61 of 75 people found the following review helpful
This is Your Brain Losing Consciousness
, 17 Jun. 2008
This review is from: This is Your Brain on Music: Understanding a Human Obsession (Hardcover)
The first section of this book is a rough guide to the structure of music. If you know music, you won't need to read it. If you don't know music, I think it'll bore you. Then we get the brain stuff: here's a flat writer trying to be entertaining, dropping in references to Sting, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon and other, er, contemporary artists. There are some dull arguments - eg how are we able to categorise music so easily when pop bands like the Carpenters use distorted guitars and rock groups, like the Rolling Stones, employ a string section. Who cares?
It's also interesting who he doesn't mention: nothing on Kraftwerk, Stockhausen, very little on techno, dance music, electronica, DJ culture, blip-hop; nothing much on Indian music, next to nothing from Africa. In short he concentrates on rock dinosaurs of the seventies: Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and, of course, Sting.
Some of the writing verges on the banal, such as this: "It is also important to distinguish celebrity from expertise. The factors that contribute to celebrity could be different from, maybe wholly unrelated to, those that contribute to expertise."
There is very little in this book that opens up new vistas, or shines a light on a dark and dusty corner of music - it's all pretty obvious stuff.
Towards the end of the book we get a quick run through arguments for the importance of music in mate selection. Here's just one: "Far more women want to sleep with rock stars and athletes than marry them." Aside from being asinine (do more women want to sleep with Britney Spears than marry her?) hasn't Levitin been arguing he's talking about music, and not celebrity?
I read a great many pop science books. This has to be one of the worst. Levitin makes a fascinating subject achingly dull. His writing is trite, long-winded, dreary, boring and fatuous. And every time he mentioned Sting I wanted to throw the book across the room. I kept at it hoping it would get better. It doesn't.
I hated this book. I hated it it because it took two weeks of my life away. Finally, to the blurbs: "Endlessly stimulating" writes Oliver Sacks - he should know better; "You'll never hear music in the same way again" says Classic FM magazine.
"Music seems to have a wilful, almost evasive quality, defying simple explanation, so that the more we find out, the more there is to know. Daniel Levitin's book is an eloquent and poetic exploration of this paradox." And guess which pretentious old rock arse gave Levitin's book this high praise?
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