Synopses & Reviews
From Bach fugues to Indonesian gamelan, from nursery rhymes to rock, music has cast its light into every corner of human culture. But why music excites such deep passions, and how we make sense of musical sound at all, are questions that have until recently remained unanswered. Now in The Music Instinct, award-winning writer Philip Ball provides the first comprehensive, accessible survey of what is known--and still unknown--about how music works its magic, and why, as much as eating and sleeping, it seems indispensable to humanity. Deftly weaving together the latest findings in brain science with history, mathematics, and philosophy, The Music Instinct not only deepens our appreciation of the music we love, but shows that we would not be ourselves without it. The Sunday Times hailed it as "a wonderful account of why music matters," with Ball's "passion for music evident on every page."
"Ball is to be applauded for the range and aptness of the musical examples he does choose - from Albinoni to Led Zeppelin, Bach to The Sound of Music - as well as for his attention to musics outside western traditions....the book is impressively engaging for one so dense with detail and argument....fascinating." --The Guardian
"Using plentiful examples drawn from a refreshingly wide range of different kinds of music, from Bach to the Beatles, and from nursery rhymes to jazz. If you can read music, you will find yourself humming aloud to see what he means. If you can't....Mr Ball's facility for conveying complex facts in simple language comes to the rescue." --The Economist
"One of the finest and most versatile of current nonfiction writers.... I defy anyone to read this book without coming away better informed about why music affects us in such a profound way...His passion for music is evident on every page, and his enthusiasms (whether for gamelan or Glenn Gould) are infectious. Most powerful is his message that music is a part of the chaos and splendour of human life itself." --The Sunday Times
"Ball's writing is excellent - vivid and colloquial in the best sense, intelligent and stylish without pretense. His explanations are engaging and clear; he lays out complex materials without the condescending oversimplification that is the curse of popularization...A treasure trove of information, explanation, questioning and thoughtful response that will delight and instruct a wide audience of intelligent, sensitive people who love music, who have perhaps felt intimidated by it, and who want to think about and love it better." --American Scientist
"Fact-rich, gracefully written, and deeply insightful: Philip Ball's The Music Instinct is the best compendium on the creation and experience of music so far available. Rare is the writer who can describe the aesthetic pleasures of music in a way that connects it with the best that psychology and brain science can offer to musical understanding. Ball's achievement is altogether remarkable." --Denis Dutton, author of The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution
"Provides easily the best evaluation of the field to date...An important landmark." --Diana Deutsch, Professor of Psychology, University of California, San Diego, and Founding President, Society for Music Perception and Cognition
"By focusing on the intersection of music theory and cognition rather than neuroscience...Philip Ball fills a niche. The Music Instinct does a great job of explaining rhythm, pitch and timbre and how they combine to make compositions that capture our attention and emotions...The Music Instinct offers an expansive and high-level overview of a complex field. Ball is both an enthusiastic writer about music and a passionate listener engaged with its emotional meaning as much as with its intellectual puzzles--an Aristoxenus for his time." --Daniel J. Levitin, Nature
"One of his great strengths, besides the breadth and solidity of his knowledge, is his consistent refusal to turn intriguing but incomplete evidence into glib take-home stories. Instead, he is meticulous in his attention to both the details and the limits on what they can tell us at present." --The Independent
"Ball weaves fundamental explanations necessary for an amateur's understanding with sophisticated current research, science, and philosophy that broaden the horizons of even the most enlightened connoisseur...Through probing questions and challenges to philosophies, theories and attitudes, Ball's fresh insights promise to deepen the reader's appreciation for all types of music." --American Music Teacher
"Offers an expansive overview of music's fundamental properties and values." --Music Educators Journal
About the Author
is a freelance writer and the author of numerous books, including Universe of Stone: A Biography of Chartres Cathedral
and Critical Mass: How One Thing Leads To Another
, which won the 2005 Aventis Prize for Science Books.
Table of Contents
1. Prelude: The Harmonious Universe
2. Overture: Why We Sing
What is music and where does it come from?
3. Staccato: The Atoms of Music
What are musical notes and how do we decide which to use?
4. Andante: What's In a Tune?
Do melodies follow rules, and if so, which?
5. Legato: Keeping it Together
How do we decode the sound?
6. Tutti: All Together Now
How do we use more than one note at a time?
7. Con Moto: Slave to the Rhythm
What gives music its pulse?
8. Pizzicato: The Colour of Music
Why do instruments sound different, and how does that affect the music?
9. Misterioso: All In the Mind
Which bits of the brain do we use for music?
10. Appassionato: Light My Fire
How does music convey and elicit emotion?
11. Capriccioso: Going In and Out of Style
What are musical styles?
Is music about notes, or patterns, or textures?
12. Parlando: Why Music Talks to Us
Is music a language? Or is it closer to the non-verbal arts?
13. Serioso: The Meaning of Music
What are composers and musicians trying to say?
Can music in itself say anything at all?
Coda: The Condition of Music