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on 21 October 2017
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on 26 April 2017
Can't put this down. Answering so many questions I had. Very easy to read, not highbrow but well researched. A must for any music lover. No, I will rephrase that because we are all music lovers. A must if you want to understand how it all works.
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on 29 June 2017
Such a fascinating book - well written, full of stories and research on something we can easily understand intuitively, but which defies easy conventional explanation.
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on 21 October 2009
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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on 11 February 2010
I'm obsessed with music - it's my entire life. I'm a musician/songwriter, and I was immediately intrigued on reading the cover, that I may never "hear music in the same way again" after reading this book.

This book is sometimes very interesting, and it is worth the read for the occasional gem, but it was a struggle and half way through I found myself gazing at all the other books on my bookshelf waiting to be read, wishing I could muster the energy to stumble through yet another paragraph of scientific babble about the "hippocampus" or the "nucleus accumbens"!!

I understand that this is about how the brain works to percieve music, but most of the time I was struggling to understand what Daniel Levitin was talking about.

If you are a musician with a good knowledge of science, this might be the one for you, but for someone with very little knowledge of the latter - steer clear!!
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on 3 October 2017
If you want to see beyond the 'noise' this is the book to be read.
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on 20 August 2008
'This Is Your Brain On Music' looks at the neuroscience behind listening to and performing music. Although I've read many popular science books and am familiar with the style of writing, I found this to be quite a hard going book at first. The first couple of chapters look at the structure of music and are quite dry to plow though. If you know music theory this will cover familiar ground and if you don't I'm sorry to say that this is a laboured way of gaining that understanding. However after you get through these chapters this books really comes into it's own, with lots of fascinating experiments and facts it starts to pique your interest and you become more engrossed in the points being made. The chapter linking our auditory system to the cerebellum and the associated emotional linkages made for especially interesting reading. Overall this is a interesting read and if you can get past the first hundred pages you are in for some interesting ideas, presented in an engaging and informative way. 3 1/2 - 4 stars.

Dedicated to Stephen A. Haines whose reviews inspired me to read some amazing science books and who will be greatly missed.

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
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on 27 May 2016
Irritating lack of scientific knowledge by author who can't grasp 'complex' concepts like second harmonic. Also doesn't know of any scale other than equally tempered. Not a good book for someone who want's to understand music as he never goes into any real depth.
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on 25 March 2010
This is your brain on music

The science of a human obsession

By Daniel Levitin

A Review by the Cotes d' Azur Men's Book Group

Music is an auditory signal, a recurring pattern of sound waves that the ear and the brain assimilate and order into intelligible auditory messages.
Million of neurons in the brain sent their signals tRachmaninov : Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor Op.18 : I Moderatoo various areas that are design4ed to react. These "receiving stations" are specialised areas such as the Auditory Cortex, the Motor Cortex, the Prefrontal Cortex and other vital sectors. All play a major part in playing, listening and making an emotional response - like foot tapping - to the music.
While few music lovers will have given any thought to the underlying brain or mind processes involved, Daniel Levitin, neuroscientist and author of This is your brain on music , has given a huge amount of time and thought to the complexity involved. He is a fountain of information.
Enjoyable as is this book for its coverage of so many aspects of music, it does ask some very difficult questions.
While applauding the attempt to explain the mechanism of the brain's auditory processes, it is sad to feel that his impressive and greatly researched thesis seemed too laboured for some of our members and yet inadequate for one more knowledgeable in the field.
As the New York Times commented in its review, "Levitin is an unusually deft interpreter full of striking scientific trivia"
He may be damned by faint praise but he has made a valuable contribution o the understanding of a very complex and human operation.
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VINE VOICEon 10 July 2012
I bought this book as I know almost nothing about music other than that I like it! I was hoping to "understand my obsession" as the sub-title says, from a lay point of view. I ended up none the wiser after 260 pages. The first part of the book is a real show stopper for starters - launching into a 50 page chapter on "what is music". My eyes misted over after endless discussion of chords, keys, scales and all the technical stuff I don't know and don't what to know. But I ploughed on hoping for better.

Then the rest of the book is in part rambling, part technical (lots of talks of chords, keys etc) and a lot of it is not even about music. There's even a whole chapter devoted to a 10 minute informal discussion with Professor Crick when he was 90!

It's not all doom and gloom. There was the odd good page!
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