Thursday, December 27, 2007
Play That Funky Neurology White Boy
Daniel J. Levitin is a former rock band member, session musician, sound engineer and record producer, who grew up to be a neuroscientist. He runs the lab for Musical Perception, Cognition, and Expertise at McGill University, and has written for Grammy and Billboard.
The guy knows music from both ends, and if you want to walk with him a ways down the path of what music is, how it ticks around in our heads, and why we listen and play the stuff, pick up a copy of This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession.
The book is not the easiest one you'll ever read, but Dr. Levitin is a good enough writer to explain some fairly esoteric neurochemistry and assorted musical concepts in a way that I could stay with him, in a manner I found both entertaining and informative.
Any guy who ever picked up a guitar thinking it would get him laid has a handle on one of the basic truths, but there's a lot more going on, connected to language, memory, and motion, and it's fascinating stuff.
In some societies, music and dance are defined by one term, since they can't imagine one without the other. Why the music you were listening to when you came of age resonates so strongly has much to do with how your memory works. If you want to be a great musician, mindful practice is more important than in-born talent.
If you like this kind of thing, you will like this one.