Synopses & Reviews
The author of the New York Times
bestseller (six weeks and counting) and Los Angeles Times
Book Award Nominee This Is Your Brain on Music
(more than 170,000 copies in print), tunes us in to six evolutionary musical forms that provide a window into the human soul.
An unprecedented blend of science and art, Daniel Levitin's debut, This Is Your Brain on Music, delighted readers with an exuberant guide to the neural impulses behind those songs that make our heart swell. Now he showcases his daring theory of six songs, a illuminating how the brain evolved to play and listen to music in six fundamental forms for knowledge, friendship, ceremony, joy, comfort, and love. Preserving the emotional history of our lives and of our species, from its very beginning music was also allied to dance, as the structure of the brain confirms; developing this neurological observation, Levitin shows how music and dance enabled the social bonding and friendship necessary for human culture and society to evolve.
Blending cutting-edge scientific findings with his own sometimes hilarious experiences as a musician and music-industry professional, Levitin's sweeping study also incorporates wisdom gleaned from interviews with icons ranging from Sting and Paul Simon to Joni Mitchell, Willie Nelson, and David Byrne, along with classical musicians and conductors, historians, anthropologists, and evolutionary biologists. The result is a brilliant revelation of the prehistoric yet elegant systems at play when we sing and dance at a wedding or cheer at a concert or tune out quietly with an iPod.
"Charles Darwin meets the Beatles in this attempt to blend neuroscience and evolutionary biology to explain why music is such a powerful force. In this rewarding though often repetitious study by bestselling author Levitin (This Is Your Brain on Music), a rock musician turned neuroscientist, argues that music is a core element of human identity, paving the way for language, cooperative work projects and the recording of our lives and history. Through his studies, Levitin has identified six kinds of songs that help us achieve these goals: songs of friendship, joy, comfort, knowledge, religion and love. He cites lyrics ranging from the songs of Johnny Cash to work songs, which, he says, promote feelings of togetherness. According to Levitin, evolution may have selected individuals who were able to use nonviolent means like dance and music to settle disputes. Songs also serve as 'memory-aids,' as records of our lives and legends. Some may find Levitin's evolutionary explanations reductionist, but he lightens the science with personal anecdotes and chats with Sting and others, offering an intriguing explanation for the power of music in our lives as individuals and as a society." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Music seems to have an almost willful, evasive quality, defying simple explanation, so that the more we find out, the more there is to know, leaving its power and mystery intact, however much we may dig and delve. Daniels book is an eloquent and poetic exploration of this paradox. There may be no simple answer or end in sight, but the ride is nonetheless a thrilling one, especially in the company of a writer who is an accomplished musician, a poet, a hard-nosed scientist, and someone who can still look upon the universe with a sense of wonder.
Without music, we would be little more than animals, and Daniel Levitin explains it beautifully.
--Sir George Martin, CBE, producer of The Beatles
Why can a song make you cry in a matter of seconds? Six Songs is the only book that explains why. With original and awe-inspiring insights into the nature of human artistry, its irresistibly entertaining. Anyone who loves music should read it.
--Bobby McFerrin, vocalist and guest conductor, London Philharmonic and the Vienna Philharmonic
Daniel Levitin takes the most sophisticated ideas that exist about the brain and mind, applies them to the most emotionally direct art we have, our songs, and makes beautiful music of the two together.
--Adam Gopnik, author of Paris to the Moon
Daniel Levitin writes about music with all the exuberance of a die-hard fan, and all the insight of a natural-born scientist. This is a fascinating, entertaining book, and some of its most inventive themes may stay stick in your head forever, something like a well-loved song.
--Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love
To try to cover the meaning of music throughout the history of mankind to how we still use it everyday is extraordinarily ambitious. Combining musical expertise, psychology, anthropology and evolutionary science, Daniel Levitins Six Songs has accomplished this astonishing task.
--Jon Appleton, Composer and Professor of Music, Dartmouth College and Stanford University
I was skeptical when I began reading. The stated goal seemed outlandish. But by the time I was about one-third the way into The World in Six Songs, I realized just how powerful it is. It really is a tour de force. It is exquisitely written, and brings together a vast array of knowledge, tying things together in creative ways, while always remaining accessible. This promises to be not only another widely read hit, but also an important document for the field of music cognition.
--Jamshed Bharucha, Provost and Professor of Psychology, Tufts University
Passionate and insightful. Daniel Levitin has written a delightfully personal epic poem proposing a central role for music in the evolution of human emotion and behavior. Now, musicians and neuroscientists have a common vocabulary with which to argue our human origins.
--Julie R. Korenberg, M.D. Ph.D., The Brain Institute, University of Utah
In a brilliantly novel approach to human evolution, Levitin has sought to encapsulate diverse cultures in a set of six songs representative of friendship, joy, comfort, knowledge, religion and love. That he is able to achieve so much with this small set of songs says something truly important about our common humanity.
--Michael I. Posner, Professor of Psychology, University of Oregon
This wonderful, lucid book takes on one of the great eternal questions: Why is there music? What does music do for humanityfor individual development and for a culture--that in turn accounts for its existence in every known society? Daniel Levitin is not only the preeminent expert in answering such questions, but one of those unique writers about science who understands his field so profoundly that he can make the complex straightforward. This is an exciting, revelatory book.
--Scott Turow, author of Presumed Innocent and Ordinary Heroes
"A must-read. . .A literary, poetic, scientific, and musical treat."
"An exemplary mix of scientist and artist, student and teacher, performer and listener."
-Library Journal, starred review
"A fantastic ride."
"Leading researchers in music cognition are already singing its praises."
The author of the New York Times
bestseller and Los Angeles Times
Book Award Finalist This Is Your Brain on Music
tunes us in to six evolutionary musical forms that brought about the evolution of human culture.
An unprecedented blend of science and art, Daniel Levitin's debut, This Is Your Brain on Music, was an extraordinary success. Now in what is being called a tour de force by his peers, he showcases his audacious theory of "six songs," illuminating how the brain evolved to play and listen to music in six fundamental formsfor friendship, joy, comfort, knowledge, religion, and love.
Blending cutting-edge scientific findings with his own sometimes hilarious experiences as a musician and music-industry professional, Levitin's sweeping study also incorporates wisdom gleaned from interviews with icons ranging from Sting and Paul Simon to Joni Mitchell and David Byrne, along with classical musicians, poets, anthropologists, and evolutionary biologists.
These six songs enlighten human nature in a way you will never forget.
About the Author
Daniel J. Levitin runs the Laboratory for Musical Perception, Cognition, and Expertise at McGill University. Before becoming a research scientist, he was a record producer and professional musician. As a producer, he has a number of gold records to his credit, and has worked on albums by artists such as Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan, Midnight Oil, and kd lang. He has played professionally with Mel Torme, Blue Oyster Cult, and David Byrne, and has published extensively in scientific journals such as Science and Neuron and audio trade journals such as Grammy, Billboard, and Audio.
Table of Contents
The World in Six Songs Chapter 1: Taking It from the Top or
"The Hills Are Alive . . ."
Music and poetry. The two uniquely human components of the music brain.
Chapter 2: Friendship or "War (What Is It Good For)?"
Social bonding, synchronous coordinated movement, the evolution of emotional bonding, protest music for group cohesion.
Chapter 3: Joy or "Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut"
The first song. Neurochemical effects of music and music therapy.
Chapter 4: Comfort or "Before There Was Prozac, There Was You"
Why we listen to sad music when we're sad. Lullabyes and the blues. (And a short story about depressed restaurant workers pushed to the edge by a happy song.)
Chapter 5: Knowledge or "I Need to Know"
Music as an information-bearing medium. Learning, memory, and oral histories.
Chapter 6: Religion or "People Get Ready"
The role of music and ritual in creating order, reducing ambiguity, and commemorating important times and events.
Chapter 7: Love or "Bring 'Em All In"
The sense of hearing and the prefrontal cortex. Tools, musical instruments, and shaping the environment. The evolution of social structure.