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The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature

The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature

4.6 3
by Daniel J. Levitin

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The author of the New York Times bestseller This Is Your Brain on Music reveals music’s role in the evolution of human culture in this thought-provoking book that “will leave you awestruck” (The New York Times).

Daniel J. Levitin's astounding debut bestseller, This Is Your Brain on Music, enthralled and


The author of the New York Times bestseller This Is Your Brain on Music reveals music’s role in the evolution of human culture in this thought-provoking book that “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.

Here he 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.

Editorial Reviews

Oliver Sacks
Endlessly stimulating, a marvelous overview, and one which only a deeply musical neuroscientist could give. (Oliver Sacks, M.D., author of Musicophilia)
Nancy Pearl
The book I've been waiting for all my life. (Nancy Pearl, public radio librarian and auth or of the Book Lust series)
David Byrne
I loved reading that music coordinates more disparate parts of the brain than almost anything else. . . . Deepens the beautiful mystery that is music. (David Byrne, founder of Talking Heads)
New York Times
Dr. Levitin is an unusually deft interpreter full of striking scientific trivia.
Library Journal

In this follow-up to his New York Times best-selling This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession, Levitin argues that every song ever written can fall within six categories and that music "is a core element of our identity as a species, an activity that paved the way for more complex behaviors." While he includes a wide variety of song examples to support his argument, his explanations of evolutionary causations for music become repetitive. As for his narration, it is dry and, at times, embarrassing-as when he reads lighthearted song lyrics meant to be sung. Sloppy editing causes some tracks to start mid-word, and the discs lack sequential announcements. Surprisingly, the recording does not take advantage of the medium by including any significant music samplings. Further, the notes from the hardcover edition are omitted here. Of limited interest to public and perhaps high school libraries. [Audio clip available through us.penguingroup.com; the Dutton hc received a starred review, LJ Xpress 7/22/08.-Ed.]
—Johannah Genett

From the Publisher
“A must-read...A literary, poetic, scientific, and musical treat.”—Seattle Times

“Masterful...Eminently enjoyable.”—Los Angeles Times

“Why can a song make you cry in a matter of seconds? Six Songs is the only book that explains why.”—Bobby McFerrin, ten-time Grammy Award-winning artist (“Don't Worry, Be Happy”)

“A fantastic ride.”—New Scientist

“Leading researchers in music cognition are already singing its praises.”—Evolutionary Psychology

“Exquisitely well-written and easy to read, serving up a great deal of scientific information in a gentle way for those of us who are—or just think we are—a bit science-phobic.”—Huffington Post

“Fascinating. Provides a biological explanation for why we might tap our feet or bob our heads in time with a favorite song, how singing might soothe a baby, and how music emboldens soldiers or athletes preparing for conflict.”—Associated Press

“An exemplary mix of scientist and artist, student and teacher, performer and listener.”—Library Journal (starred review)

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
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Penguin Group
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File size:
3 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are Saying About This

Scott Turow
"This wonderful, lucid book takes on one of the great eternal questions: Why is there music? What does music do for humanity-for 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)
"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. Daniel's 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."
Elizabeth Gilbert
"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)
From the Publisher
"A must-read. . .A literary, poetic, scientific, and musical treat."
-Seattle Times

"An exemplary mix of scientist and artist, student and teacher, performer and listener."
-Library Journal, starred review

"A fantastic ride."
-New Scientist

"Leading researchers in music cognition are already singing its praises."
-Evolutionary Psychology

Jamshed Bharucha
"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)
Jon Appleton
"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 Levitin's Six Songs has accomplished this astonishing task."--(Jon Appleton, Composer and Professor of Music, Dartmouth College and Stanford University)

Meet the Author

Daniel J. Levitin, Ph.D., is the New York Times bestselling author of This Is Your Brain on MusicThe World in Six SongsThe Organized Mind, and Weaponized Lies. His work has been translated into 21 languages. An award-winning scientist and teacher, he is Founding Dean of Arts & Humanities at the Minerva Schools at KGI, a Distinguished Faculty Fellow at the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley, and the James McGill Professor Emeritus 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. 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, Cris Williamson, Victor Wooten, and Rodney Crowell.

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The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
westermantyler1 More than 1 year ago
"The World In Six Songs" picks up right where "This Is Your Brain On Music" leaves off. As Levitan gets closer to his hopeful hypothesis in the latter, he thinks he has found it and explains thoroughly in "Six Songs". He begins by establishing the known facts that support him, like the unmistakable emotional power of song. He ask the audience to notice this quality of music. This is the style of Levitan. He asks you to notice things you already know and spells out the connections. Using metaphors and personal experiences he brings you to the truth he wants you to discover. Tracing music through all of evolution is quite the ambitious goal but he puts forth that music was one of the first ways of communication between man. If this intrigues you, you should be reading the book by now. Levitan is a gleeful pushy guy about his theories, so those more attracted to hard objective science might be less inclined to listen to his tone. If you don;t might his excitement then pick up the book and learn why you sing to your baby or feel so happy at concerts.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago