Synopses & Reviews
What can music teach us about the brain? What can the brain teach us about music? And what can both teach us about ourselves?
and#160;In this groundbreaking union of art and science, rocker-turned-neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin (The World in Six Songs and The Organized Mind) explores the connection between music - its performance, its composition, how we listen to it, why we enjoy it - and the human brain. Drawing on the latest research and on musical examples ranging from Mozart to Duke Ellington to Van Halen, Levitin 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
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. 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." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Endlessly stimulating, a marvelous overview, and one which only a deeply musical neuroscientist could give. Daniel Levitin has a huge knowledge of music developed since the 1950s (and of blues, jazz, and etc. before this), and not merely a formal but a deep personal knowledge as an expert performer no less than as a listener. I liked the discussion of 'safe' and 'dangerous' music, and I very much liked the final chapter on the evolutionary origins of music. An important book."
Oliver Sacks, M.D.
"[Levitin] argues...that music plays a role in evolution....[T]his book extends the appreciation of music as neural training." Library Journal
"Levitin makes the science of music readily understandable to the non-scientist and non-musician alike." Kirkus Reviews
"[Levitin's] book introduces the inner workings of the brain insofar as scientists understand it and affords a good first look at the subject for armchair psychologists and neuroscientists." Booklist
"Although Levitin's narrative grasp may be shaky, the arc of his transformation from musician to scientist grounds his thinking and guides his treatise to a satisfying conclusion." Los Angeles Times
"Setting jargon aside in favor of everyday terminology, [Levitin] gives readers enough background to understand what to listen for in music and to connect what they hear to his science." Seattle Times
"Levitin makes a strong case....He also has a warm, modest and compassionate voice, and his little asides of music trivia and nerdy jokes are more like sprinkles of sugar than spoonfuls, but they help just the same." San Diego Union-Tribune
Levitin is a deft and patient explainer of the basics for the non-scientist as well as the non-musician. . . . By tracing musicÆs deep ties to memory, Levitin helps quantify some of musicÆs magic without breaking its spell. (Los Angeles Times Book Review
Endlessly stimulating, a marvelous overview, and one which only a deeply musical neuroscientist could give. . . . An important book. (Oliver Sacks, M.D.)
LevitinÆs 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. (Publishers Weekly, starred review)
Why human beings make and enjoy music is, in LevitinÆs telling, a delicious story. (Salon.com)
"Endlessly stimulating, a marvelous overview, and one which only a deeply musical neuroscientist could give. . . . An important book."
-Oliver Sacks, M.D.
"I loved reading that listening to music coordinates more disparate parts of the brain than almost anything else - and playing music uses even more! Despite illuminating a lot of what goes on, this book doesn't 'spoil' enjoyment - it only deepens the beautiful mystery that is music."
-David Byrne, founder of Talking Heads and author ofand#160;How Music Works
"Levitin is a deft and patient explainer of the basics for the non-scientist as well as the non-musician. . . . By tracing music's deep ties to memory, Levitin helps quantify some of music's magic without breaking its spell."
-Los Angeles Times Book Review
Neuroscientist and professional musician Daniel Levitin presents a fascinating exploration of the relationship between music and the mind and the role of melodies in shaping our lives. Photos throughout.
Whether you load your iPod with Bach or Bono, music has a significant role in your life even if you never realized it. Why does music evoke such powerful moods? The answers are at last becoming clear, thanks to revolutionary neuroscience and the emerging field of evolutionary psychology. Both a cutting-edge study and a tribute to the beauty of music itself, This Is Your Brain on Music
unravels a host of mysteries that affect everything from pop culture to our understanding of human nature, including:
- Are our musical preferences shaped in utero?
- Is there a cutoff point for acquiring new tastes in music?
- What do PET scans and MRIs reveal about the brain's response to music?
- Is musical pleasure different from other kinds of pleasure?
This Is Your Brain on Music explores cultures in which singing is considered an essential human function, patients who have a rare disorder that prevents them from making sense of music, and scientists studying why two people may not have the same definition of pitch. At every turn, this provocative work unlocks deep secrets about how nature and nurture forge a uniquely human obsession.
About the Author
Daniel J. Levitin runs the Levitin Laboratory for Musical Perception, Cognition, and Expertise at McGill University, where he holds the Bell Chair in the Psychology of Electronic Communications. Before becoming a neuroscientist, he was a record producer with gold records to his credit and professional musician. He has published extensively in scientific journals and music trade magazines such as Grammy and Billboard.
Table of Contents
This Is Your Brain On Music Introduction
I Love Music and I Love Scienceand#151;Why Would I Want to Mix the Two?
1. What Is Music?
From Pitch to Timbre
2. Foot Tapping
Discerning Rhythm, Loudness, and Harmony
3. Behind the Curtain
Music and the Mind Machine
What We Expect from Liszt (and Ludacris)
5. You Know My Name, Look Up the Number
How We Categorize Music
6. After Dessert, Crick Was Still Four Seats Away from Me
Music, Emotion, and the Reptilian Brain
7. What Makes a Musician?
8. My Favorite Things
Why Do We Like the Music We Like?
9. The Music Instinct
Evolution's #1 Hit