Dav'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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Feb 23, 2012

liked it

Enjoyable and accessible book that ranges between moderately deep discussions of neural anatomy to musical theory analysis and tidbits of personal interactions with various famous musicians. Levitin manages to effectively mix a pretty good popular science exploration without his personal memoirs getting too much in the way. He's hung out with Watson and Crick (separately) on one hand, on the other Carlos Santana and Joni Mitchell.

Highlights for me:

The best explanation of music theory I've ever run across, or at least the first that really sank in for me.
The inner ear has neurons that bypass the auditory cortex and go straight into your cerebellum! In other words your brain can hear things wholly subconsciously. This ties into the emotional power of music.
Joni Mitchell's use of alternative tunings was an innovative manipulation of our cultural music schemas.


On the downside, a lot of the time we find ourselves running up to the limits of neuroscience and left holding nothing but a decent theory and little cold hard facts. This isn't so much a detraction from the authorship but it left me feeling unsatisfied quite often. I'm glad I read it, still. With how quickly neuroscience seems to be advancing these days, I would love to revisit the next edition in a decade or so.

He mentions a lot of songs in the book. I created an incomplete Spotify playlist for them here: This is Your Brain on Music - Daniel J Levitin. Too bad the Beatles aren't on Spotify (just covers).

Also, after reading this you should watch Vi Hart's fantastic 30 minutes of 12 tone awesomeness.
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Reading Progress

February 23, 2012 – Shelved
November 26, 2013 – Started Reading
December 25, 2013 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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message 1: by Helen (new)

Helen Kang this is a great review!


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