Her say… His say…

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Stellar - - Contents - with Frances Whit­ing and Rory Gib­son.

How do you know if you love – re­ally love – a song? I ask be­cause in the car with a friend the other day, a song came on the ra­dio and she said, “Oh, I love this song so much, it makes my arms itch!”

I was tempted to say: “Are you sure? Per­haps it’s eczema,” but I didn’t be­cause I also have a phys­i­cal re­ac­tion to mu­sic that moves me.

In my case, if a song sings to me in a par­tic­u­lar way, my knees tingle. In fact, they tingle so much I’m sur­prised the vi­bra­tions aren’t picked up by one of those NASA satel­lites cir­cling the earth look­ing for alien life forms.

For ex­am­ple, one of my all-time favourite songs is ‘Never Tear Us Apart’ by INXS, par­tic­u­larly its swoon­ing sax­o­phone solo. Ev­ery time I hear it, my knees au­to­mat­i­cally be­gin tin­gling, and they don’t stop un­til the song’s end.

My friend Belinda says that when she hears a song she loves, she gets goose­bumps all over her thighs.

When her hus­band Colin overheard her telling me this, he said mourn­fully, “I wish I gave you goose­bumps all over your thighs” – but they’ve been mar­ried for more than 20 years, so I feel Colin has un­re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions.

Goose­bumps seem to be the most com­mon re­ac­tion to mu­sic, and peo­ple get them ev­ery­where – on their arms, their heads and some­times, if they’re lucky, all over their bod­ies.

Hairs ris­ing on the backs of the hands are ap­par­ently an­other com­mon re­ac­tion to mu­sic, pre­sum­ably among were­wolves.

But it was my friend Jes­sica’s re­ac­tion that sur­prised me most.

Her name isn’t re­ally Jes­sica, by the way, it’s Su­san.

It seems that when Jes­sica/su­san hears the notes of a par­tic­u­lar tune she adores – and look, there’s just no re­ally po­lite way of say­ing this – her nip­ples pop out like she’s just been un­ex­pect­edly caught in a sud­den down­pour, or spot­ted Colin Firth div­ing into a lake.

Songs can also give us a lump in the throat, or bring tears au­to­mat­i­cally to our eyes, and all of th­ese phys­i­cal – and emo­tional – re­sponses ap­par­ently have a base in sci­ence, or in the fact that ‘Macarthur Park’ is the sad­dest song ever writ­ten be­cause some fool left the cake out in the rain, and it took so long to bake it.

Not ev­ery­body has th­ese re­sponses to mu­sic, but those who do are found to have higher lev­els of neu­ral con­nec­tions be­tween their brain’s au­di­tory cor­tex, emo­tional pro­cess­ing centres and pre­frontal cor­tex.

All of which is a very fancy way of say­ing, “I’ve got the mu­sic in me.”

Do you? Let me know how – and which song – moves you. I’d love to hear. frances.whit­ing@news.com.au

“Ev­ery time I hear ‘Never Tear Us Apart’ by INXS my knees be­gin tin­gling”

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