In this groundbreaking union of art and science, rocker-turned-neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin explores the connection between music—its performance, its composition, how we listen to it, why we enjoy it—and the human brain.
Taking on prominent thinkers who argue that music is nothing more than an evolutionary accident, Levitin poses that music is fundamental to our species, perhaps even more so than language. Drawing on the latest research and on musical examples ranging from Mozart to Duke Ellington to Van Halen, he reveals:
• How composers produce some of the most pleasurable effects of listening to music by exploiting the way our brains make sense of the world
• Why we are so emotionally attached to the music we listened to as teenagers, whether it was Fleetwood Mac, U2, or Dr. Dre
• That practice, rather than talent, is the driving force behind musical expertise
• How those insidious little jingles (called earworms) get stuck in our head
A Los Angeles Times Book Award finalist, This Is Your Brain on Music will attract readers of Oliver Sacks and David Byrne, as it is an unprecedented, eye-opening investigation into an obsession at the heart of human nature.
Think of a song that resonates deep down in your being. Now imagine sitting down with someone who was there when the song was recorded and can tell you how that series of sounds was committed to tape, and who can also explain why that particular combination of rhythms, timbres and pitches has lodged in your memory, making your pulse race and your heart swell every time you hear it. Remarkably, Levitin does all this and more, interrogating the basic nature of hearing and of music making (this is likely the only book whose jacket sports blurbs from both Oliver Sacks and Stevie Wonder), without losing an affectionate appreciation for the songs he's reducing to neural impulses. Levitin is the ideal guide to this material: he enjoyed a successful career as a rock musician and studio producer before turning to cognitive neuroscience, earning a Ph.D. and becoming a top researcher into how our brains interpret music. Though the book starts off a little dryly (the first chapter is a crash course in music theory), Levitin's snappy prose and relaxed style quickly win one over and will leave readers thinking about the contents of their iPods in an entirely new way.
Not much information on music
I did not learn much. There was some good information but it felt like scanning somebody’s diary.
I’m sure the author could have took out his unrelated anecdotes and prepared a book 10x as short (roughly est.)
I’m still happy to have read it.
Almost, but not really
Statements such as: "“The simplest way to establish a key, then, is to play the tonic of the key many times, play it loud, and play it long" demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of how we actually understand music. In fact, the simplest way to establish a key is to play the the unstable interval (B-F in C Major), which cries out to be resolved to C-E, and establishes "the key of" C Major much better than a repetition of a single pitch.
Unfortunately, the author's lack of understanding of music audiation causes the rest of what he has to say to be cast under a shadow of dubious suspicion.