May 3, 2014

What is a piece of music that gives you chills in spite of your better judgment?

Yesterday's question "What Was the Last Piece of Music that Gave You the Chills?" got a big response in the comments, and it made me want to break out a separate question. Many commenters are naming exalted, high-class pieces of music that are exactly what one rationally believes should give us chills:
rhhardin said...
Faure piano quintet 2....

Anglelyne said...
Every other piece I've got on my "walkin' around" mp3 clip does that to me. Exhausting, if I go out for too long a walk. Last chill up: Jessye Norman does Dido's Lament. (As one of the youtube commenters remarks: "pure heavenly misery".)
I'm sorry, I clicked on the "Dido's Lament" and that guy making pizza dough to an irritating drumbeat came on. Will that guy ever get his damned pizza made? That was so not sublime! It's like Rickrolling, but without the fun of getting pranked. I have had it with that man. (← Althouse's Lament.)

But this feeling we are talking about is a physical sensation, some phenomenon in the nervous system, similar to a sexual response, and everyone, I think, will concede that sexual excitement often results from the perception of something that isn't at all exalted and high-class. I'm not asking you to tell me the most embarrassing/degrading thing that has sexually aroused you. In fact, it would be more interesting to ask: What's the most exalted, high-class sight/sound that ever sexually excited you?

So... sticking to yesterday's topic of music that gives you the chills, I want to focus not on the last thing that gave you the chills, but instances of getting the chills from hearing a piece of music that at a rational level you believe is unworthy of the response. I don't want to pick on any commenter, but I thought of this question as a result of this comment:
gadfly said...
Whitney Houston - I Will Always Love You
Maybe you think that song is exalted, and maybe part of the response to it now has to do with sorrow over the decline and death of a gifted singer, but I think that if that song gave me chills, my rational mind would fight my physical body. I'd be self-judgmental — not harshly, because I'm not snobby about music, but in a humorous self-deprecating way. I'm not ashamed, here:

77 comments:

David said...

Unchained Melody.

See, I got a chill just typing the title. (Seriously.)

pm317 said...

".at a rational level you believe is unworthy of the response. I don't want to pick on any commenter, but I thought of this question as a result of this comment:

gadfly said...
Whitney Houston - I Will Always Love You"

----------------
Sorry to say, Althouse, you did show your snobby self there. On the last thread, I didn't name my pick (Scheharazade) for its exalted, high-class quality but because that is one I was listening to that morning and there are so many. And, with that I say, parts of Houston's "I will always love you" gives me the chill, rational or not. Music is personal. And melody within a shabby(?) piece of music can still give you the chills.

Laslo Spatula said...

Emerson Lake & Palmer: Mussorgsky's 'Pictures at an Exhibition."

Oso Negro said...

Yes, to the first question, I am forced to agree with David. That damn song gets me viscerally, while filling my head with images of middle-aged New Jersey suburbanites rushing the dance floor when the holiday party band hits the opening notes.

Your posed, but unasked question, is of course, irresistible to answer, as you surely know. For me, it was a Greek bronze bust of woman I saw in the Metropolitan Museum of Art sometime in the 1980s. My conclusion was that it was a hell of a sculpture that could inspire male arousal 2,000 years after it was made.

eagledove9 said...

Our Muzak where I work plays the same list of songs every day, which is torture, but I have one or two that I sort of like - and my coworkers hate. Taylor Swift's '22' comes on, and I'll hum along and get chills when she says "We're happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time; It's miserable and magical, oh, yeah..." I don't think that this is the most amazing song ever written, but just that little bit of it speaks to me somehow, and it happens to be the song that's running through my head this morning.

I was in a forum recently where someone mentioned something called ASMR, which is similar but might not be exactly the same thing. "Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is a neologism for a perceptual phenomenon characterized as a distinct, pleasurable tingling sensation in the head, scalp, back, or peripheral regions of the body in response to visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, and/or cognitive stimuli. The nature and classification of the ASMR phenomenon is controversial.[1]"

Jason said...

No. Houston's performance of "I Will Always Love You" was genuinely exquisite. One for the ages.

Those who were listening knew it at the time.

Here she is at age 19, in her TV debut on the Merv Griffin show. Very young, but an incredibly mature singer already.

She was the real deal. It wasn't her death that made her great. She was great, despite her end.

Meade said...

Searching For A Soldier's Grave
covered by Bob Dylan, live in Atlanta.

Michael K said...

Thank for that post yesterday. I spent the next half hour, it seemed, listening to Organ Symphony. That and Ferde Grofe's Grand Canyon Suite, got me interested in classical music. I was in college. I still enjoy them.

Mark said...

Houston's screeching of "I will always love you," making a travesty of Dolly Parton's classic, is chilling because screeching sounds tend to cause chills.

persiflage mahal said...

I know it's way, way too familiar, but the opening guitar chords of "Baba O'Riley" still evoke the same sense of grandeur and unlimited possibility that they did when I first heard them at the age of twelve.

Patrick O said...

I think you should use the term "goosies" in this post instead of chills.

ganderson said...

"Row Jimmy". I saw the Grateful Dead at Winterland; 3/20/1977. Row Jimmy had not been one of my favorite Dead tunes, but Garcia's solo that night send a chill up my spine/brought tears to my eyes/etc, etc. And no, I was NOT intoxicated. You can find it on the Internet Archive.

rhhardin said...

Maybe you have to follow the voice leading in Faure - I could always play anything I heard by ear.

Do you want Terry Southern's gourmet Magic Christian

FleetUSA said...

Maybe snobbish but "Un bel di" from the opera Madame Butterfly is highly sexual for me.

Bob said...

"Jessye Norman does Dido's Lament"

Talk about cultural appropriation.

Bob Ellison said...

Oh, well, that's much like a party game that I bring up: Name the most embarrassing song that you actually really like. I have the game-winner in my pocket, but it's fun to see how the game progresses.

Anglelyne said...

Sorry your click drew the unskippable pizza ad (mine didn't), but you could, like, mute the sucker. La Norman and Purcell are worth a few seconds silent wait.

...but I think that if that song gave me chills, my rational mind would fight my physical body. I'd be self-judgmental — not harshly, because I'm not snobby about music...

If you're "self-judgmental" about responding to a piece of music it's uncool to like, you're snobby about music. Whitney Houston could wail, and Dolly Parton could write a pretty tune. A musically sophisticated non-snob could be indifferent to those charms, but only a snob would be ashamed of responding to them.

Not to say that there's something wrong or inhuman about the "snob" response. I have those responses, just not to music - though I could. If I found myself, say, enjoying Katy Perry, I'd feel unclean.

...but in a humorous self-deprecating way.

I was moved in an entirely unmediated, non-self-deprecating way by this Dolly Parton version. Snob trigger warning: Porter Wagoner in sequins. And an ad.

Bill Crawford said...

"Come a Long Way" by Michelle Shocked

The Drill SGT said...

The year was 1977. The place Boeblingen FRG. I was at a BierFest with friends including the wife of my Colonel.

We were sitting on a bench drinking beer when the Oompahpa band seqwayed into the Panzerlied (the drinking song of the WWII German Army Tankers).

My wife thought the crowd singing along was great local color. The Colonel's wife and I looked at each other like we were the Jews sitting at the table in the back of the Cabaret. We left soon after.

Boeblingen was the training school for tankers in WWII

Panzerlied

Ann Althouse said...

"I think you should use the term "goosies" in this post instead of chills."

Yes, this is the standard of judgment applied by Jennifer Lopez on "American Idol."

I have had it with reports from her body, but it must be weird to be her and to have had so much public fixation on her body for so many years. She has reason to believe that people do want to hear not from her mind but from her body.

Meade said...

For full on Dolly chills, you might need something higher fi than YouTube. (That video does catch her at her peak of visual Dolly-ness though).

Cedarford said...

Most recent was Lorde's "Royals". It helps to see that unique young woman sing it..thrilling stuff.

Before that, I'd say Lady Gaga's techno-pop dance number "Bad Romance"..voice and some of the lyrics and the meaning..just amazing and totally chilling in a good way.

There have been musical artists that confess to crassness, that they don't care about the "art"..they just want to get the right 'hooks' in certain songs to sell..But I like them anyways..A lot of Whitney Houston's product was like that, so was ELO, the old act "The Carpenters", and so on.

In the late 80s, in school, I loved Roxette. The other day, after a long time away from listening, I hauled up their vids and you tube performances, and an inspiring comeback from cancer performance by a totally changed Marie Fredericksson.
"It must have been love" gave me chills then, it gives me chills now.

Presley Bennett said...

Kevin Fowler's Beer, Bait & Ammo

Ann Althouse said...

"If you're "self-judgmental" about responding to a piece of music it's uncool to like, you're snobby about music. Whitney Houston could wail, and Dolly Parton could write a pretty tune. A musically sophisticated non-snob could be indifferent to those charms, but only a snob would be ashamed of responding to them."

Maybe I haven't expressed myself clearly enough. I didn't say anything about feeling uncool. I even said at the end that I'm not ashamed to respond to those 2 movie themes.

The mental judgment I'm discussing is the rational assessment that something isn't very good that is in contradiction to the body's response. Then the mind struggles with the disparity in whatever way, which could be shame. It could also be amusement or further critical thinking. Whatever.

Personally, I am not a snob about music, and I don't have much to say about music. I don't study it or attempt to elevate my taste or try to get others to like what they ought to like.

The story of me and music is almost entirely about what has happened to emotionally move me over the years, and much of it has to do with what affected me when I was much younger. I don't tend to bond to anything new now, for whatever reason.

I am rooting for Alex on "American Idol" though.

Anyway, as to Whitney Houston, I just never liked those hammy ballads. I much prefer to hear Dolly sing her own song, in that sweet, sad, gentle way. I think it conveys a more interesting meaning, and I just don't like overpowering singing.

By the same token, I loved The Who before they switched to their extravagant "Tommy" and post-"Tommy" style, back in the days of "I Can't Explain." And I can't explain. If I was good at writing about music -- which is extremely hard to do -- I'm sure I'd have intellectual reasons for that and if I did, I might have reason to believe in the correctness of my preference, but I haven't developed my mind in that direction, and I don't think it's where my talents lie.

Ann Althouse said...

Having used the phrase "Reason to Believe" in each of my last 2 comments, I feel compelled to add that I could get chills from Rod Stewart's old "Reason to Believe," which I confess to occasionally playing on repeat.

Other songs in my iTunes that I enjoy in repeat mode, that might be cheesy but affect me: Willie Nelson singing "Rainbow Connection," The Monkees "I Wanna Be Free," and Oliver "Good Morning Starshine."

Meade said...

I'll bet you'd enjoy Dylan's own unplugged version of the song that electrified the folkies (in a bad way) when he plugged in 40 or so years earlier.

Patrick O said...

To answer: >Man or Muppet comes to mind, when I saw the movie in the theater.

One of the bigger chills was when I was flying to Ireland, woke up around 3am. Turned on the radio and heard Be Thou My Vision (that's not the cheesy part), by Roma Downey (that's the cheesy part) who had a spoken section. Got the chills while I listened and looked out at the shamrock on the wingtip of the Aer Lingus plane.

Another, is the best of Kenny Rogers CD, which has a few. Coward of the County, Don't fall in love with a dreamer.

Theme songs sometimes do it too. Like Band of Brothers, Cheers, more recently the Justified theme song.

LarryK said...

I think the music that gives you chills depends on where you are emotionally; different songs resonate differently depending on what else is happening in your life.

Having said that, last Saturday "Here You Are" by The Greencards popped up through my iPod shuffle, and it slayed me.

Gahrie said...

Am I the only person in the world who still thinks of Dolly Parton when he hears that song?

William said...

The themes from the Magnificent Seven and the Big Country always make me want to do something brave and glorious. You can't really call such music low brow, but they never make the concert programs either.......Whitney Houston had a big, soaring voice but there was something manipulative about it. She upstaged the melody. Ella Fitzgerald, by contrast, embraced the melody.

Zedediah Grimm said...

Anything by Kelly Clarkson. She is my guilty pleasure and as a man in my 50s, I have been mocked enlessly when my coworkers hear me wailing 'Since You Been Gone', 'Miss Independent' or 'Behind These Hazel Eyes.'

garage mahal said...

I'm going to jump in with Christina Aguilera . This woman really does it for me. I say this slightly embarrassed.

Mark said...

In addition to Dolly's version (actually her revised version for Best Little Whorehouse is even more emphatic), not chills, exactly, but more tears because of lost love is Vesti la guibba, where after he has had his heart utterly broken and he wants to die inside, Canio realizes that he must play the clown - the show must go on, life must go on.

Ridi, Pagliaccio,
sul tuo amore infranto!
Ridi del duol, che t'avvelena il cor!

William said...

If I were a recruiting sergeant for the Marines, I would play the theme from the Magnificent Seven or the Big Country subtly in the background as I discussed the educational opportunities available in he Marines.

Fernandinande said...

How about dumb songs that get stuck in your head?

Arlo Guthrie's ode to President Carter, "Bunny Wunny"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlO6OwSXbrE
(Song starts @about 2:30)

"I don't want a bunny-wunny in my widdle row boat,
In my widdle row boat in the pond.

Cuz the bunny might be cwazy and he bite me in the throat,
In my widdle row boat in the pond."

rcocean said...

Hmm..well first I don't really get "chills" when listening to music, except for the 2 pieces I mentioned earlier. However, the following lighter music made me tear up a little or feel happier:

- La Marseilles from "Casablanca"
- Its Magic - Doris Day
- Marine Corps Hymn - from End of "Sands Of Iwo Jima".
- Swing, Swing, Swing - Benny Goodman Carnegie hall Concert
- Potato Head Blues - Louie Armstrong
- Sloop John B - The beach boys

Robert Cook said...

A song that gives me chills despite my best judgement (let's highlight that) is Celine Dion's "Taking Chances."

To put forth a possible new blog post subject: A band that leaves me absolutely cold, that can't help but leach every bit of musicality from every note they play, is the Grateful Dead. It's not just that I dislike them...I cannot imagine anything about their music that anyone could find enjoyable. Their music is soggy, limp, vague.

But then, I enjoy Lou Reed's METAL MACHINE MUSIC and John Coltrane's ASCENSION, Captain Beefheart--but not Zappa--punk rock and easy listening songs of the 70s, so...there's no understanding personal tastes, is there?

Titus said...

Mussorgsky's 'Pictures at an Exhibition."-agree

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...


How about the "Whoa-oh" in "Walkin' On Sunshine"?

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

Bob Ellison said...
Oh, well, that's much like a party game that I bring up: Name the most embarrassing song that you actually really like. I have the game-winner in my pocket, but it's fun to see how the game progresses.


"Alone Again (Naturally)"

Bill Flynn said...

Talk about unexpected...SUDDENLY SEYMOUR from LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. My recollection is that the woman does a key change and a push with her voice that just brings tears to my eyes.

Achilles said...

"Imagine."

Bob Ellison said...

SomeoneHasToSayIt, that's a good play. I submit "You Don't Give Me Flowers Anymore".

Bob Ellison said...

Bill Flynn, it's not a key change. When Audrey starts singing, the beat suddenly changes from 4/4 to 12/8. You're right; it's quite powerful.

furious_a said...

Traffic: "Heaven is in Your Mind". The chills start with the saxophone and intensify with trailing harmonizing.

These guys: "Lo, Es Ist Ein' Ros Entsprungnen". I'm still shivering.

furious_a said...

Also, the regimental song Daniel Dravott (Sean Connery) sang on the way to his execution in The Man who Would Be King. The same song played in the closing credits of Blackhawk Down.

Bob Ellison said...

No, I'm wrong. The beat doesn't change. The drop happens-- drums and bass come in-- but the basic beat is the same.

"Suddenly Seymour" really is a good composition. Fascinating conflict between a background that's basically 4/4 and a melody full of triplets. It builds up tension beautifully.

The rest of the songs in Little Shop of Horrors are quite good, too. Levi Stubbs anchored it as the evil plant. There's a reason he was one of the Four Tops. I like the set-up song "Skid Row", too.

Jason said...

I submit that Dolly Parton's greatest chill-inducing moment was not on her recordings of "IWALY" at all, but in several moments throughout her great recording of "Silver Dagger" on the album "The Grass is Blue," and also on the song "The Grass is Blue," itself. But not on the CD. There's a live recording out there that's better than the recorded version.

Jason said...

Jerry Douglas's dobro solo on Alison Krauss & Union Station's live version of "New Favorite," On the Live double CD.

Everyone in the hall knew what just happened, too.

Joe said...

I have two. Crooked Finger's Luisa's Bones, right at the line:
You take the road, I'll take the river,
You bring the fire, I'll bring the jewels.
And in the evening underneath the roaring sky,
we will meet and wait and pray for a monsoon.


The second is Finley Quayes Dice.
Nothin' can compare to when you roll the dice
and you swear your love's for me


Breathtaking.

Nichevo said...

Thank you, furious_a. I nominate "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" also by Traffic. one could go on...Wish You Were Here...Ennio Morricone's Spaghetti Westerns work...Radar Love...

There's chills, and then there's getting caught up in the music, and things are happening faster than you can perceive and you think, perhaps, of Jimmy Doolittle talking about how if he had been shot down over Tokyo he intended to pick out the brightest light he could see and ram it with what remained of his B-25. Then you shake your head and wonder why the rest of the world wants to mess with us.

Excuse me, I had a moment. Harvey Keitel would understand.

Nichevo said...

oh I should say, better judgement, whatever. I don't even know what that means. It gives you chills or it doesn't.

Phil 3:14 said...

"To put forth a possible new blog post subject: A band that leaves me absolutely cold, that can't help but leach every bit of musicality from every note they play, is the Grateful Dead. It's not just that I dislike them...I cannot imagine anything about their music that anyone could find enjoyable. Their music is soggy, limp, vague."



Well it finally happened, a comment by Robert Cook I completely agree with.

(And in this category, the Doors are a close second for me.)

Phil 3:14 said...

As for a sappy song that gives me chills,

Come what may (I will always love you to the end of time)

The Drill SGT said...

furious_a said...
Also, the regimental song Daniel Dravott (Sean Connery) sang on the way to his execution in The Man who Would Be King. The same song played in the closing credits of Blackhawk Down.


Minstrel Boy

another fav:

SGT MacKenzie

Marie said...

Achilles said...
"Imagine."


While that song doesn't give me goosebumps, it does make my skin crawl.

Clyde said...

Katy Perry - The One That Got Away (Acoustic)

For some reason, it hits me right there.

Bob Ellison said...

I'm with Robert Cook and Phil 3:14 on the Grateful Dead. Such bad singing, such lack of beat, such general crappiness. Maybe you gotta be high to think they were good.

hombre said...

"Maybe you think that song is exalted, and maybe part of the response to it now has to do with sorrow over the decline and death of a gifted singer, but I think that if that song gave me chills, my rational mind would fight my physical body."

The Country Channel selected "I Will Always Love You" as number one of their all-time Top 100 Country Love Song. Probably just the irrational reaction of a bunch of "bitter clingers," eh, Professor?

Personally, I prefer "Crazy" by Patsy Cline, although Hardin's Faure Quintet, which I'd never heard, is pretty sweet.

grackle said...

It was many years ago, around 1963 I guess(I'm 71 yrs. old). At the time I was a dedicated folky – Joan Baez, the Limelighters, Odetta, etc. I was hanging with friends from St. John's U. in Annapolis. We used to sit in dark rooms listening intensely to the latest acceptable record.

A friend got me to reluctantly agree to go to a WOAI Good Guys rock concert in NYC.

Some of the performers: Leslie Gore, Paul Anka, Bob Lind. I was surprised at how good they were. Especially Lind's one hit, "The Elusive Butterfly of Love." The lyrics are so poetic and clever.

Then came the headliner: James Brown, with his Famous Flames band. There was a long runway from the stage out into the audience. At a long drum roll he dashed out, slid on his knees for about 20 yards to the mic at the end of the runway, did a perfect pirouette to his knees and launched into "Night Train."

I have NEVER seen such raw power in a performer. I could feel every hair on my body stand up. I realized then that I was witnessing something rare and splendid, despite my "better judgement." The audience went wild, literally wild.

Since then I listen to all music on its own terms. I gave up my "better judgement" way back then.

Krumhorn said...

Jordan Sparks singing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl a few years ago. I wasn't expecting how gorgeous and well-designed the arrangement was. Who would have thought? The Super Bowl? Jordan Sparks?

I still have a chubby.

-Krumhorn

Jason said...

Brown was... a force of nature.

EDH said...

Springsteen's rendition of Jimmy Cliff's "Trapped".

Manipulative, maybe.

But it can be quite stirring, particularly live, alternating between the haunting metronomic verses and the rising choruses, delivering quintessentially Springsteen themes of doubt and redemption punctuated with gospel fervor.

DimeStoreDave said...

Faded Love - Patsy Cline

Christy said...

Ravel's Bolero. Cheesy because 10.

Scott M said...

Outro by the band M83. The Wachowski brothers used it on their Cloud Atlas trailer, possibly one of the best trailers evah.

Iapetus said...

"Moi...Lolita" sung by Alizee.

Col Mustard said...

We'll meet again - Vera Lynn

Koppangen - Anne Sofie von Otter

Another brick in the wall - Pink F

Emigrant Eyes - Dolores Keane

Long Journey Home - Chieftains & Elvis Costello

Bright Blue Rose - Mary Black

Danny Boy - Eva Cassidy

Vietnam (Whoopie, We're All Gonna Die) - Country Joe & the Fish

Four Strong Winds - Ian & Sylvia

Cat's in the Cradle - Harry Chapin

Somewhere Over the Rainbow - IZ

ganderson said...

Phil 3:14 ( Robert Cook and Bob Ellison- I get why people don't like the Dead- I've actually left shows that were on the road to nowhere- and if you are looking for high quality singing, well.... but for me it's all about Garcia and his melodies- he can take the melody of a song and run it through a bunch of permutations. It can be wonderful. I agree about the Doors- always thought they were fatuous.

ganderson said...

Also LOVE Marie Fredriksson

Jason said...

Ravel's Bolero. Because "Caveman."

Jason said...

I get chills whenever I hear Dolores Keane, too.

Or maybe that's just her DTs, rubbing off on me.

southcentralpa said...

The Pilgrim's Chorus from Tannhaeuser...

Crunchy Frog said...

Oh God, how I absolutely detest "Crazy". I used to go to a lot of karaoke bars, and without fail, there would always be some drunk 60-something woman who thought she could sing and would do her damnedest to make my ears bleed.

As far as guilty pleasures go - "Baby One More Time" from Britney Freaking Spears gets me every time.

Iapetus said...

"Alli Mia Fora" by Antique...although Helena P. is absolutely drop-dead gorgeous

Achilles said...

Marie said...
Achilles said...
"Imagine."

While that song doesn't give me goosebumps, it does make my skin crawl.


Don't get me wrong. These are the goose bumps you get when you see or hear something really evil. So many people have died because idiots fall for what that song represents.

Nichevo said...

In all this time I am surprised nobody has thought to mention the "Deguello" or even "Taps".