Wednesday, January 4, 2017

This is Your Brain on Music

Author: Daniel J. Levitin
Pages: 261
Rating: G

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.

My Thoughts: I felt that parts of this book were very interesting (basically the parts that expounded on the bullet points above) but a lot of it was very sciency and technical and I ended up skimming through it. Levitin does a nice job of putting everything into laymans' terms, it's still a rather complicated subject with a lot to explain. I had a hard time with all of that. One of my favorite parts was learning about how the songs that we like the most are also the ones that most surprise our brains and do things that we aren't expecting. Because they are at just the right balance between predictable and unpredictable, we end up enjoying those songs for years. The Beatles were able to find this balance, and that's why everyone still listens to their music. That chapter was really fun to read. All in all, this book wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but it was still interesting, and I felt good because I was learning something. 

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