From the chief architect of the Pandora Radio’s Music Genome Project comes a definitive and groundbreaking examination of how your mind, body, and upbringing influence the music you love.
Everyone loves music. But what is it that makes music so universally beloved and have such a powerful effect on us?
In this sweeping and authoritative book, Dr. Nolan Gasser—a composer, pianist, and musicologist, and the chief architect of the Music Genome Project, which powers Pandora Radio—breaks down what musical taste is, where it comes from, and what our favorite songs say about us.
Dr. Gasser delves into the science, psychology, and sociology that explains why humans love music so much; how our brains process music; and why you may love Queen but your best friend loves Kiss. He sheds light on why babies can clap along to rhythmic patterns and reveals the reason behind why different cultures around the globe identify the same kinds of music as happy, sad, or scary. Using easy-to-follow notated musical scores, Dr. Gasser teaches music fans how to become engaged listeners and provides them with the tools to enhance their musical preferences. He takes readers under the hood of their favorite genres—pop, rock, jazz, hip hop, electronica, world music, and classical—and covers songs from Taylor Swift to Led Zeppelin to Kendrick Lamar to Bill Evans to Beethoven, and through their work, Dr. Gasser introduces the musical concepts behind why you hum along, tap your foot, and feel deeply. Why You Like It will teach you how to follow the musical discourse happening within a song and thereby empower your musical taste, so you will never hear music the same way again.
The mystery of why music moves people gets a stimulating survey in this expansive treatise. Musicologist and composer Gasser, who headed Pandora Radio's Music Genome Project, investigates how music's objective properties underlie subjective preferences in a deep dredge that covers the physics of sonic vibrations; principles of melody, harmony, and rhythm; the science of how the brain processes music and connects it with emotions; sociological theories of musical preferences, class, and fan subcultures; and a disquisition on biology and "the conceptual link between pluripotent stem cells and theme and variation." Woven in are analyses of musical genres pop, rock, jazz, hip-hop, electronica, world music, and classical with exegeses of representative scored examples. (An ability to read music will help in understanding these sections.) Gasser's writing is passionate and generally accessible, though he sometimes stumbles over the inherent difficulty of conveying music through musicology. (A discussion of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Proud Mary" notes the "unusually small ambitus (range) only a 5th (B-F-sharp), with most of it limited to the top 3rd (D-F-sharp)" before suggesting "there may just be something about that simple, bayou groove that keeps its fans... coming back.") The book is a sprawl, but serious music lovers will find much fascinating science and lore to browse.