Over the years, I have come to accept the fact that I am moved to tears more than most. And through examining just why I find my tear ducts unhinging so frequently—and so easily—I’ve found it has less to do with my melancholy disposition and more to do with my thin exterior of sensitivity. The tears I shed aren’t always ones of sadness or despair, but more often than not of a kind of joy in experiencing something moving—the way one might get goosebumps or chill when in the presence of something awe-inspiring. But when it comes to music, that sensitivity is amplified and to be honest, you don’t want to be near me when Max Richter’s “On the Nature of Daylight” begins playing.
But these visceral, physiological responses to art often manifest themselves in many outward reactions, and in ‘The Science of Opera’ actor Stephen Fry and comedian Alan Davies test just what happens when they hook themselves up to sensors while attending Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra at the Royal Opera House. With a panel of researchers from University College London, the show explores the physiological reaction of watching the opera—heart rate, sweat, and “various other emotional responses.” Speaking to the distinction between the physiological effect music, neurobiologist Michael Trimble says that it’s “different from all other arts," with other mediums not striking up the same emotional chord.
Watch the video below to see just how Frye and Davies’ were unconsciously stirred by the performance.