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.


Jason said...

I heard an interview on NPR with the author. It sounded like an interesting read, I'll have to check it out.

J.D. Ray said...

This may turn out to be a great belated Christmas gift for a friend of mine, a former social worker turned (amazing) guitarist who has something of a drinking problem.

Terrible, aren't I?

Steve Perry said...

Nah, terrible is what I did to Barnes for Christmas with my music ...