Jocelyn's Reviews > This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession

This Is Your Brain on Music by Daniel J. Levitin
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's review
Jul 11, 2011

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bookshelves: non-fiction
Read in July, 2011

I read this as a follow-up to Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks (which I enjoyed reading -- and reviewing!) It answered the questions that Sacks does not address, such as what parts of our brains process music, why music affects us emotionally, and whether musicianship conferred an evolutionary advantage on our ancestors. Plus Levitin also discusses the basics, like pitch and frequency, timbre, and rhythm. I liked the part where he explains how composers and performers move us and interest us by violating our expectations: for example, not returning the melody to the tonic, or using sycopation to throw off the rhythm. I also liked the observation that music has historically been connected to movement (dancing, marching, rocking, etc.) Children know this instinctively. Only in the last 500 years or so have we developed a culture where we sit around quietly and listen to professional musicians. Maybe this is why I would much rather perform music than listen to it.

This is not a particularly difficult book to read, but it's not perfect either. There are many awkward transitions, plus Levitin is so immersed in the world of music and academia, he sometimes forgets to filter out details that are not really interesting to those who are not.
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message 1: by Debi (new)

Debi I've wondered about this book. Thanks for the review.

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