This Is Your Brain on Music

  • by Daniel J. Levitin
  • Narrated by Edward Herrmann
  • 6 hrs and 10 mins
  • Abridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In this groundbreaking union of art and science, rocker-turned-neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin 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 headsAnd, taking on prominent thinkers who argue that music is nothing more than an evolutionary accident, Levitin argues that music is fundamental to our species, perhaps even more so than language. This Is Your Brain on Music is an unprecedented, eye-opening investigation into an obsession at the heart of human nature.


What the Critics Say

"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." (Publishers Weekly)
"Levitin is a deft and patient explainer of the basics for the non-scientist as well as the non-musician....By tracing music's deep ties to memory, Levitin helps quantify some of music's magic without breaking its spell." (Los Angeles Times Book Review)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Intricate Reading

I advice a core group of musicians and people whose livelihood depend on music to view this book as compulsory. Orchestral composers and conductors, program directors and any student of music all should add this book to their cart and buy it NOW! The information this book contains is simply too foundational and new to pass up.

As a critique of the book, there are two general ways in which I perceive this book. First, it is a very intricate review of how our brains process music. I have a general interest in the neurology of psychology and Daniel Levitin proves to be very informative, thus making his book interesting to me. On the flip side of this (my second perception), the presentation is dry. It reminds me of the book "Getting to Yes" (Fisher, Ury & Patton) in that it is good information delivered in nearly monolithically by a narrator. I feel like I am having information downloaded into my thinking brain while my emotional brain is ignoring everything said. Where as Stephen Covey's "The 8th Habit" is read by Stephen Covey, himself, with complete sincerity and from his heart, "This is Your Brain on Music" is tough to listen to considering the intricate details and monotone narrator.

Last, considering the topic, music, I think Levitin had a perfect opportunity to go much further using this audio book as a tool. While there are simple examples of music to support points that Levintin is making, not once when he mentions an actual song does he then play the actual recording of the song on the audio tape. Yes, there are legal recording ownership rights that Levintin would have to negotiate in order to play song recordings on this audio book, but it would have enhanced the book tremendously. Additionally, when speaking about tone and tambour, examples rapidly inserted at the referenced points in the book would have helped. To be fair, I should mention that I am the executive producer of a radio program; I am sensitive to these quality issues.
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- Paul Alexander

Interesting, but Abridged?

I have always been intrigued with this subject and always wondered why we enjoy music so much, and how our brains evolved to interpret it the way we do.

I listened to every word on this book, and I welcomed the detailed explanation of musical terms and definitions. But I finished wishing that I had listened to the unabridged version. There was a big gap between the study of our the connections between our reptilian and rational brains, and the cultural reasons (mostly sexual) for using music as an expression of ourselves.

I really enjoyed the fact that the author took the time to insert musical examples. Usually audio books are basically read aloud, but this one includes music. I wish it had more of it.

Because the book was abridged, I was left with that strange feeling we get when we listen to a beautiful musical piece, and the last note is left unplayed. A feeling of incompleteness, but the knowledge that the author meant well. If you can deal with those feelings, then buy the audio book. If not, I suggest you read it the old fashioned way.
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Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-03-2007
  • Publisher: Penguin Audio