Sometimes music strikes the body like a bolt of lightning. “I was in a friend’s dorm room in my third year as an undergraduate,” Psyche Loui remembers. “Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 came up on the radio and I was instantly captivated.” A chill down the spine, fluttering in her stomach, a racing heart – the musical movements still send the same feelings surging through her body to this day. “There are these slight melodic and harmonic twists in the second half that always get me!” she says.
Loui is an accomplished pianist and violinist, but you don’t need to be an expert for a song or score to electrify the senses in this way; it can strike anyone, anytime – in a cathedral or a shopping mall, at a wedding or on the Tube. You may know these physical feelings as chills or tingles – but some people feel them so powerfully, they describe the sensations as “skin orgasms”. “The aesthetic experience can be so intense that you can’t do anything else,” says Loui.