Book Review: This is Your Brain on Music

“This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession”, by Daniel J. Levitin

While admittedly this is a book which will appeal to a limited audience, I loved it! Levitin runs the Laboratory for Musical Perception, Cognition, and Expertise at McGill University, and has the unique resumé of professional recording artist turned sound engineer turned neuroscientist. This is a highly academic (difficult to read) book which seeks to educate three audiences: Scientists, Musicians and Music-lovers.

The first chapter of the book manages to do something I would previously have thought impossible: It breaks music down into purely scientific constructs, including very technical definitions of terms such as “melody”, “harmony”, and “timbre”. Even the most thoroughly left-brained reader will be able to develop an appreciation of music here! Thankfully, he does acknowledge that music contains elements which absolutely cannot be explained outside of subjective experience.

The author shows us how our experiences of music affect us physically, psychologically, chemically, and socially. It truly is fascinating. Unfortunately, Levitin fails to identify the primary origin and purpose of music: That it was created by God and for His glory (Colossians 1:16). Instead, he attempts to explain how music has “evolved” from primal instincts.  This is the only point of the book at which he leaves the realm of scientific observation and writes philosophically based on a presupposition that Darwinian evolution is true. To me, though, his weak argument in this area is further confirmation that the existence of music remains one of the best “proofs” for the existence of God.

Buy this book here.

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