This Is Your Brain on Music Book Summary - This Is Your Brain on Music Book explained in key points
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This Is Your Brain on Music summary

Daniel Levitin

Understanding a Human Obsession

4.1 (106 ratings)
17 mins

Brief summary

This Is Your Brain on Music by Daniel Levitin explores the science behind music and its impact on the brain. Levitin delves into how music is processed in the brain and how it affects our emotions, behavior and memory.

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    This Is Your Brain on Music
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    When basic elements of sound combine in a meaningful way, it gives rise to music.

    What is music? While some people consider classical music the only “real” music, other people are adamant devotees of Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson. So, is it possible to come up with a general definition of music?

    Well, yes! We can define music as a meaningful combination of specific building blocks.

    As opposed to random noise, music has fundamental elements that come together to create meaningful relationships with one another.

    The most important of these fundamental elements are pitch, rhythm, tempo, contour, timbre, loudness and reverberation.

    Pitch answers the question “what note is that?” – it’s the only thing that changes during the first seven notes of the childrens’ song “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

    Rhythm involves the duration of a sequence of notes, and it is the only variance in the first seven notes of The Beach Boys’ hit “Barbara Ann.” Every note is sung at the same pitch.

    Tempo is the general speed of a piece, and contour refers to the overall shape of a melody – that is, whether a note rises or falls.

    Timbre concerns the tonal characteristics that distinguish one instrument from another when they are sounding the same note.

    Loudness is the amount of energy an instrument creates, and reverberation involves how far away from us we perceive the sound to be, or how large the room is in which the sound occurs.

    When we take all these attributes and combine them in a meaningful way, they give rise to higher-order concepts, such as melody, that form we perceive as music. We actually often think of music in terms of melody – the succession of tones we hear.

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    What is This Is Your Brain on Music about?

    In This is Your Brain on Music (2006), musician and neuroscientist Dr. Daniel J. Levitin illuminates exactly what happens in the brain when people listen to rhythms, timbres and pitches, helping us understand why we’re so profoundly affected by music.

    This Is Your Brain on Music Review

    This Is Your Brain on Music (2007) explores the fascinating relationship between music and the brain, making it a must-read for music lovers and science enthusiasts alike. Here's why this book is worth your time:

    • With insightful anecdotes and scientific explanations, it deepens our understanding of how music affects our emotions, memories, and overall well-being.
    • By combining personal experiences as a musician with extensive research, Levitin presents a comprehensive and engaging exploration of the power and universality of music.
    • The book's accessible language and clear explanations make complex concepts easy to grasp, ensuring that readers stay captivated and never find the topic dull.

    Best quote from This Is Your Brain on Music

    It is when the music begins that I start to cry.

    —Daniel Levitin
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    Who should read This Is Your Brain on Music?

    • People curious about what happens in their brain when they listen to music
    • Anyone who wants to learn more about the relationship between psychology and music

    About the Author

    Daniel Levitin is a psychologist, neuroscientist, musician, record producer and best-selling author. As well as working as a professor of psychology and behavioral neuroscience at McGill University, in Montreal, Levitin has worked as a producer, sound designer and consultant for the likes of Chris Isaak, Steely Dan, and Stevie Wonder.

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    This Is Your Brain on Music FAQs 

    What is the main message of This Is Your Brain on Music?

    The main message of This Is Your Brain on Music is the deep connection between music and the human brain.

    How long does it take to read This Is Your Brain on Music?

    The reading time for This Is Your Brain on Music varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is This Is Your Brain on Music a good book? Is it worth reading?

    This Is Your Brain on Music is a fascinating read, exploring the science of music and its impact on our brains. It's definitely worth your time.

    Who is the author of This Is Your Brain on Music?

    The author of This Is Your Brain on Music is Daniel Levitin.

    What to read after This Is Your Brain on Music?

    If you're wondering what to read next after This Is Your Brain on Music, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • How Music Works by David Byrne
    • Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-De-Ay by Simon Napier-Bell
    • Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks
    • Brainstorm by Daniel J. Siegel
    • The Little Book of Stoicism by Jonas Salzgeber
    • The 3-Minute Rule by Brant Pinvidic
    • On the Move by Oliver Sacks
    • The Poetry and Music of Science by Tom McLeish
    • Visual Thinking by Temple Grandin
    • Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard P. Feynman