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This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

Finally a book that explains music!!!

This book is a pure joy to read. It's amazing that a musician decided to become a cognitive psychologist and has revealed the secrets of how music and our brains function. It's written in easy to understand prose that is accessible to musicians and non musicians alike. ...
This book is a pure joy to read. It's amazing that a musician decided to become a cognitive psychologist and has revealed the secrets of how music and our brains function. It's written in easy to understand prose that is accessible to musicians and non musicians alike. Well trained musicians will have an easier time reading because they already understand the nuances between musical terms, however it's all explained so that a non musician can understand it. It reminds me of the books that Albert Einstein wrote explaining his theory of relativity for non physicists. Clear, concise information is well presented so the average reader can fully comprehend how music and the brain function. It's a revelation worth discovering if you have any serious interest in music of whatever genre! Enjoy!!!

posted by 1534564 on June 29, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

For the reader who has ever wondered why they like the music they like

It is very rare to find an individual with the experience in music, psychology, and neuroscience like Daniel Levitin; rocker turned music producer turned neuroscientist. When he was working as a music producer, he became interested in why and how music operates on the h...
It is very rare to find an individual with the experience in music, psychology, and neuroscience like Daniel Levitin; rocker turned music producer turned neuroscientist. When he was working as a music producer, he became interested in why and how music operates on the human brain. He became so interested that he went back to school to study just that. He studied how the brain turns sounds into patterns that we think of as songs, how we remember those patterns, and how they are stored and bring up many different emotions. Levetin was a part of the discovery of important neural processes that explain why music can touch you so deeply, and believes that our brains seem to have evolved to maximize musical ability.

It is great that a person with the credentials and musical background that he has wrote a book to explain why music affects us the way it does in a way that is easy to follow. This is not written just for the study of neuroscience nor only for the study of music, but it is written for the average, everyday music lover.

For the reader that may not completely understand the linguistics involved in music, the first chapter goes into detail of some terms that may not be familiar. Terms such as: pitch, reverberation, or timbre. Although this chapter is very helpful as a refresher from junior high music class, it is very long and repetitive. I found myself losing focus and keeping a countdown of pages till it was over which is never a good sign when reading a book.

Once past the 50 pages that seem like they were torn from a music textbook, things start to get interesting. He begins by explaining the distinction of the mind, "the part of each of us that embodies our thoughts, hopes, desires, memories, beliefs, and experiences," and the brain, "an organ of the body, a collection of cells and water, chemicals and blood vessels, that resides in the skull. Activity in the brain gives rise to the contents of the mind." He then explains how music reaches the brain and the reactions it causes on different neural regions followed by how the reactions of the brain affect the mind.

The book answers many questions that most people have, but do not bother finding the answers to. He describes why songs from our teenage years have a greater impact on us than music from later, why songs get stuck in our heads, he describes them as "ear worms", and why we like the music that we like. This is written very clearly for the non-specialist and certain topics have been simplified to easily understand, but was done in a way where it wasn't overly-simplified. This is a great book for anyone who as ever said, "I like this song." Then followed it up by asking themselves the question, "but why do I like this song?"

posted by bahr41 on October 28, 2009

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  • Posted October 28, 2009

    For the reader who has ever wondered why they like the music they like

    It is very rare to find an individual with the experience in music, psychology, and neuroscience like Daniel Levitin; rocker turned music producer turned neuroscientist. When he was working as a music producer, he became interested in why and how music operates on the human brain. He became so interested that he went back to school to study just that. He studied how the brain turns sounds into patterns that we think of as songs, how we remember those patterns, and how they are stored and bring up many different emotions. Levetin was a part of the discovery of important neural processes that explain why music can touch you so deeply, and believes that our brains seem to have evolved to maximize musical ability.

    It is great that a person with the credentials and musical background that he has wrote a book to explain why music affects us the way it does in a way that is easy to follow. This is not written just for the study of neuroscience nor only for the study of music, but it is written for the average, everyday music lover.

    For the reader that may not completely understand the linguistics involved in music, the first chapter goes into detail of some terms that may not be familiar. Terms such as: pitch, reverberation, or timbre. Although this chapter is very helpful as a refresher from junior high music class, it is very long and repetitive. I found myself losing focus and keeping a countdown of pages till it was over which is never a good sign when reading a book.

    Once past the 50 pages that seem like they were torn from a music textbook, things start to get interesting. He begins by explaining the distinction of the mind, "the part of each of us that embodies our thoughts, hopes, desires, memories, beliefs, and experiences," and the brain, "an organ of the body, a collection of cells and water, chemicals and blood vessels, that resides in the skull. Activity in the brain gives rise to the contents of the mind." He then explains how music reaches the brain and the reactions it causes on different neural regions followed by how the reactions of the brain affect the mind.

    The book answers many questions that most people have, but do not bother finding the answers to. He describes why songs from our teenage years have a greater impact on us than music from later, why songs get stuck in our heads, he describes them as "ear worms", and why we like the music that we like. This is written very clearly for the non-specialist and certain topics have been simplified to easily understand, but was done in a way where it wasn't overly-simplified. This is a great book for anyone who as ever said, "I like this song." Then followed it up by asking themselves the question, "but why do I like this song?"

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Charismatic At Most

    More like a well-written textbook, this book presents some insight into more theoretical and applicable model of music. Levitin certainly exploits my curiosity of music, but the book has limited merit beyond an informative piece. I applaud his ability to embellish music as a more useful and complex art in a practical way, but there was little risk taken by the author to extend music beyond its aesthetic realm.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2008

    Music made boring.

    I really couldn't figure out the point of the book. I had read that it was "technical." Being a musician myself, while I fully understood the "technical" part, the author's use of musical terminology is confusing and frankly - boring. I don't see how a non-musician could enjoy or learn anything about MUSIC from this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2010

    This Is Your Brain On Music Review

    This Is Your Brain On Music by Daniel Levitin offers an open door into the depths of the music world by examining how the brain functions when listening to music. The first chapter "What Is Music?" gives thorough definitions of common musical terms while referencing well known musicians and songs for "non musicians" to comprehend better. As a musician I found the first chapter an easy read seeing because it felt like "Music Theory 101;" I found myself eager to turn the page so I could refresh my memory of the terms which I studied previously.

    However, as the book progresses Levitin discusses the neurological workings of the brain and how we listen to music, which I often questioned myself if I knew what I had just read. He goes into depth discussing the different parts of the brain and how we come to hear music which I would have genuinely enjoyed had I understood his explanations. I believe his explanations were too intelligent for a book to be written for people who haven't any musical background, which he mentions quite a few times. Also, Levitin uses countless references to famous rock bands and songs to help the reader understand the foreign terms he was discussing; however, at times I found myself not recognizing the musician or song he was referencing which only added to my confusion and distaste for the book. For the most part I found myself not wanting to turn the page because I didn't understand what he was talking about. However, the last chapter was the most interesting in which he argues the evolutionary origins of music, against scientist who believe music was an accident. He discusses music, and not the depth of the brain, which I found highly enjoyable and surprisingly not boring.

    It is clearly established throughout the book the immense passion Daniel Levitin has for music, which I highly respect. Although some parts of the book were dull and dry, I found myself appreciating music more than I had before with hopes of becoming a Music Major to further my education in music theory.

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    Posted January 22, 2011

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    Posted March 23, 2010

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    Posted August 14, 2011

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    Posted August 27, 2010

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