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This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession Paperback – Aug 28 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; 1 edition (Aug. 28 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452288525
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452288522
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.4 x 0.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #11,506 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents


Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
What is music? Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on Dec 3 2007
Format: Hardcover
When a rock musician, a sound engineer and a neuroscientist combine their talents to explain how we think about music, it promises to be interesting. When those three individuals are present in one man who also writes well, the result is compelling. With a strong scientific foundation - no little of that from his own work - from which to build, coupled with his production experience, Levitin has launched a new phase in the understanding of how the mind deals with the outside world. In the manner of colours we think we see, sounds are simply vibrations of air until our brain identifies and translates them for us. Without descending into arcane terms for either the brain or music, he skilfully guides us through the process of "music appreciation" - and why we do.

Musicians enter our lives more intimately than almost anybody else. They can inspire us, influence our lives in innumerable ways, and they are available at any time - virtually at our command. We welcome their presence even when we haven't consciously sought them out. Music is always a personal relationship, sometimes very intense, generating emotions perhaps hidden or suppressed. How can the movement of air molecules generate such reactions in us?

In answering that question, Levitin takes the reader on describes the path sound takes from its entry into the ear. Nerve impulses from sound have a number of paths open to them. Widely dispersed areas of the brain process the signals, further triggering a variety of reactions. Much new information about sounds and the brain's reaction to them has come to light in recent years. When the sound is music, the brain actually goes through mathematical calculations to register timbre, pitch and other musical elements.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Jan. 17 2008
Format: Paperback
I finished this book for two reasons: 1) It was a gift; 2) There was enough musical and neurological trivia scattered throughout to keep me hoping for some grand synthesis. But there I was on the last page, still anticipating something more-- fulfillment, if you will, of the majesty promised by the title, synopsis and scads of reviews. I admit I was pleased to see the author stick it to Stephen Pinker, but disappointed by the repetitive, name-dropping, self-conscious writing style. As a primer on some of the juicier bits of music theory and the human compulsions behind it, this text is more than adequate. However, if you already understand one central idea-- that music profoundly affects the brain because it's simultaneously aural, imaginative and kinetic-- then it's not likely you'll experience a shift in the arc of your thinking.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Frank Russo on Sept. 5 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book is a remarkable achievement. It provides a compelling and lucid overview of important developments in the science of music. Levitin accomplishes this in singular fashion by providing the reader with personal insights drawn from his experience as a musician, producer, and scientist. There are a number of worthwhile books to consider along this theme but this one truly has a sense of the excitement and inspiration surrounding the research.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By EagerReader on May 15 2008
Format: Paperback
As a physics grad student and a music/guitar enthusiast, I would describe myself as perfectly belonging to the target audience of this book. I started reading with great enthusiasm and interest, but was I in for a surprise. I have read many lovely popular science books, but I wouldn't put this book on that list for several reasons.

First of all, this is the book with the biggest number of typos per page that I have ever read, and for me they are real eye-sores. Second, there is a lot of repetition of already stated ideas, in a very unnecessary and unhelpful way. My reading was very often interrupted by thoughts of the type "he already said this earlier, will he just move on to the subject?". If I, as a casual reader, notice so many obvious blunders that my reading is constantly interrupted, why didn't the author or editor find them before the book was published?

Third, name dropping. This has been mentioned time and time again in the negative reviews here, but I only read them after I became annoyed with the book myself and needed to find out if my book is from a bad batch or whatever is happening. I like hearing stories about famous people, but more often than not the way these were presented in the book amounted more to bragging by the author and a distraction from the story than anything else.

All in all, I got a lot of useful trivia from this book and there are parts that I enjoyed immensely. I felt I have to write a review because the author didn't do his basic job, and getting to the useful stuff was very tedious. It's not a book I would read 'over and over', as one gleaming review suggested. Look into it if it's in the library, but don't rush to spend money on it. In this spirit, I'm donating mine to the local library.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By James S. Mclean on Aug. 30 2007
Format: Paperback
If you play a musical instrument or would like to play; if you sing or listen to music; if you have a brain and are even slightly interested in what makes it tick you must buy this book. Read it two or three times or even more, because it will reward you each time. It's worth at least 10,000 hours of practice. Highly recommended.
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