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1 Beaverton Music- General History

Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy: How Music Captures Our Imagination

by

Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy: How Music Captures Our Imagination Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Chapter OneFrom sound ...

On a balmy summer's afternoon, beneath a weeping willow beside a pond, a solitary flutist draws a deep breath and be ins to play. Within the glistening tube, a column of air rattles in protestation of its confinement, its cries fanning upward to cars perched oil branches, downward to ears nestled in burrows, outward to ears immersed in water.

A paramecium patrols the ooze at the pond's edge, searching, ingesting, dividing, fleeing. Although its entire being is expressed in but .1 single cell, this protozoan knows much of the world. A light-sensitive spot fills its days with brightness and darkness and shades of gray. Chemical mechanisnis let it smell what is near and taste what it encounters. Collisions with its surroundings are felt and acknowledged. But the parainecium Senses no more of the flute's sweet warble than we do of the radio waves that pass through our bodies. It spends its life in silence, or more correctly, Ill soundIcssiless, for silence is the delicious muffle of all auditory system in repose, and an annual lacking all auditory system can no more know silence than one born blind can know darkness.

Circling the paraniecium are multicellular behemoths-flatworms and mites and rotifers — whose tissues, simple organs, and nerve nets flaunt distinguished ancestries. The first 80 percent of life's three-and-a-halfbillion-year evolution went into building such creatures. Primitive? Yes. Yet their complex eyes, their sensitive touch, their versatile chemical receptors are the bedrock that one day would support the appreciation of a Sargent watercolor, a Balanchine Tarantella, a glass of fine Margaux. But nowhere in these estimable beasts is thereso much as a hint of the possibility of knowing a Mozart quartet.

Even with two hundred million years' evolution more — still soundlessness. For a jellyfish or a sea anemone, an octopus or a sea slug, a starfish or a sea urchin, the ocean's swooshes and gurgles are felt but not heard. Insects fared little better. A few species developed ears, but hardly of the sort that could one day evolve to accommodate a symphony. Such an ear would have to wait until animals developed backbones, and even then this newfound sense would pass its infancy minding little more thin the bass tones of thrashing prey.

Hearing, it seems, is the difficult sense-slow to evolve, repeatedly undercut by evolutionary developments, reliant upon the most intricate and fragile mechanical structures in the body. It was forged through hundreds of millions of years of natural selection as countless lineages perished from detecting a predator too late, finding no mate, or overlooking a meal hidden nearby. Hearing was a late bloomer, following upon already welldeveloped vision and touch and taste and smell. Yet we take for granted the experience our ears provide. For us, sound is self-evident, complete, inevitable. But for most of nature's countless billions of ears, sound is something much less than it is to us.

Less? But doesn't sound exist independently of the ears that listen to it? It depends on what you mean by "sound." In physics, sound is indeed nothing more than vibrations. But in psychology, sound is a kind of experience a brain extracts from its environment. Where the physicist finds energy, the psychologist finds -information. A physicist can precisely measure a volume of sound, but no psychologist wouldhave the faintest idea how to assay a quantity of music. Although both professions lay claim to the study of sound, it is actually the sensation of sound that concerns the psychologist. A physicist will tell you that the rattlings of air molecules are much the same to any ears, whether those of a frog or a cow or a human, But a psychologist will warn that the sensations derived from those vibrations vary greatly among species.

Consider nature's first musician, the cricket. Its "ears" consist of thinnings on its front knees that vibrate only at certain frequencies made by rasping cricket legs. It's tempting to think that crickets sound to each other as they sound to us. But they experience nothing like our sensation of sound. In their world, particular frequencies elicit particular stock behaviors, almost like a flip of a switch. So there's no need for their brains to analyze sounds the way ours do. If your human brain could somehow listen within a cricket's head, you'd encounter nothing like the serenade of cricket chirps you enjoy on a summer evening. Rather, an impulse to move in a particular way would arise, and when it became strong enough, legs and wings would snap to. That's all there is to it-no backdrop of wind through pine needles, no trickle of a nearby stream, no haunting echoes. A cricket can hear, but its experience is soundless by our standards.

Birds make better musicians. They chirp and chitter, trill and twitter, honk and hoot. Such sounds consist of many frequencies all ringing at once. Because the same frequencies occur in different calls, a bird can't distinguish one squawk from another by resorting to the cricket's ploy of listening for particular frequencies.Rather, it identifies sounds by sensing a vast range of frequencies and analyzing their structure. A bird's brain traces every rise and fall in a sound's contour, spots peaks and valleys, searches for patterns of repetition, and, in songbirds, relates successions of sounds. Many birds do this so well that they can recognize each other's individual voices. There are even regional dialects. The same cognitive faculties that let birds recognize each other are available for listening to the world at large. And so, in their own way, birds hear every cricket chirp, every rustling leaf, every falling tree.

Yet birds, even songbirds, have no experience of music. A few notes of birdsong no more make a melody than a few words make a poem. Even the half-hour-long calls of whales, nature's divas of the deep, consist of monotonous repetition. When sometimes we descry a snip of a melody in...

Synopsis:

What makes a distant oboe's wail beautiful? Why do some kinds of music lift us to ecstasy, but not others? How can music make sense to an ear and brain evolved for detecting the approaching lion or tracking the unsuspecting gazelle? Lyrically interweaving discoveries from science, psychology, music theory, paleontology, and philosophy, Robert Jourdian brilliantly examines why music speaks to us in ways that words cannot, and why we form such powerful connections to it. In clear, understandable language, Jourdian expertly guides the reader through a continuum of musical experience: sound, tone, melody, harmony, rhythm, composition, performance, listening, understanding--and finally to ecstasy. Along the way, a fascinating cast of characters brings Jourdian's narrative to vivid life: "idiots savants" who absorb whole pieces on a single hearing, composers who hallucinate entire compositions, a psychic who claims to take dictation from long-dead composers, and victims of brain damage who can move only when they hear music. Here is a book that will entertain, inform, and stimulate everyone who loves music--and make them think about their favorite song in startling new ways.What makes a distant oboes wail beautiful? Why do some kinds of music lift us to ecstasy, but not others? How can music make sense to an ear and brain evolved for detecting the approaching lion or tracking the unsuspecting gazelle? Lyrically interweaving discoveries from science, psychology, music theory, paleontology, and philosophy, Robert Jourdian brilliantly examines why music speaks to us in ways that words cannot, and why we form such powerful connections to it.

In clear, understandable language, Jourdian expertly guides the reader through a continuum of musical experience: sound, tone, melody, harmony, rhythm, composition, performance, listening, understanding--and finally to ecstasy. Along the way, a fascinating cast of characters brings Jourdians narrative to vivid life: idiots savants who absorb whole pieces on a single hearing, composers who hallucinate entire compositions, a psychic who claims to take dictation from long-dead composers, and victims of brain damage who can move only when they hear music. Here is a book that will entertain, inform, and stimulate everyone who loves music--and make them think about their favorite song in startling new ways.

Synopsis:

Interweaving discoveries from science, psychology, music theory, and philosophy, Robert Jourdain brilliantly examines why music speaks to us in ways that words cannot, why it captivates us so completely, and why we form such powerful connections to it. He expertly guides the reader through a continuum of musical experience, examines the evolution of music, and introduces surprising new concepts of memory and perception, knowledge and attention, motion and emotion, all at work whenever music takes hold of us. This book will entertain, inform, and stimulate anyone who loves music — and make them think about their favorite song in startling new ways.

Description:

Includes bibliographical references (p. [351]-359) and index.

About the Author

When not writing about science and technology, Robert Jourdian plays the piano and composes. MUSIC, THE BRAIN, AND ECSTASY is his sixth book. He livesin Mendocino, California.When not writing about science and technology, Robert Jourdian plays the piano and composes. MUSIC, THE BRAIN, AND ECSTASY is his sixth book. He livesin Mendocino, California.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780380782093
Subtitle:
How Music Captures Our Imagination
Author:
Jourdain, Robert
Author:
Jourdain, R
Author:
by R Jourdain and Robert Jourdain
Publisher:
William Morrow Paperbacks
Location:
New York :
Subject:
Reference
Subject:
Music
Subject:
Appreciation
Subject:
Theory
Subject:
Brain
Subject:
Ecstasy
Subject:
Music -- Philosophy and aesthetics.
Subject:
Instruction & Study - Theory
Subject:
Instruction & Study - General
Subject:
General Music
Subject:
Instruction & Study - Appreciation
Subject:
Music-Music Appreciation
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade PB
Series Volume:
Volume 2
Publication Date:
20080401
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Yes
Pages:
400
Dimensions:
7.125 x 5 in 13.36 oz

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Music » General
Arts and Entertainment » Music » General History
Arts and Entertainment » Music » History and Criticism
Arts and Entertainment » Music » Instruction and Study » General
Arts and Entertainment » Music » Instruction and Study » Music Appreciation
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Arts and Entertainment » Music » Psychology of Music
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Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy: How Music Captures Our Imagination Used Trade Paper
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Product details 400 pages Quill - English 9780380782093 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , What makes a distant oboe's wail beautiful? Why do some kinds of music lift us to ecstasy, but not others? How can music make sense to an ear and brain evolved for detecting the approaching lion or tracking the unsuspecting gazelle? Lyrically interweaving discoveries from science, psychology, music theory, paleontology, and philosophy, Robert Jourdian brilliantly examines why music speaks to us in ways that words cannot, and why we form such powerful connections to it. In clear, understandable language, Jourdian expertly guides the reader through a continuum of musical experience: sound, tone, melody, harmony, rhythm, composition, performance, listening, understanding--and finally to ecstasy. Along the way, a fascinating cast of characters brings Jourdian's narrative to vivid life: "idiots savants" who absorb whole pieces on a single hearing, composers who hallucinate entire compositions, a psychic who claims to take dictation from long-dead composers, and victims of brain damage who can move only when they hear music. Here is a book that will entertain, inform, and stimulate everyone who loves music--and make them think about their favorite song in startling new ways.What makes a distant oboes wail beautiful? Why do some kinds of music lift us to ecstasy, but not others? How can music make sense to an ear and brain evolved for detecting the approaching lion or tracking the unsuspecting gazelle? Lyrically interweaving discoveries from science, psychology, music theory, paleontology, and philosophy, Robert Jourdian brilliantly examines why music speaks to us in ways that words cannot, and why we form such powerful connections to it.

In clear, understandable language, Jourdian expertly guides the reader through a continuum of musical experience: sound, tone, melody, harmony, rhythm, composition, performance, listening, understanding--and finally to ecstasy. Along the way, a fascinating cast of characters brings Jourdians narrative to vivid life: idiots savants who absorb whole pieces on a single hearing, composers who hallucinate entire compositions, a psychic who claims to take dictation from long-dead composers, and victims of brain damage who can move only when they hear music. Here is a book that will entertain, inform, and stimulate everyone who loves music--and make them think about their favorite song in startling new ways.

"Synopsis" by , Interweaving discoveries from science, psychology, music theory, and philosophy, Robert Jourdain brilliantly examines why music speaks to us in ways that words cannot, why it captivates us so completely, and why we form such powerful connections to it. He expertly guides the reader through a continuum of musical experience, examines the evolution of music, and introduces surprising new concepts of memory and perception, knowledge and attention, motion and emotion, all at work whenever music takes hold of us. This book will entertain, inform, and stimulate anyone who loves music — and make them think about their favorite song in startling new ways.
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