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The World in Six Songs


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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.


Verdict: With protean musical reach and intellectual grasp, Levitin strides past academic boundaries, a Pied Piper celebrating diversity within community, in this exploration of music, emotion, and the brain. For all adult libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/08.] Background: In this follow-up to his New York Times best-selling This Is Your Brain on Music, musician-turned-neuroscientist Levitin explores our cerebral mansion, its history and beauty, wiring and acoustics. The tour, though silent on the page, enhances one's appreciation of music while explaining its evolutionary roots and continuing importance. Levitin sets out and then improvises on six themes: friendship, joy, comfort, knowledge, religion, and love. Unlike light, he points out, sound reaches us in the dark, around corners and opacities, and seems to originate inside our heads. "Early musicians...may have been better able to communicate emotionally, diffuse confrontation, and ease interpersonal tensions." Also they can "encode important survival information in songs." Now with a freer, more personal voice, Levitin provides an exemplary mix of scientist and artist, student and teacher, performer and listener.--E. James Lieberman, George Washington Univ., Washington, DC Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Charles Darwin meets the Beatles in this attempt to blend neuroscience and evolutionary biology to explain why music is such a powerful force. In this rewarding though often repetitious study by bestselling author Levitin (This Is Your Brain on Music), a rock musician turned neuroscientist, argues that music is a core element of human identity, paving the way for language, cooperative work projects and the recording of our lives and history. Through his studies, Levitin has identified six kinds of songs that help us achieve these goals: songs of friendship, joy, comfort, knowledge, religion and love. He cites lyrics ranging from the songs of Johnny Cash to work songs, which, he says, promote feelings of togetherness. According to Levitin, evolution may have selected individuals who were able to use nonviolent means like dance and music to settle disputes. Songs also serve as "memory-aids," as records of our lives and legends. Some may find Levitin's evolutionary explanations reductionist, but he lightens the science with personal anecdotes and chats with Sting and others, offering an intriguing explanation for the power of music in our lives as individuals and as a society. (Aug.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

"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)

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