What goes through your mind when you hear The Ride of the Valkyries?
Smells Like Teen Spirit?
The jingle in a toothpaste commercial?
As it turns out, the feelings music evokes in us has a physiological basis more often than not. This emotional phenomenon, it seems, goes beyond measurable responses like heart rate, blood pressure and brain activity. Melodies actually excite, relax, charm and (occasionally) annoy us in a very direct way.
Naturally, the only person qualified to explain exactly how this works would be both a neurologist and a musician. In this case, Dr Daniel Levitin fits the bill perfectly, having made a career in both fields in addition to writing several acclaimed books on critical thinking and the link between music and mind.
Though this book wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting if it had been written by someone less accomplished, you will (mostly) find the ideas within accessible even if you’re a non-scientist whose singing in the shower makes shampoo curdle.
Don’t expect to polish off this book in an afternoon, though. While it’s less technical than “A Critical Role for the Right Fronto-Insular Cortex in Switching Between Central-Executive and Default-Mode Networks” by the same author, there’s a lot to get through and a couple of the concepts may send you scurrying to Wikipedia.
Overall, though, Your Brain on Music contains enough interesting facts, anecdotes and examples to keep you entertained while educating you about this important aspect of human nature. In this regard, it would compare well to any other book on the subject except for one thing: there really isn’t any other like it. This is literally a groundbreaking work, and even though it was first published over ten years ago, will probably remain a topic of discussion for quite some time to come.