Appoggiatura in Baseball

“Happiness is a sad song.” -Charles M. Schultz

Major League Baseball tried out “open mics” during yesterday’s Indians-Diamondbacks spring game, and with it, the beautiful and gentle beast that some call “Jason Kipnis” has unleashed his inner Adele. See, joy:

A few weeks ago Michaeleen Doucleff (clearly a fake name, but we’ll let it go for now) analyzed why, exactly, Someone Like You makes you me cry so much:

An appoggiatura is a type of ornamental note that clashes with the melody just enough to create a dissonant sound. “This generates tension in the listener,” said Martin Guhn, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia who co-wrote a 2007 study on the subject. “When the notes return to the anticipated melody, the tension resolves, and it feels good.”

Chills often descend on listeners at these moments of resolution. When several appoggiaturas occur next to each other in a melody, it generates a cycle of tension and release. This provokes an even stronger reaction, and that is when the tears start to flow.

This is why we like baseball, right? “When the notes return to the anticipated melody, the tension resolves, and it feels good.” Baseball is strangely forlorn — so much failure, so much defeat. But it feels better than most things because of that very sadness which allows for relief. Joy in baseball is a slump broken, a ball barely caught, one blazing fastball found and hit into the ether. Tension is relieved, tears — or “goosebumps,” as dudes like to call them — flow. It’s even stranger when one realizes that Jason Kipnis singing “Someone Like You” is the perfect microcosmic metaphor for all of this. I went through the following feelings in just a few seconds while watching the clip above: boredom, timid amusement, warm and creeping happiness, surprise, shock ‘n’ awe, delight, empathy, un-loneliness, compassion, slight and strangely satisfying melancholy, amazement, admiration, understanding, nostalgia… This is a pretty close approximation of the set of emotions I experienced the first time I heard “Someone Like You,” and also the set of emotions I experience when I watch a “good” baseball game.

A: Surprise, B: Familiarity, C: Baseball, Adele, Happiness

Jason Kipnis understands Adele, and by understanding Adele he understands the joy inside sadness, and by understanding that, I believe he deeply understands baseball. Bearing this in mind, I have added 20 extra bases to every projection I’ve recorded for him. Carry on, Jason Kipnis. I wish nothing but the best for you, too.

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Summer Anne Burton is a writer and illustrator living in Austin, Texas. She is drawing pictures of Every Hall of Famer.

6 Responses to “Appoggiatura in Baseball”

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  1. tyler says:

    That Kipnis adds a layer of meta-commentary speaks to his understanding of baseball-as-performance. He’s recognizing that, in addition to putting his bodily abilities on display as an athlete, MLBTV has now asked him to put his thoughts and words on display to an invisible audience.

    So he understands not only joy inside sadness, but also his role as a performer in revealing these truths.

    Something something panopticon.

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  2. dudley says:

    How do you explain joy? This article comes about as close as anyone can–beautiful piece. Nabokov talked about the purpose of literature being that feeling of pleasure at finding a sublime moment, sending “shivers down the reader’s spine.”

    Also, Kipnis has a nice voice–he adds a little masculine country twang to the original, kinda like one of those Johnny Cash cover songs.

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  3. Summer, fantastic frigging post. The tension, the joy, the so much failure … baseball is amazing.

    Two more things:

    1. I find Adele incredibly attractive.
    2. I’m still holding out hope that Scott Rolen will use “Rolling in the Deep” as his at-bat music.

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    • Rolen In The Deep would be a good fantasy team.

      Just this morning I changed one of my team names to “Nevermind, I’ll Find Someone Like Choo.”

      You MIGHT be able to fill an entire league with Adele related pun team names.

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  4. Jay Wigley says:

    I’ve never read a better explanation of the beauty in baseball. The Internet may regard itself as validated now.

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  5. Mario Mendoza of commenters says:

    I watched this… loved the open mic aspect of the broadcast.

    I wish MLB.TV would make this a broadcast option for all games. You could pick Home, Away, or STFU and let me listen to the actual game.

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