Why do some songs give people goosebumps, shivers and chills...

…or even tears or the feeling they want to cry? And I’m not just talking about those songs that a husband and a wife loved, then the wife died and every time he hears them he cries - I am talking songs that one does not have any real emotional attachment to (or even a song that someone has never heard before).

I’ve been wondering about this for a while. If anyone knows, you guys do.

Songs with lyrics are self-explanatory. A better question would be why does some instrumental music affect us this way? Why do we react emotionally to music at all, let alone some of the most powerful emotions in life?

There are some parts of the temporal lobe which are associated with both sound-processing and emotion. So perhaps there is some coupling between sound and emotional states?

The inverse doesn’t happen – emotions don’t trigger sounds – but a key difference may be that emotions don’t need to “fight” with the input from a sensory organ.

But bear in mind that even the question of why we listen to music in the first place; why patterns of sounds with just the right amount of repitition and surprise hold our attention, is itself up for grabs. Let alone nuances like dancing, earworms, emotional aspects etc.

Couldn’t one argue that emotions do indeed trigger sounds? A jazz musician who improvises a solo would often say that he “plays what he feels”. The same goes for classical Indian music (Hindustani) that is almost completely improvisational - the philosophical basis for Hindustani classical is an idea that the music should lift the listener into a powerful, all-consuming emotional state. The musician is a person who is able to attain that state and communicate it through playing/singing.

Yes, I wouldn’t be surprised if some virtuoso musicians “feel” music in this way.
And what an amazing skill it would be to have: they can imagine a feeling and project it onto the entire audience, via music.

But I meant something more literal than this. And besides, anyone can hear music and experience the feeling. But composing a melody that conveys a feeling is something only a skilled few can do.

Also, I realized another reason why the music->emotion triggering might be one-way: because it is a many to one relationship. Thousands of different melodies and chords might promote a particular emotion. So for that emotion, what sounds would it map to?
(OK, this is not a reason in itself, but it’s creeping towards one).