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

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

3.9 74
by Daniel J. Levitin, Edward Herrmann
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

A fascinating exploration of the relationship between music and the mind-and the role of melodies in shaping our lives

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

…  See more details below

Overview

A fascinating exploration of the relationship between music and the mind-and the role of melodies in shaping our lives

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.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Musician Daniel Levitin worked in the record industry for many years before his curiosity about our response to music led him into the field of neurobiology. In this delightful guide for non-specialists, he draws on his expertise in both areas to explain the complex connection between music and the human brain. Much of the scientific research cited comes from Levitin's own experimental laboratory at McGill University, but this book is no dry clinical study. Enlivened with witty pop musical references and informed with as much affection as knowledge, This Is Your Brain on Music is a joyful valentine to one of our deepest and most emotional human instincts.
Los Angeles Times Book Review
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.
Salon.com
Why human beings make and enjoy music is, in Levitin's telling, a delicious story. (Salon.com)
Publishers Weekly
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. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In this exploration of the brain-music relationship, musician and neuroscientist Levitin, who heads the Levitin Laboratory for Musical Perception, Cognition, and Expertise at McGill University, begins by defining and explaining musical terms. Lay readers can take these chapters as reference material; musicians and scientists will grasp the apparatus of organized sound, hearing, and brain function, structured in detail with examples ranging from Johann Sebastian Bach to the Beatles. Following that material is an explanation of how music arouses and plays with expectations, creates tension and resolution, and provides insights into brain structure and function. Levitin concludes with three delightful chapters: "What Makes a Musician?" (10,000 hours of practice), "My Favorite Things" (why we like what we like), and "The Music Instinct," in which he argues-against experimental psychologist Steven Pinker-that music plays a role in evolution (singers and dancers are perceived as being more attractive as mates). In Levitin's study, current brain research becomes comprehensible through music-a wonderful accomplishment. Along with Anthony Storr's Music and the Mind and Kathleen Marie Higgins's The Music of Our Lives, this book extends the appreciation of music as neural training. Essential for most libraries.-E. James Lieberman, George Washington Univ. Sch. of Medicine, Washington, DC Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Levitin's fascination with the mystery of music and the study of why it affects us so deeply is at the heart of this book. In a real sense, the author is a "rock 'n' roll doctor," and in that guise dissects our relationship with music. He points out that bone flutes are among the oldest of human artifacts to have been found and takes readers on a tour of our bio-history. In this textbook for those who don't like textbooks, he discusses neurobiology, neuropsychology, cognitive psychology, empirical philosophy, Gestalt psychology, memory theory, categorization theory, neurochemistry, and exemplar theory in relation to music theory and history in a manner that will draw in teens. A wonderful introduction to the science of one of the arts that make us human.-Will Marston, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A neuroscientist with a rich musical background explains what is being learned through research about music and the mind. Levitin, a former record producer, now director of the Levitin Laboratory for Musical Perception, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University, sees music as a window into the essence of human nature. To bring the uninitiated up to speed, he devotes his opening chapters to answering the question of what music is, covering rhythm, meter, tempo, loudness and harmony, as well as providing basic information about the workings of the human brain. Levitin describes recent studies, some but not all at his own laboratory, that seek answers to questions about the brain mechanisms underlying emotion and memories associated with music. Noting that there is no single music center in the brain, he recounts how listening to music causes a number of brain regions, from the oldest and most primitive to the newest and as far apart as the frontal lobes and the cerebellum at the back of the brain, to be activated in a particular order. Levitin also considers the neurobehavioral basis of musical expertise; the origins of particular musical preferences; and the evolution of music. Taking issue with Steven Pinker's assertion that music is but an evolutionary accident piggybacking on language, Levitin cogently presents arguments for music's primacy in human history. Two appendixes provide additional information on the processing of music in the brain and on musical chords. The author displays an easy familiarity with a wide range of musical genres and the characteristics of numerous musical instruments and performers' voices. He draws his explanatory examples from jazz, rock-'n'-roll,classical music, nursery and folk songs, and musical theater, to name but a few, tossing in references to the Beatles and Beethoven, Joni Mitchell and Bach, Frank Sinatra and Sousa. Levitin makes the science of music readily understandable to the non-scientist and non-musician alike.
From the Publisher
"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 of 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

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780143142324
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date:
08/16/2007
Edition description:
Abridged, 5 CDs, 6 hours
Pages:
1
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 5.72(h) x 0.81(d)
Age Range:
14 Years

What People are saying about this

Oliver Sacks
Endlessly stimulating, a marvelous overview, and one which only a deeply musical neuroscientist could give.... An important book.
From the Publisher
"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 of 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

Meet the Author

Daniel J. Levitin is the James McGill Professor of Psychology and Music at McGill University, Montreal, where he also holds appointments in the Program in Behavioural Neuroscience, The School of Computer Science, and the Faculty of Education. He is the author of This is Your Brain on Music and The World in Six Songs, which were New York Times bestsellers and have been translated into 16 languages, and the upcoming book The Organized Mind. Before becoming a neuroscientist, he worked as a session musician, sound engineer, and record producer working with artists such as Stevie Wonder and Blue Oyster Cult. He has published extensively in scientific journals as well as music magazines such as Grammy and Billboard. Recent musical performances include playing guitar and saxophone with Sting, Bobby McFerrin, Rosanne Cash, David Byrne, and Rodney Crowell.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >