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Music, Language, and the Brain

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  721 ratings  ·  14 reviews
In the first comprehensive study of the relationship between music and language from the standpoint of cognitive neuroscience, Aniruddh D. Patel challenges the widespread belief that music and language are processed independently. Since Plato's time, the relationship between music and language has attracted interest and debate from a wide range of thinkers. Recently, scien ...more
Hardcover, 528 pages
Published December 7th 2007 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published November 5th 2007)
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Stuart
Dec 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: music, science
The most impressive book on the subject I've read. Not an easy read and not for most readers, but the far ranging surveys of scientific studies makes a good case for the linking of music and language. My notes:

Octave & 5th very common
Most scales 5 - 7 notes
Most scale intervals between 1&3 semitones (2 common)
Most scales are asymmetric-exceptions are Whole tone(6) and Slendro(5)
Asymmetric scales help identify relation to tonic though cultural conditioning trumps in pattern recognition

Tabla, Tibet
...more
Kaitlyn Dennis
My first thought after finishing this: WHEW. What a mental workout. This took about a month and a half to get through, which, for a book that I was reading on a semi-daily basis throughout that, is a hell of a long time. Still, totally worth it.

Although it's not a pop science book, it's still accessible for those not in the field of neuroscience or linguistics. However, I'm not sure how readable or enjoyable this would be for someone without any exposure to general music theory and/or linguistic
...more
Becky
A range of fascinating topics here. I preferred the early material on processing, perception, and comparisons with other species more than the later topics on therapeutic angles, even though those are useful and potentially the most relevant.
Kendra Carter
Jun 22, 2020 marked it as to-read
Love the neurological understanding on how the Brain uses and processes music
Benitez Bryn2
Dec 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
this article ispretty much well written
Will
Dec 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
"Linguistic and musical sound systems illustrate a common theme in the study of music-language relations. On the surface, the two domains are dramatically different. Music uses pitch in ways that speech does not, and speech organizes timbre to a degree seldom seen in music. Yet beneath these differences lie deep connections in terms of cognitive and neural processing. Most notably, in both domains the mind interacts with one particular aspect of sound (pitch in music, and timbre in speech) to cr ...more
Dirk Elzinga
Apr 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music, linguistics
For the most part this book reads like a gigantic lit review. Unavoidable, perhaps, but off-putting at the same time. I found myself marking up the bibliography section much more than the text itself. Still, I can't deny that this book fills a great gaping hole in the presentation of the research connecting music and language, and Patel should be commended for this work. (It should be noted that a great deal of the research summarized here is by Patel and colleagues.)
Brian
May 12, 2013 rated it liked it
An thorough, meticulous, nearly exhaustive review of the research on how the brain processes music and language. It's a tiring read, free of much one might call "style", but the chapter on Meaning masterfully pulls together the loads of information presented in the previous chapters. The book ends up being more suggestive than conclusive, but if you are interested in, for example, how the "music" of poetry is processed by the brain, this is the book for you.
Kalle Oskar
Patel's work is a dense study that musicians might understand, or neurobiologist might understand - at least in part. The Rhetorician doesn't quite get it. I'm working at understanding, but it is a difficult work. The struggle may be repaid sometime.
Scott Miles
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: neuroscience
What an incredible resource! This book reads like a 520-page "Nature Reviews Neuroscience" paper, and a well-written one at that. Up-to-date, thorough, scientifically balanced, and intellectually bold, this is a volume that I hope will guide my own research for years to come.
Sunlita
Feb 26, 2009 marked it as to-read
Shelves: five-stars-books
Tough I really want to read this book, the price is quite expensive for me, so I should wait until I have a chance to buy this book. But from what I've read about this, it seems that this book's price is worthed to buy.
Tim
Sep 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
A scholarly study by a neuroscientist of core aspects of being human. Patel argues that language use arose via natural selection but the evidence on balance indicates that music and musical affinity are side-effects rather than direct effects of selection.
Nguyễn Thanh Tùng
Jan 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I want to discover more about the link between music and language.This book is really useful and helpful to me.
Everett Charters
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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“Linguistic and musical sound systems illustrate a common theme in the study of music-language relations. On the surface, the two domains are dramatically different. Music uses pitch in ways that speech does not, and speech organizes timbre to a degree seldom seen in music. Yet beneath these differences lie deep connections in terms of cognitive and neural processing. Most notably, in both domains the mind interacts with one particular aspect of sound (pitch in music, and timbre in speech) to create a perceptually discretized system. Importantly, this perceptual discretization is not an automatic byproduct of human auditory perception. For example, linguistic and musical sequences present the ear with continuous variations in amplitude, yet loudness is not perceived in terms of discrete categories. Instead, the perceptual discretization of musical pitch and linguistic timbre reflects the activity of a powerful cognitive system, built to separate within-category sonic variation from differences that indicate a change in sound category. Although music and speech differ in the primary acoustic feature used for sound category formation, it appears that the mechanisms that create and maintain learned sound categories in the two domains may have a substantial degree of overlap. Such overlap has implications for both practical and theoretical issues surrounding human communicative development.

In the 20th century, relations between spoken and musical sound systems were largely explored by artists. For example, the boundary between the domains played an important role in innovative works such as Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire and Reich's Different Trains (cf. Risset, 1991). In the 21st century, science is finally beginning to catch up, as relations between spoken and musical sound systems prove themselves to be a fruitful domain for research in cognitive neuroscience. Such work has already begun to yield new insights into our species' uniquely powerful communicative abilities.”
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