4.0 out of 5 stars
An Excellent Read, July 26 2001
Music, the Brain and Ecstasy by Robert Jourdain is an intriguing study into the way we perceive sound and how we understand music. Jourdain's book attempts to unlock the mysteries behind music and to understand why music is so meaningful, and to explain these concepts to those who are not experts in the field. Jourdain presents the subjects in a style which allows even unaccustomed readers to understand difficult subjects, and he does so by leading the reader through ten chapters, starting with the physiology of sound and ending up with the philosophy of why music gives us so much pleasure, and at times, pain.
I found this book to be both informative and at times fascinating. Jourdain uses interesting examples to lead the reader through the concepts. One example was Blind Tom, the savant who was able to take any piece and play it from memory. Another was Rosemary Brown, who claimed to have psychically channeled dead composers to create new pieces. Although interesting, I believe that those new to music might find some of the technical descriptions tough to follow early on, mostly because Jourdain throws many new concepts at the reader at once. In addition, Jourdain at times seems to lump all popular music together when making his points; clearly Jourdain has a bias toward the classics. Jourdain makes some blanket statements regarding the simplicities of popular music versus the complexities of classical music. Although generally true, I am sure readers could identify cases just the opposite - for example, the intricacies of Appalachian harmonies, or cases of simple classical music. Even with these issues, I found Music, the Brain and Ecstasy to be an excellent read for anyone interested in the theory of sound and music.