10 Frisson-Inducing Songs (And the Definition of Frisson)

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Frisson is a word that comes from French meaning “a sudden, passing sensation of excitement; a shudder of emotion;” It can often be felt when listening to particularly moving songs, or emotionally fraught moments in movies. Also real life, but it’s hard to link to real life.

Of course, frisson is hard to explain, but easy to demonstrate. For that purpose, here’s a list of 10 songs, in no particular order, that are likely to cause frisson. In fact, if you can get through the whole list without feeling a single shiver of excitement, you might want to get a Voight-Kampff test because you’re a robot, fam.

1. Sigur Ros – Festival

An ethereal-sounding post-rock band from Iceland, Sigur Ros exemplify why people are rightfully enthralled and terrified by Iceland.

2. Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah

Jeff Buckley recorded this Leonard Cohen cover in 1994. Did you know one of definitions of hallelujah is, “a musical composition wholly or principally based upon the word ‘hallelujah.'” In other words: Hallelujah! Jeff Buckley covered the hallelujah “Hallelujah.”

3. Steven Sharp Nelson – Nearer My God to Thee (for 9 Cellos) – arr. James Stevens

Steven Sharp Nelson is a cello performer who has recorded a number of popular covers of songs using solely or principally cellos. He has no stated plans to record a “Cello Goodbye” cover.

4. Led Zeppelin – Going to California

“What are you tryin’ to tell me here, little man? That you don’t like Zep?” — Brock Samson, fictional character

5. Vaughan Williams – Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis Part 1 | Part 2

This piece, composed in 1910, is scored to resemble an organ in sound by dividing the orchestra into three separate sections.

6. Gustav Holst – Mars, the Bringer of War (from The Planets)

Fake history: One time, Gustav Holst wondered what the planets  would sound like if they were music. From 1914-1916, he worked to come up with an unscientific but very entertaining musical work. This is only one piece from the seven-movement piece.

Interesting fact: There are only seven movements because Earth did not get one, and Pluto was getting cold dissed even back then. (Actually, Pluto wasn’t discovered until 1930).

7. Camille Saint-Saëns – Danse Macabre

According to legend, Death appears every year at midnight on Halloween, and raises the dead to dance for him until dawn. Danse Macabre is a figurative representation of this: the violin solo is the devil fiddling, the xylophone represents the rattling bones of the dead, and the oboe at the very end is the rooster’s crow signaling dawn.

And you thought classical music was boring.

8. Björk – All Neon Like

See: Sigur Ros, in re enthralling / terrifying.

9. Interpol – Hands Away
Interpol is an indie rock band from New York City, a place that might not know salsa, but sure knows music.

10. Franz Liszt – Ungarische Phantasie Part 1 | Part 2

Franz Liszt was a 19th century composer, conductor, and piano virtuoso. Which is true, but inaccurate, considering the guy was an absolute rock star.

This is how I like to imagine Franz Liszt

Bonus Video: Miracle (2004)

U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

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{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Amber July 21, 2017, 11:30 pm

    I test low in openness to experience and experience frisson all the time. None of these songs did it for me though. I’m all kinds of contrary! Lol

  • Brother John September 7, 2015, 9:36 pm

    Honorable Mentions:

    Genesis – After the Ordeal
    Renaissance – The Sisters
    Steve Hackett – Deja Vu
    Elton John – The One
    Moody Blues – Late Lament

  • Justin August 1, 2014, 10:43 am

    Bands like Mono (Japan) and Russian Circles also produce music with frisson

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