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

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

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by Daniel J. Levitin
     
 

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In this groundbreaking union of art and science, rocker-turned-neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin 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:
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Overview

In this groundbreaking union of art and science, rocker-turned-neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin 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 heads

And, taking on prominent thinkers who argue that music is nothing more than an evolutionary accident, Levitin argues that music is fundamental to our species, perhaps even more so than language. This Is Your Brain on Music is an unprecedented, eye-opening investigation into an obsession at the heart of human nature.

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Editorial Reviews

Salon.com
Why human beings make and enjoy music is, in Levitin's telling, a delicious story. (Salon.com)
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.
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

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101218914
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/03/2006
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
96,699
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
18 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

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