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The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature [Paperback]

Daniel Levitin
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
Price: 6.29 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

25 Mar 2010

In his enthralling and revelatory This is Your Brain on Music Daniel Levitin unpicked the pathways of the brain to reveal how human beings have been hard-wired for music.
Now, in an astonishing blend of art and science, he unveils his revolutionary theory of ‘Six Songs’, and describes how music played a pivotal role in the creation of human culture and society.
Dividing the sum total of human musical achievement, from Beethoven to The Beatles, Busta Rhymes to Bach, into just six fundamental forms, Levitin illuminates, through songs of friendship, joy, comfort, knowledge, religion and love, how music has been instrumental in the evolution of language, thought and culture. And how, far from being a bit of a song and dance, music is at the core of what it means to be human.
A one-time record producer, now a leading neuroscientist, Levitin has composed a catchy and startlingly ambitious narrative that weaves together Darwin and Dionne Warwick, memoir and biology, anthropology and a jukebox of anecdote to create nothing less than the ‘soundtrack of civilisation’.
The World in Six Songs will change the way you listen to music for ever.

Daniel Levitin is the James McGill Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at McGill University. Before entering academia he worked as a session musician, sound engineer and record producer. He lives in Montreal, Canada.

Frequently Bought Together

The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature + This is Your Brain on Music: Understanding a Human Obsession + Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain
Price For All Three: 20.97

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd (25 Mar 2010)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1845135172
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845135171
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 224,567 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


‘This is the worst idea for a book I’ve ever heard – it makes me want to vomit. The idea encapsulates the very worst part of Western thought.’
One week later…
‘I take it back – I’m sorry! This is great!’

(Joni Mitchell)

‘Without music we would be little more than animals. Mr Levitin explains it beautifully’

(Sir George Martin)

‘This is a fascinating, entertaining book, and some of its most inventive themes may stay stuck in your head forever, something like a well-loved song’

(Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love)

About the Author

Daniel Levitin is the James McGill Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at McGill University. Before entering academia he worked as a session musician, sound engineer and record producer, and has fourteen gold and platinum records to his credit. He has played professionally with Mel Tormé, Blue Öyster Cult and David Byrne, and has worked on albums by artists including Stevie Wonder, Santana, Midnight Oil and The Carpenters. He has published extensively in scientific journals such as Science and Neuron and audio trade journals such as Grammy, Billboard and Audio, and is the author of the bestselling This Is Your Brain On Music, and The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it. 18 Mar 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm a musician and songwriter. Along with his other book 'Your Brain on Music' this is an almost invaluable work.

The no-nonsense structure has made it so every other line holds a golden nugget of information that may well change the way you look at things forever. The writing style is largely anecdotal and written in laymen's terms, despite venturing into fairly complex territory.

The author should be congratulated.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book 19 May 2014
By Heather
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Extremely interesting read for those who have a real interest in the social and emotional origins of song. Maybe a subject which folk haven't really thought of before. Makes a good present
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an entertaining read, very easy to get through, and plenty about it was endearing and appealing on a very approachable level - Levitin writes pretty readable stuff in trying to make the case for why humans have music, and what it means to us as thinking beings.

I was left slightly disappointed, however, because it just wasn't convincing. The author aims to classify all music into one of six different types (for friendship, for information, for joy etc.) but the whole thing left me with so many questions and aware of so many holes in his arguments that.. as a non-fiction, as a scientific book, it just didn't have the authority. I wanted more facts, more 'we have proved that this type of song elicits this response via brain imaging', more factual content. What it ended up feeling like was an entertaining read with lots of appealing ideas, the author choosing to illustrate things with anecdotes (and lots of name-dropping!) and accompany this with "Perhaps this means X and Y because of Z" type statements. I just did not buy many of his arguments about genetic selection for musical skills for the reasons he gave, as there seemed little factual basis for these assertions. There was also too much deconstruction of art/music, which gets on my wick a bit.

As a quirky and approachable popular psychology type book, however, it was an entertaining read, and if they don't expect too much rigour from it, readers will enjoy it.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A good topic but becomes tedious 25 Nov 2012
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
This is five CD audiobook, the cover is a cardboard box and in it a paper sleave with the CDs in pockets.

I was aggrieved when I tried to use this CD with iTunes and found that the titles of the tracks on the disk could not be found in iTunes database, I listened to it rather than choosing to transfer the contents to my iPod. This is disappointing and an inconvenience but needs to be considered apart from the audiobook itself and narration, which can still be informative, interesting and entertaining besides.

However, while there is a lot of interesting material here from speculation about the origins of music and song through mankinds movement from symbolism to language to how oral traditions work, how music proves to be memorable etc. it does become tedious very quickly, there is reptition too and I could not help but think the narrator adds to this too.

There is content which I thought should be more interesting that it sounded, that is I would listen to content, think about it and relisten to it because I knew the information being imparted was important but you could easily have missed it as there is a sort of drone factor to contest with. There is little reprieve from this, for instance emotion creeps in or when discussing memorising information with songs the songs are sang, its very brief and just a rhymn.

This did not spoile the audiobook for me but I dont believe there is a lot of relistening value and I dont believe that it was that memorable either, it did effect my enjoyment of the material too. That said I believe that if I had been reviewing the book I would have found it the same too.
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