Read: This is Your Brain on Music 

February 21, 2008

This is Your Brain on Music

This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession
Daniel J. Levitin

When I was in graduate school, I mentioned within earshot of a professor that I probably know more about alternative and independent music from 1980 onwards than I know about anything else. The professor insisted that I must know more about my doctoral thesis, but I couldn’t agree – when I think about the thousands of songs I can recognize within a few bars or can sing or hum along to, to say nothing of the masses of ancillary information like band names, albums, song titles and who dated whom, the sheer number of terabytes in my head dedicated to music is staggering. But the really astonishing part is that I’m not unusual. Everyone is great at remembering music. This is the book that explains why.

Written by a platinum-selling music producer who went to graduate school to study cognitive neuropsychology, This is Your Brain on Music addresses the cognitive underpinnings of the remarkable human facility with music. Daniel J. Levitin starts with a brief, lucid introduction to the fundamentals of music theory, and then goes on to discuss how we discern rhythm and harmony, how the brain processes music, and how we remember songs, ending with a discussion of the evolution of ‘the music instinct.’ Levitin shows how these processes are complex and highly distributed, involving regions of the brain ranging from the most primitive (the cerebellum) to the prefrontal cortex, the seat of higher reasoning. Throughout the book, Levitin is clear but doesn’t oversimplify, and he alerts you to the many, many open questions that remain in the field. This is a great book for anyone who’s given any thought to how we think about music.


website [includes hundreds of musical samples that are referenced in the book]


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