Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy: How Music Captures Our Imagination
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Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy: How Music Captures Our Imagination

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  933 ratings  ·  40 reviews

What makes a distant oboe's wail beautiful? Why do some kinds of music lift us to ecstasy, but not others? How can music make sense to an ear and brain evolved for detecting the approaching lion or tracking the unsuspecting gazelle? Lyrically interweaving discoveries from science, psychology, music theory, paleontology, and philosophy, Robert Jourdian brilliantly examines

Paperback, 400 pages
Published April 1st 2008 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published 1997)
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Please Kill Me by Legs McNeilChronicles, Vol. 1 by Bob DylanLove is a Mix Tape by Rob SheffieldOur Band Could Be Your Life by Michael AzerradPsychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung by Lester Bangs
Best Non Fiction About Music
203rd out of 757 books — 610 voters
Music Therapy Research by Barbara L. WheelerMusicophilia by Oliver SacksThis Is Your Brain on Music by Daniel J. LevitinMusic, the Brain, and Ecstasy by Robert JourdainCase Studies in Music Therapy by Kenneth E. Bruscia
Best Music Therapy Books
4th out of 57 books — 8 voters

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Community Reviews

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Dec 11, 2013 Kyle rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: music lovers, linguists, people interested in neuroscience
Shelves: non-fiction
This one of the best books of this topic I have ever read. It is exponentially more informative that This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession and much more accessible than Music, Language, and the Brain, making it the perfect entry book for someone who is interested in the science of music.

Robert Jourdain (NOT Robert Jordan), provides an intelligent examination of what music does to our brains, how our brains process and organize music, and why musical prodigies, like Mozar...more
okay, so it took me a while to read this book, but i finally finished it, hooray! two reasons: 1. it was a self-task of mine to read this book, even though i knew most of the information presented there. 2. i went on 2 tours with 2 different bands over the 3-week period.

now that i've got those excuses out of the way, on to the good stuff. so i think this book is wonderful for those who want a general, nontechnical approach to music cognition (including psychoacoustics and neuromusicology). great...more
Masterful! The author systematically analyzes the structure of Western music, starting with the most basic elements and building to higher-level arrangements, then examines the human brain and the way sound, especially music, is experienced in the various parts of the brain. Finally, he examines the nature of pleasure and pain and proposes some intriguing ideas as to why good music can have such an intense and direct emotional impact on listeners.
This book offers plausible answers for some quest...more
May 27, 2009 Sam rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: music
A better "This is your Brain on Music." Jourdain speaks to the musician throughout, while shaking hands with neurological evidence and kissing interesting historical factoids. Similar to an arriving cadence he drives the reader forward, always dangling the carrot of more clarity just out of reach. But as he so eloquently put it, "Reaching an unsatisfying cadence after much anticipation is a sign of an elementary composer." Well, Jourdain, the same can be said for the final chapter of your book,...more
Matthew Hodge
First off, I should clear up that the "ecstasy" in the title refers to the pleasure listeners derive from music - this is not a book about the rave scene.

Jourdain explains how the ear and then the brain processes music and why it is we like and understand some types of music but don't get others.

Unfortunately, he's somewhat of a classical music snob so all his illustrations are in terms of classical music, which would probably be quite off-putting if that wasn't your type of music.

However, for m...more
This was a fascinating overview for the layperson of how our brains and bodies process music, in listening to, performing, and composing it. Jourdain presents the physics and neurology involved in music processing (as well as the evolution behind some of it) in easily understood terms. Much of the brain is not well understood, and he made sure to make that clear as well, often presenting multiple theories and the arguments for and against each one. Along the way he provides an overview of the hi...more
Dameun Strange
This book is a comprehensive study of all this music, from acoustics to the physiological effects of listening, to the psychology of composers and musicians. This book changed my musical life. I only wish I had read it before I went to college.
An excellent primer on music psychology for the layman. Has absolutely nothing to do with the drug ecstacy; would recommend a title alteration.
By and large, I had fun reading this book. The blend of neuroscience, psychology and musicology(?) works very well indeed. Together with Jourdain's fluid prose, it makes for an inspirational and educational read.

It is, however, not entirely without issues. Though Jourdain explains all the necessary music terminology needed to follow along, I still sometimes felt like I was missing something which would have been clear to a more musically inclined mind. Also, he sometimes spends a lot of time to...more
Alissa Mccarthy
Gregg, a friend at the bagel store I frequent, gave this book to me knowing my love of music and I am very grateful he did. This book intertwines discoveries from science, psychology, music theory, paleontology, and philosophy to examine why music speaks to us in ways that words cannot, and why we form such powerful connections to it. In clear, understandable language, Jourdian guides the reader through a continuum of musical experience: sound, tone, melody, harmony, rhythm, composition, perform...more
This book was absolutely fascinating! I was captivated throughout the entire book. Excellently written with higher-level vocabulary and was entertaining and not too nitty gritty when it came to explaining the science behind music, but still very in-depth. The examples and figurative language used helped me understand the meanings of some of the scientific terms, and made everything crystal clear. I highly recommend this book, even to those who are not musicians or composers or not interested in...more
Nov 02, 2011 Juan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: owned
Muy interesante estudio sobre la ciencia detrás de la música. El autor comienza describiendo la música como un fenómeno físico (ondas de sonido) y va subiendo el nivel de abstracción en cada capítulo, mis favoritos fueron los últimos, cuando habla sobre la composición y como escuchamos y entendemos la música.
Rand Harker
I'm waffling between three and four stars here. The book purports to explain just why it is that the brain permits us to experience music the way we do. However though there is a lot of interesting material related to music history and structure, the promised illumination regarding the function of the brain related to the topic never quite materializes. The chapter on performance goes into great detail on how the brain controls the physiology of, saying, pressing the piano keys with the fingers,...more
Dave Peticolas

This was a gift from my friends Amy & Keith Wiley, and it turned out to be a wonderful present. Using evolutionary theory, physics, biology, neurology, psychology, and philosophy, Jourdain explores our ability to appreciate and create music. The writing is clean and quickly-paced and each chapter contains several "I didn't know that!" moments. Highly recommended.

This is a very interesting, scholarly but accessible thesis on the relationship between mind and music. Problem is - the real research linking music the brain and ecstasy is yet to be undertaken
Kameel Nasr
This was one of the first books about the now popular science of music enriching our lives. Jourdain uses real information to define the field. It is clear that he is a musician.
Katie Banks
Learned lots about music; also intensely annoyed by his over-dramatic style, and unnecessarily florid metaphors for basic physics and music concepts. Really basic--for example, that things vibrate is described using a line of drunk people hassling each other at different rates. Excellent bibliography in the back that will keep you occupied, and is necessary to get any grip on the science involved. Worse and more speculative as it goes up in levels of organization from "low-level" perception to e...more
Amalina Syahirah
Apr 15, 2014 Amalina Syahirah marked it as to-read
how can i read this book online ???
Chris Leuchtenburg
I am giving this four stars despite the fact that I didn't finish it. Popular science books often err by providing too little technical information to be substantial; this one doesn't have that flaw. However, that made it a bit challenging for a bedtime read. Actually, I would like to own the book as a reference. I particularly liked his ruminations at the end about the nature of pleasure and its relationship to anticipation and fulfillment or surprise.
[mid read]

this book is gorgeous. as someone who was previously heavily involved in music, dance and the performance of both, this book is a buffet of mind-candy. I am loving this one so much, I've already marked up the pages with notes, highlights and little tabs despite being about half way through. truly, truly, truly enjoyable even if a dog ate the cover of my copy.
Sidenote I'm reminded of as I read this: I do wish the things I find out about famous figures wasn't as much of a let-down as is typical, but more, I wish that everyone who writes and talks about them wouldn't make it worse. We should do our best to talk up the good things instead of the idiosyncrasies
Sep 12, 2007 Timothy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people with brains
I wouldn't put this in the 'easy reads' pile, but the wealth of information in this book is astounding. My wife called the writing "scientific-y" which is accurate. You will learn the physics of sound, what the your brain and ears do with it and the profound difference between noise and music.
This is one of the best books I've read in a long time. A very enjoyable study of the interaction of music and the brain at many different levels, and yet it never gets bogged down in the science. Lively, fascinating, and well worth the time.
Nov 26, 2007 Karyn rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Music people.
This book was weird. It was way too frilly for a science book. I'm all for imagery, but this was too syrupy or something. The cool facts about music and listening to music were buried under two or three pages of needless contextual fluff.
COvers everything you want to know about what music is, how it is made, and how the human body percieves it. This book was a large part of my source material for my college papers on composition.
David Scott
An intense study of how music affects us, touches our emotions, and exercises our brain. Why does that particular song mesh with your personality? The answer might is within these pages.
Al Rigz
I loved This is Your Brain on Music, and I recommend beginning there. This book is more in-depth and for those that want more hard science. Definitely an excellent read.
Justin Hill
Read this one a long time ago. I think I liked it but lost interest when he went on too long about how our musical taste came from when our ancestors were fish.
Feb 15, 2008 Trisha marked it as to-read
I actually bought this book and have read a few chapters but I would love to finish it. It's a science non-fiction. But very cool.
Travis Johns
Aug 26, 2007 Travis Johns rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: thesis-writers.
third time i've read it... more to be added later - too bust taking annotations for incorporation into my thesis...
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