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All human cultures seem to make music today and through history But why they do so why music can excite deep passions and how we make sense of musical sound at all are uestions that have until recently remained profoundly mysterious Now in The Music Instinct Philip Ball provides the first comprehensive accessible survey of what is known and what is still unknown about how music works its magic and why as much as eating and sleeping it seems indispensable to humanity Even with what appear to be the simplest of tunes the brain is performing some astonishing gymnastics finding patterns and regularities forming interpretations and expectations that create a sense of aesthetic pleasure Without reuiring any specialist knowledge of music or science The Music Instinct explores how the latest research in music psychology and brain science is piecing together the puzzle of how our minds understand and respond to music Ranging from Bach fugues to Javanese gamelan from nursery rhymes to heavy rock Philip Ball interweaves philosophy mathematics history and neurology to reveal why music moves us in so many ways The Music Instinct will not only deepen your appreciation of the music you love but will also guide you into pastures new opening a window on music that once seemed alien dull or daunting And it offers a passionate plea for the importance of music in education and in everyday life arguing that whether we know it or not we can all claim to be musical experts

10 thoughts on “The Music Instinct How Music Works and Why We Can't Do Without It

  1. says:

    Wow i'm super excited to review this book Overall it was a really gratifying experience to read about music in such a scientific yet emotional manner I first started this book on a plane and four hours later I didnt realize I had landed The first part is really breathtaking Around the middle it becomes a little challenging because it defines the ease with which you can pusrue depending on your background If you have received some training in music the theoretical part is just a refreshment if not the book is so well written that it will take you a little time to grasp the initial concepts but keep you in the loop for the whole book without feeling overwhelemed The author also adds that most of the pieces he discussses are available online with provided links so you would really feel what you are reading This book is an argumentative one many theories and points of view are exposed while the author keeps his in the background The theme distribution and chronology is just perfect For all the music enthusiats this book is worth it But I mean serious enthusiasts that are willing to persevere through a piece yo realize how rewarding it is in the end Highly highly recommended

  2. says:

    It's testament to Philip Ball's readability that I got through this book without skipping bits too badly But there's a lot of for a non musician technical detail here and really you need to reading the book at a piano or I suppose listening to an audio version with musical examples to properly understand it I do all my reading on the tube where pianos are frowned upon

  3. says:

    Why does music stir our emotions? To what degree is our reaction to music innate and to what degree is it learned? These are the basic uestions discussed here with lots of psychology experiments that shed some light on the subject The book shows that even non musicians people who do not overtly give music much thought are experts in music Subconsciously we learn about musical styles based on probabilities; given a certain set of notes we can guess what the next note might be We use these probabilities to base our expectations for what will come next in a piece of music The power of music the spine tingling attraction comes when the expectations are brokenThe book pays attention not just to Western music but also to music from around the world It is interesting to learn what aspects of musical styles are universal and what aspects are particular to individual culturesI also found it very interesting how timbre and pitch affect the concepts of consonance and dissonance Dissonance is not an absolute given; A pitch interval that is dissonant in the lower registers may sound consonant in upper registers And the degree of dissonance will depend on the timbre that is to say the set of overtones played by an instrument The subjective degree of tension that a listener feels can be predicted objectively by analysis of the interference overtones among successive notesBut what is most fascinating is that music can be spine tingling even after listening to the same piece over and over again How can music have this effect when we know exactly what will happen next? This seems to me to be a fundamental uandary one that the book asks but is not uite able to answerIf you are a musician or if you can read music without too much difficulty you will find special appeal to this book It is full of short excerpts from scores that help you to understand the concepts

  4. says:

    explains why we are affected by music A Don't know and a lot of music theoryBook was a present from BeatriceLoved it but found it difficult to finish waiting for the revelation and the reveal was that there is no reveal A bit of a let down

  5. says:

    Much technical than I expected for a popular science book It takes pains to explain detailed technical language but I found myself deeply confused at times having no almost no practical experience making music Of what I understood I did get pleasure from the less technical chapters such as the one about the history of notation and the parts addressing the warring avant gardists in the 20th century But the main draw of the book the cognitive uestions that the musical capacity raises seemed frustratingly inconclusive to me Could it be linked to the capacity for number? The capacity for language? Could it have evolved? Ball seems a bit sheepish about putting his foot down when several experts disagree He begins the book by slamming Pinker's claim that music is just a pleasurable simultaneous stimulation of our different sensory channels an auditory cheesecake and a spandrel But from Ball's tepid overview of contradictory expert opinions little seems to sink this hypothesis At least no good argument is given to think that the cognitive processing of music is a distinct unit in the mind as is language as the title of the book would lead you to anticipateI can reccommend this series for a accessible rundown of musical theory

  6. says:

    52% confusing 35% already heard it before13% interesting music information 100% eh

  7. says:

    Very dense and thorough but not an easy read and often a little frustrating One of the difficulties I suppose comes with reading about music you need to hear the music right I often found myself clamoring for examples and illustrations of points that he was making you'd be in trouble if you couldn't read a bit of music with this actually Amusingly too way too many of the poprock citations were dusty museum pieces Think This can be heard in the final cadence of Pink Floyd's 1972 'Curing My Insomnia' but is also vividly echoed in Joe Cocker's 1971 number 'Christ Nobody Listens to That It's Not On Spotify I've Checked' I know it's about how music works but I found that you could tell this was a 'science man' and chemistry buff talking sometimes losing the 'bigger picture' and obsessively dissecting scales and tones for the sake of it It took me back to electron pair clouds At a certain point I found myself lost as to why we were taking so long to explain why the scale looked like it does and why we were now assigning chords roman numerals I guess a populist book would stick to A B C D etc For me in fact the most thrilling point in the book came where he suggests that blues come from an attempt to marry an African slave imported scale to a Western one coming out with something fused Which is a wonderful idea but isn't especially dwelt on This goes too for the neuroscience which as ever comes with a giant asterisk saying 'Look we don't really know yet' Whenever I read about neuroscience it seems to mostly amount to 'some interesting observations but look this is all guesswork' To the extent where I'd rather it just be whacked in to the postscript On the plus side I like its anti elitism especially the knocking down of claims that instrumental music 'tells a semantic story' and the deflating of absurd claims that certain Tchaikovsky symphonies reveal his latent homosexuality etc etc Amazing that that nonsense is tolerated I also like its optimistic conclusion that we're all naturally musical to the extent that we can all spot patterns feel rewarded by expectations met and jolted by expectations thwarted So interesting but a bit too 'micro' for the lay reader There are a few titles I can think of three others out there at the moment 'How Music Works'; 'The Rest is Noise' etc that I suspect might deliver better on the brief

  8. says:

    We dont really understand the neurological basis of musical appreciation so here comes another book on why we listen to music from the musical perspectiveIt's a well written study across the technical basis of music but falls down in its appreciation of the neurological interfaceIf you have a musical background this is a good book for you to read however if you dont forget itIt will come out as gobbledeegook and will confuse you furtherHey it is worth a try

  9. says:

    I couldn't work out who this was aimed at; the overview of music theory seemed to be too rushed to really be comprehensible to someone without a good background knowledge but the substance of the book really offered little beyond interesting anecdotes

  10. says:

    It was a tough to finish Has a fascinating premise little pockets of trivia and a gruelling thorough investigation from the premise