Your Brain on Music

I was browsing a bookstore – and came upon this one, the title of which lured me instantly: Daniel Levitin’s Your Brain on Music, The Science of Human Obsession.

Judge a book by its cover? Judge it by the insightful and seductive title!

Here are some reflective excerpts:

* Headphones forever changed the way I listened to music. I hadn’t heard before the depth of sound. Headphones also made the music more personal for me, it was suddenly coming from inside my head, not out there in the world.

* I felt appreciation for the complexity of music, of the world, and of the human experience. The appreciation we have for music is ultimately related to our ability to learn the underlying structure of the music we like.

* Music listening, performance and composition engage nearly every area of the brain, and involve nearly every neural subsystem.

* Although there is a great deal of interpersonal variation, we are born with a predisposition toward interpreting sounds in a particular way.

* Our brains learn a kind of musical grammar that is specific to the music of our culture, just as we learn to speak the language of our culture.

* As a tool for arousing feelings and emotions, music is better than language. We surrender to music when we listen to it – we let the music take us somewhere outside of ourselves.

* Preferences begin with exposure and each of us has our own ‘adventuresomeness’ quotient for how far out our musical safety zone we are willing to go at any given time.

– How our brains process music, how we remember and categorize music patterns, and how we feel them as intense emotion is an important neural processes.

– When we’re listening to music, our brains are engaged in an enormously complex computational task — so complex that no man-made computers have yet been able to do anything nearly as sophisticated with sound.

– Your brain doesn’t just come up with an internal representation of sound, it also derives meaning — in particular, pleasure — from sound.

– What’s interesting about how our brains respond to music — rather than, say, language — is the large number of systems that are activated by the experience. Certain music can feel so pleasurable as it is operating on various parts of our brains, and the response is something on the order of taking a hit of heroin.

– Music for the developing brain is a form of play, preparing to explore generative language development, and ultimately more complex linguistic and paralinguistic productions.

I am floored.

More on the book and the author @

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