scene:

Early music has some fantastic moments, like this one from Tallis:

Anton Bruckner was mentioned a couple of times, let me illustrate by taking the first movement of symphony no. 4:

Camille Saint-Saens: Organ Symphony

Several Rachmaninov symphonic works were mentioned, let me illustrate again by Isle of the Dead:

Thank you again to all of you who have contributed, and do not hesitate to send me more!

Music That Gives My Readers Goose Bumps – part I

My rather spontaneous post about  my top 10 music that gives me goose bumps inspired by Cosi Fan Tutte turned out to be my most successful post by far.

I’ve received a lot of feedback on different social media sites and fora, it would be too much of a pity not to share this, as there is excellent stuff in there I could have mentioned myself. Listed below in random order. I’ll quote the source’s avatar name in brackets, and my little personal comment (if any) right next to it.

To make these posts manageable I’ll only list 10 per post. Again, source are all publicly available Youtube links.

Expect more to come.

By the way, I’d really appreciate hearing more from you, this has been extremely fun so far!

Mozart: Piano Concerto no. 21 – Andante (GuidoF) – oh yes absolutely, this piece I’ve even added to the soundtrack of my own wedding video.

Bach’s b-minor mass (GuidoF) – sure, I’ve already posted about it here.

Ravel: Ma Mère l’Oie (SonnetCLV) – Ravel really has extremely touching moments

Berg: Lulu’s death (Albert7) – I’m not a Berg fan across the board, but this is beautiful

Verdi: Don Carlo – Et giammai m’amo (GuidoF) – among my favorite Verdi operas as well

Vivaldi: Gloria RV589 (accwai) – Yes yes yes, can’t be bothered with most of Vivaldi, but this one is great!

Scarlatti: Sonata K213 (accwai) – In a recent twitter conversation with Jens F. Laurson (@classicalcritic) he seemed shocked by my somehow dismissive comment here about Scarlatti leaving me cold. Well, he has a point, and I’ve since changed my mind. This is another case in point.

Bantock: Celtic Symphony (Metairie Road) – have to admit had never heard this before, but beautiful

Brahms: Alto Rhapsody (Andolink) – I doubt Andolink has read my blog post about it, but he recommended exactly the same Herreweghe recording – nice.


Bach: Largo from the Double Concerto BWV1043 – oh yeah, this needs a future blog post.

That’s all for today, as said before, more to come! And please, give me more!

Top 10 Music That Gives Me Goose Bumps

When I started this blog less than 2 months ago, I set myself a clear unwritten rule of NOT intending to write posts with top 10 lists.

Well, rules are there to be broken, let’s take a walk on the wild side, baby!

A soon to be published post on Cosi Fan Tutte, gave me the idea for this post.

All of the below are melodies that will never leave me untouched.

The versions below are not necessarily representative of what I’d recommend as reference for the particular classical work, it was what I found on Youtube so everybody hopefully should be able to access it.

The ranking is fully artificial, and could totally change tomorrow.

If you have any additions or suggestion, please comment!

1. Soave Sia Il Vento from Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte

2006 Glyndebourne recording, Ivan Fischer

See also my review of Cosi Fan Tutte with Yannick Nézet- Seguin.


2. Brahms: Symphony no. 1 (4th movement, starting around 30:00)


Wilhelm Furtwängler, NDR Sinfonieorchester

See also my post on Brahms Symphony 1 and why it means so much to me for more info.


3. Keith Jarrett: My Song

From the “Carnegie Hall Concert” 2006. Could also have taken the original from the 1978 album with Jan Garbarek, but didn’t find it on Youtube. See a review on this amazing album here.


4. Mozart: C-minor mass KV427: Domine Deus

Elīna Garanča, Diana Damrau

See my reviews of two great versions here and here


5. Bach: St. Matthew Passion: Wir setzen uns in Tränen nieder

Ton Koopman

See my review of my favorite versions here and here.


6. Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong: Summertime

From Porgy and Bess


7. Händel: Rinaldo : Lascia ch’io pianga

Cecilia Bartoli

Find a review of my favorite Rinaldo recording here.


8: Schubert: Ständchen

Hans Hotter

Also outstanding in the piano only version


9. Dido & Aeneas: Dido’s Lament

Simone Kermes; Teodor Currentzis


10. Genesis: The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway: Carpet Crawlers

1974 album

All sources: Youtube.


I’ve now published two follow-up posts with readers finds on music that gives them goose bumps here.