The next time you break down in public because of a song, you can finally have something to blame. Perhaps, you thought you were just having a sensitive day or it was the stress of the week, but in actuality it’s those damn appoggiaturas having their way with you and everyone of us.
When it comes to songs that give us a good cry or result in goosebumps, we can no longer dismiss it as just the aching lyrics or the perfectly accompanying melody. It goes much deeper than that. These components are structures that send signals to our brain that create deep emotion and pleasure that result in an outward physical reaction.
As British psychologist John Sloboda learned 20 years ago during a simple experiment that had music lovers identify passages that evoked a physical response, there’s a musical device that actually plays into all this and it’s called “appoggiatura.” An appoggiatura is a note that’s created when melody takes on dissonant sound that creates tension in the listener. It’s when the tension is released and the song dips back down into the original melody that the body begins to feel good because of the song. When listeners hear that resolution of sound due to several appoggiaturas in motion, there is a cycle composed of both tension and release that causes such a strong reaction in our brain that we can’t help but bawl the second this starts to happen — or at the very least, get chills.
An example of a song that’s bound to have this effect on you is Adele’s “Someone Like You.” While modulating the pitch of her voice right before a new harmony, Adele and her song create a whole boat load of tension and resolution that play with our emotions.
As a cynic and one who has never heard an Adele song, I thought I’d put this theory to the test. Before you jump down my throat, yes, I have heard “Rolling in the Deep,” quite a few times, but didn’t know it was Adele. I don’t own a radio, OK? I am often moved to tears by songs, but I wanted to try this one because it was cited as an example.
My findings? Hell yeah, the goosebumps kicked in at 1:14 minutes into the song. Before the song was over, I was all over the place. I tried this three times and tried to fight it with each round. No such luck. I’m sure by the time I reach the fifth or sixth round there may even be tears. Now I finally understand the SNL skit that made fun of this phenomenon.
Give it a try and see if it works on you, too. But I suggest you remove your mascara before you give this a whirl. Even waterproof eye make-up is known to smudge occasionally.