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

Popular Science

By: Daniel J Levitin(Author)

322 pages, illustrations


Paperback | Sep 2007 | #210627 | ISBN-13: 9780452288522
Availability: Usually dispatched within 1 week Details
NHBS Price: £15.99 $21/€18 approx
Hardback | Dec 2006 | #161911 | ISBN: 0525949690
Out of Print Details

About this book

Music, Science, and the Brain are more closely related than you think. Daniel J. Levitin, James McGill Professor of Psychology and Music at McGill University, shows you why this is. In this groundbreaking union of art and science, rocker-turned-neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin ("The World in Six Songs") 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, as it is an unprecedented, eye-opening investigation into an obsession at the heart of human nature.

"Endlessly stimulating, a marvelous overview, and one which only a deeply musical neuroscientist could give [...] An important book."
- Oliver Sacks, M.D.

"Why human beings make and enjoy music is, in Levitin's telling, a delicious story."

"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

"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."
- Publishers Weekly, starred review


This Is Your Brain On Music Introduction
"I Love Music and I Love Science--Why Would I Want to Mix the Two?"

1. What Is Music?
"From Pitch to Timbre"

2. Foot Tapping
"Discerning Rhythm, Loudness, and Harmony"

3. Behind the Curtain
"Music and the Mind Machine"

4. Anticipation
"What We Expect from Liszt (and Ludacris)"

5. You Know My Name, Look Up the Number
"How We Categorize Music"

6. After Dessert, Crick Was Still Four Seats Away from Me
"Music, Emotion, and the Reptilian Brain"

7. What Makes a Musician?
"Expertise Dissected"

8. My Favorite Things
"Why Do We Like the Music We Like?"

9. The Music Instinct
"Evolution's #1 Hit"

Bibliographic Notes

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Daniel J. Levitin runs the Levitin Laboratory for Musical Perception, Cognition, and Expertise at McGill University, where he holds the Bell Chair in the Psychology of Electronic Communications. Before becoming a neuroscientist, he was a record producer with gold records to his credit and professional musician. He has published extensively in scientific journals and music trade magazines such as Grammy and Billboard.

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