Your favourite moment in the song is coming. A torrent of emotions washes over you, tears fill your eyes, chills run through your veins. You’re experiencing an "eargasm", a portmanteau word that perfectly denotes the powerful sensations that music can arouse. We’re transported to the heights of pleasure. Just think about the screams heard during any live Beatles concert!
Two researchers at Wesleyan University, Connecticut have recently discovered that around 5% of music-lovers experience this sensation. In the classical register, Rachmaninov's "Piano Concerto No. 2" brought about the most number of eargasms during tests. Changing harmonies, powerful crescendos and grace notes were found to be the most common causes of an eargasm. If the music creates tension between the known and the unknown the brain secretes dopamine, the hormone of desire, most linked to love, lust, and addiction...‘Sex, drugs and rock'n 'roll’: science shows us the song was right!
When such enjoyment is felt by the listener, we naturally shine the spotlight on the composer. How big a part does their own libido have to play? The fact is that jazz and rock'n'roll have a sexual origin, and the blues never ceases to inspire coitus. Let's rethink Elvis’ pelvis, Morrison, GG Allin, the timbre and diction of Lydia Lunch...sex is omnipresent in pop music. In fact it is very often the foundation. Nevertheless, the way it appears is mostly symbolic – unless one goes down the more radical route of including sounds in one’s music. With the sexual revolution of the sixties, various recordings of sex and orgasms – whether simulated or not – appeared in popular music.
Disco, rock, punk, soul, funk, rap, and electro – every genre has recorded music punctuated with groaning, sighing, pleading, screaming, lamenting, and cooing. Some artists such as Gainsbourg and Zappa have become the maestros of musicalised sex. The evolution begins with the erotic suggestivness of Robert Plant and the electrified glissandos of Jimmy Page (“Whole Lotta Love”), and ends with the sublimation of a hardcore porn recording by Detroit DJ Alex ‘Omar’ Smith (“Look Hear Watch”). However, should one think this is merely a cheap trick, a quick and dirty way to make money by turning people on, one misses the point. If one ignores the artistry involved in the creation then one becomes no better than an audio voyeur.