This is Your Brain on Music – Daniel Levitin

This is Your Brain on Music

This is a good book for anyone who’d like to get a basic grounding on the terminology and structures of music – melody, tempo, pitch, etc. And it adds in research on just how it is that we are able to grasp so much from sound – for instance the fact that we can recognize a song even when it’s played with different instruments, at a different speed, in a different pitch, than the version we’ve heard before.

Levitin has worked in the pop music biz, and his anecdotes add nice color to the story. I particularly liked the few pages on Joni Mitchell, an untrained musician who essentially makes up her own guitar chording. Apparently this approach caused no end of difficulty for her hired bass players (except Jaco) who couldn’t figure out what they were supposed to play without a thorough analysis of the notes in each of her chords.

Re: Joni, I find I like her guitar-based songs better than the piano songs, and on just about all her albums from the seventies I really love about half the songs. I think, and Levitin agrees, that the unique chording makes for music that rewards repeated listening over the years.

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