If there is any interest of mine which comes close to rivalling my passion for books, it’s music. I absolutely love it, and collect it even more obsessively than I do literature, which is saying a lot. Although I do have a number of books about music (which I will blog about in the future), the book I want to write about is in fact as much to do with our brains as with music, and is called This Is Your Brain On Music by Daniel Levitin.
I’ve talked about neurology based books before, such as my post on The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, and even more specifically my post on a music based neurology book by Oliver Sacks called Musicophilia. Daniel Levitin was a record producer who later became a neuroscientist, and so really is a man in the perfect position to write a book about music and the brain, in an attempt to try and understand this incredible, almost transcendental, human obsession.
The book breaks down the relationship between music and the brain in a number of ways, looking at what actually makes music, to how we categorise music, how music plays on our anticipation, our expectations, and our emotions, before looking at why we like the music we like, when other people might not, and eventually onto the concept of the music instinct.
What I love with this book is that no other book I have read breaks down music in such a scientific way, and yet, although I feared this might ruin the magic of the art form, it really doesn’t. This book explains that we are naturally hard-wired for music, that we all can appreciate it and possibly even play it better than most of us think we can, and that good music can really help us overcome the greatest depths of grief and despair, as well as lift us to new heights of joy, all because it affects the same parts of our brain in ways we are only just beginning to understand. Levitin also manages to explain all of this with language that is easy to understand no matter how much or little knowledge you have of both music and the brain, making this a great book for all readers with an interest in either of these subjects.
I can’t really say much more about this book without just retelling the contents, but to cut a long story short, if you love music, I highly recommend you buy this book. It is enlightening and fascinating, and for me has only added to the awe with which I find myself drawn to music in general, highlighting just how incredible, and ultimately how necessary, music really is in our lives.