Friday, January 15, 2010
Book Review: This is Your Brain on Music
I enjoyed this book enough that I'm sure I won't read the sequel. This is the debut book by Daniel J. Levitin, published a few years ago. Levitin himself worked with music and as a "sound guy" for years before joining a psychology program, getting a Ph.D. and then starting his own lab looking at how brains process music. This book hits all the right chords (sorry) as it passes through basic music theory and biochemistry and then as it talks about the intersection of science and music. Levitin has a particular knack for explaining the basics of whatever field, and since this is his first book he has a lot of basics to explain. Only in the final chapter does it start to come off the rails a little, as he gets into evolutionary explanations for why music is fundamental, and seems to be favoring his own theories rather than a broad assessment of the possibilities. From what I can tell, the minor weaknesses of this final chapter are magnified in his second book (which I glanced through a library copy and my brain has decided it's not for me right now). The way I see it, Levitin's strength is describing the brain, not evolution. Since this book focuses on his strength it's a very strong book. Recommended!