Some researchers looked into the question of what makes music listeners cry. British psychologist John Sloboda asked music lovers to identify passages that set off a physical reaction. Looking at 20 such music passages, he found that 18 of them contained an appoggiatura.
That’s fancy music-speak for a note that lands just off the target and then slides home. Tension and then release lead to tears. In Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, Michaeleen Doucleff discussed this in relation to the music of Adele, the British singer who did so well in the Grammys last night.
Readers of fiction experience something similar: conflict and, eventually, resolution. This can lead to tears too. After all, there’s no story if there’s no conflict, right?