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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Difficult to place... is this academia or anecdotal memoirs?, 21 Oct. 2009
This review is from: This is Your Brain on Music: Understanding a Human Obsession (Paperback)
Difficult to place... is this academia or anecdotal memoirs?

First of all I think it needs to be said, that this is not a bad text per se. Sure it has faults - lots of them, but I really feel that the positives outweigh the negatives and that the hoards of supposed 'professional musician/scientist' (I think not) who appear to have read this text and given it a one star rating are perhaps motivated by false-pride and jealousy - never a good combination on which to build sound judgement!

The real problem with this text is that, to quote from the 1950s it doesn't 'know its place'. It reads in parts like an academic text, maybe an undergraduate thesis. Then it veers off into the world of gossip, anecdotes, and conjecture. It is almost like a mild Schizophrenic who thinks on the one side, they are an MIT professor of socio-musicology and on the other that they are an orator, a teller of stories, tales and anecdotes in an c.18th circus.

Throughout this tussle one cannot help but think Professor Levitin is not one of those sad baby-boomers who (under his sterile lab-coat) still tucks his paunch into a pair of faded blue-jeans, which he wears as some empty statement of post-conformist rebellion.

To the text...

The plusses.
i) There are lots of very interesting correlations between the points he makes, and the visual Arts, something which interested me personally.
ii) In contains some genuinely fascinating revelations.
iii) It appears to be mostly well researched and well founded.
iv) It gives the novice reader a window into both musicology and neuroscience - albeit a tedious and dull one.

The minuses:
i) It is VERY, very, VERY boring in parts. Is this due to the subject matter? or the penmanship? One is never quite sure.
ii) It is full of dull, mostly irrelevant anecdotes. The sad professor mingles with the has-beens, the never-rans and the odd star.
iii) Levitin appears not to know how to use personal pronouns. The text is littered with THE most bizarre use of 'he' and 'she', when a simply 'they' would suffice.
iv) Sadly the edition I purchased contains spelling mistakes and errors in literary protocol.
v) Very often conjecture masquerades as Truth, with no citation to support his stance.
vi) Levitin occasionally leaves his field of obvious expertise and wanders into other academic disciplines where he looks like an ill-informed half-wit.
vii) Overall, the text lacks continuity in parts; continuity of both argument and of logic.

The conclusion.
To restate, I would say it is worth investing your time into reading this and it is worth persevering until the end. Although there are a LOT of minor annoyances such as those mentioned prior, there are conversely, a good deal of genuinely interesting points, which may or may not assimilate with areas of your personal interests. Like Santa, though, I feel that there is surely something here for everyone, no matter how small the gift may be.
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