Synopses & Reviews
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, 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, illuminating how the brain evolved to play and listen to music in six fundamental formsafor knowledge, friendship, religion, 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, 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 concertaor tune out quietly with an iPod.
"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 This Is Your Brain on Music reveals music's role in the evolution of human culture-and "will leave you awestruck" (The New York Times)
Daniel J. Levitin's astounding debut bestseller, This Is Your Brain on Music, enthralled and delighted readers as it transformed our understanding of how music gets in our heads and stays there. Now in his second New York Times bestseller, his genius for combining science and art reveals how music shaped humanity across cultures and throughout history.
Dr. Levitin identifies six fundamental song functions or types-friendship, joy, comfort, religion, knowledge, and love-then shows how each in its own way has enabled the social bonding necessary for human culture and society to evolve. He shows, in effect, how these "six songs" work in our brains to preserve the emotional history of our lives and species.
Dr. Levitin combines cutting-edge scientific research from his music cognition lab at McGill University and work in an array of related fields; his own sometimes hilarious experiences in the music business; and illuminating interviews with musicians such as Sting and David Byrne, as well as conductors, anthropologists, and evolutionary biologists. The World in Six Songs is, ultimately, a revolution in our understanding of how human nature evolved-right up to the iPod.
Read Daniel Levitin's posts on the Penguin Blog.
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
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.