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This Is Your Brain on Music
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What can music teach us about the brain? What can the brain teach us about music? And what can both teach us about ourselves?In this groundbreaking union of art and science, rocker-turned-neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin (The World in Six Songs and The Organized Mind) 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 head
Taking on prominent thinkers who argue that music is nothing more than an evolutionary accident, Levitin poses that music is fundamental to our species, perhaps even more so than language. A Los Angeles Times Book Award finalist, This Is Your Brain on Music will attract readers of Oliver Sacks and David Byrne, as it is an unprecedented, eye-opening investigation into an obsession at the heart of human nature."
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About the Author

Daniel J. Levitin, Ph.D., is the New York Times bestselling author of This Is Your Brain on Music, The World in Six Songs, The 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.

Reviews

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.

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.

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.

"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 "Why human beings make and enjoy music is, in Levitin's telling, a delicious story."--Salon.com "Dr. Levitin is an unusually deft interpreter full of striking scientific trivia."--The New York Times "Every musician, at whatever level of skill, should read this book."--Howie Klein, former president, Sire and Reprise/Warner Brothers Records "Levitin's lucid explanation of why music is important to us is essential reading for creative musicians and scholars. I've been waiting for years for a book like this."--Jon Appleton, composer and professor of Music, Dartmouth College and Stanford University, inventor of the Synclavier synthesizer

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