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This Is Your Brain on Music
Cover of This Is Your Brain on Music
This Is Your Brain on Music
The Science of a Human Obsession
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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. A Los Angeles Times Book Award finalist, This is Your Brain on Music will attract readers of Oliver Sacks and David Byrne, as it is an unprecedented, eye-opening investigation into an obsession at the heart of human nature.
  • 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. A Los Angeles Times Book Award finalist, This is Your Brain on Music will attract readers of Oliver Sacks and David Byrne, as it is an unprecedented, eye-opening investigation into an obsession at the heart of human nature.
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    About the Author-
    • Daniel J. Levitin, PhD, is a neuroscientist, cognitive psychologist, and bestselling author. He is Founding Dean of Arts & Humanities at the Minerva Schools at KGI in San Francisco, a Distinguished Faculty Fellow in the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, and Professor Emeritus at McGill University. He is the author of This Is Your Brain on Music, The World in Six Songs, and The Organized Mind. He divides his time between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.
      Edward Herrmann was an Emmy Award–winning and Tony Award–winning actor. His theater credits include The Philadelphia Story and Love Letters. His film and television credits include Intolerable Cruelty, The Aviator, Gilmore Girls, and The Practice. He passed away in December 2014.
    Reviews-
    • Publisher's Weekly

      Starred review from May 15, 2006
      Think of a song that resonates deep down in your being. Now imagine sitting down with someone who was there when the song was recorded and can tell you how that series of sounds was committed to tape, and who can also explain why that particular combination of rhythms, timbres and pitches has lodged in your memory, making your pulse race and your heart swell every time you hear it. Remarkably, Levitin does all this and more, interrogating the basic nature of hearing and of music making (this is likely the only book whose jacket sports blurbs from both Oliver Sacks and Stevie Wonder), without losing an affectionate appreciation for the songs he's reducing to neural impulses. Levitin is the ideal guide to this material: he enjoyed a successful career as a rock musician and studio producer before turning to cognitive neuroscience, earning a Ph.D. and becoming a top researcher into how our brains interpret music. Though the book starts off a little dryly (the first chapter is a crash course in music theory), Levitin's snappy prose and relaxed style quickly win one over and will leave readers thinking about the contents of their iPods in an entirely new way.

    • "I know Dan to have a deep musical knowledge and strong intellect combined with a warm spirit and a big heart. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of popular music . . . He is a fine writer and has the ability to make difficult concepts very... "I know Dan to have a deep musical knowledge and strong intellect combined with a warm spirit and a big heart. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of popular music . . . He is a fine writer and has the ability to make difficult concepts very clear."—STEVIE WONDER
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