Frisson (UK: /ˈfriːsɒn/ FREE-son, US: /friːˈsoʊn/ free-SOHN French: [fʁisɔ̃]; French for “shiver”), also known as aesthetic chills or psychogenic shivers, is a psychophysiological response to rewarding stimuli (including music, films, stories, and rituals) that often induces a pleasurable or otherwise positively-valenced affective state and transient paresthesia (skin tingling or chills), sometimes along with piloerection (goose bumps) and mydriasis (pupil dilation).
The Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium
When I was a kid–I’m guessing 10ish or so–my mother took me to a recital at The Met. I remember a harpsichord piece. I remember a harpsichord piece that filled the auditorium with sound that I would not have believed could possibly come out of such a dainty instrument. The piece began with a simple melody which repeated over and over, building upon itself and growing in intensity until the music filled the auditorium and left an indelible imprint within me. Fast forward 40+ years when I mentioned this recital to a musically inclined friend of mine, Josh Gilinsky, a director/composer who I’ve known since I was a kid. He suggested it might have been La Folia. And thus began my quest to find this piece that touched me so deeply as a kid. Now, years later of listening to dozens and dozens of recordings of La Folia, I believe I may have found that same piece I heard played at The Met. (First recording to the right).
As an aside, I also fell in love with Emilie Autumn’s performance of the same piece. (Second recording to the right)
This is an emotionally charged piece of music for me. When Meggie, my wife, Dominique, my daughter, and I were in Paris years ago, I found that La Folia was to be performed in Sainte-Chapelle, a reliquary in Paris, which I consider to be the most beautiful structure on the face of this earth. To hear La Folia performed here, in this transcendent building, was a dream come true. For whatever reason, Meggie convinced Dominique to stay with her and not join me for this concert. I don’t think I’ve ever forgiven Meggie for this. For me, this was a religious experience, and I felt sensations I subsequently learned are called frisson–chills, goosebumps, and tears rolling down my face. I would like to have shared this experience with a loved one, but alas, I was there all by myself. It still makes me sad to think of this to this day. Nevertheless, it was a powerful experience that I will cherish forever.