The World in Six Songs
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The World in Six Songs : How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature

By (author) Daniel J Levitin

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The author of the "New York Times" bestseller "This Is Your Brain on Music" reveals music's role in the evolution of human culture-and "will leave you awestruck" ("The New York Times") Daniel J. Levitin's astounding debut bestseller, "This Is Your Brain on Music," enthralled and delighted readers as it transformed our understanding of how music gets in our heads and stays there. Now in his second "New York Times" bestseller, his genius for combining science and art reveals how music shaped humanity across cultures and throughout history. Dr. Levitin identifies six fundamental song functions or types-friendship, joy, comfort, religion, knowledge, and love-then shows how each in its own way has enabled the social bonding necessary for human culture and society to evolve. He shows, in effect, how these "six songs" work in our brains to preserve the emotional history of our lives and species. Dr. Levitin combines cutting-edge scientific research from his music cognition lab at McGill University and work in an array of related fields; his own sometimes hilarious experiences in the music business; and illuminating interviews with musicians such as Sting and David Byrne, as well as conductors, anthropologists, and evolutionary biologists. "The World in Six Songs" is, ultimately, a revolution in our understanding of how human nature evolved-right up to the iPod. Read Daniel Levitin's posts on the Penguin Blog.

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  • Paperback | 358 pages
  • 132 x 200 x 22mm | 281.23g
  • 01 Mar 2010
  • Penguin Putnam Inc
  • PLUME
  • New York, NY
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 0452295483
  • 9780452295483
  • 244,377

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Author Information

Daniel J. Levitin runs the Levitin Laboratory for Musical Perception, Cognition, and Expertise at McGill University, where he holds the Bell Chair in the Psychology of Electronic Communications. Before becoming a neuroscientist, he was a record producer with gold records to his credit and professional musician. He has published extensively in scientific journals and music trade magazines such as Grammy and Billboard.

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Review quote

aMusic seems to have an almost willful, evasive quality, defying simple explanation, so that the more we find out, the more there is to know, leaving its power and mystery intact, however much we may dig and delve. Danielas book is an eloquent and poetic exploration of this paradox. There may be no simple answer or end in sight, but the ride is nonetheless a thrilling one, especially in the company of a writer who is an accomplished musician, a poet, a hard-nosed scientist, and someone who can still look upon the universe with a sense of wonder.a --Sting aWithout music, we would be little more than animals, and Daniel Levitin explains it beautifully.a --Sir George Martin, CBE, producer of The Beatles aWhy can a song make you cry in a matter of seconds? "Six Songs" is the only book that explains why. With original and awe-inspiring insights into the nature of human artistry, itas irresistibly entertaining. Anyone who loves music should read it.a --Bobby McFerrin, vocalist and guest conductor, London Philharmonic and the Vienna Philharmonic aDaniel Levitin takes the most sophisticated ideas that exist about the brain and mind, applies them to the most emotionally direct art we have, our songs, and makes beautiful music of the two together.a --Adam Gopnik, author of "Paris to the Moon" aDaniel Levitin writes about music with all the exuberance of a die-hard fan, and all the insight of a natural-born scientist. This is a fascinating, entertaining book, and some of its most inventive themes may stay stick in your head forever, something like a well-loved song.a --Elizabeth Gilbert, author of "Eat, Pray, Love" aTo try to cover the meaning of musicthroughout the history of mankind to how we still use it everyday is extraordinarily ambitious. Combining musical expertise, psychology, anthropology and evolutionary science, Daniel Levitinas "Six Songs" has accomplished this astonishing task.a --Jon Appleton, Composer and Professor of Music, Dartmouth College and Stanford University aI was skeptical when I began reading. The stated goal seemed outlandish. But by the time I was about one-third the way into "The World in Six Songs," I realized just how powerful it is. It really is a tour de force. It is exquisitely written, and brings together a vast array of knowledge, tying things together in creative ways, while always remaining accessible. This promises to be not only another widely read hit, but also an important document for the field of music cognition.a --Jamshed Bharucha, Provost and Professor of Psychology, Tufts University aPassionate and insightful. Daniel Levitin has written a delightfully personal epic poem proposing a central role for music in the evolution of human emotion and behavior. Now, musicians and neuroscientists have a common vocabulary with which to argue our human origins.a --Julie R. Korenberg, M.D. Ph.D., The Brain Institute, University of Utah aIn a brilliantly novel approach to human evolution, Levitin has sought to encapsulate diverse cultures in a set of six songs representative of friendship, joy, comfort, knowledge, religion and love. That he is able to achieve so much with this small set of songs says something truly important about our common humanity.a --Michael I. Posner, Professor of Psychology, University of Oregon aThis wonderful, lucid book takes on one ofthe great eternal questions: Why is there music? What does music do for humanityafor individual development and for a culture--that in turn accounts for its existence in every known society? Daniel Levitin is not only the preeminent expert in answering such questions, but one of those unique writers about science who understands his field so profoundly that he can make the complex straightforward. This is an exciting, revelatory book.a --Scott Turow, author of "Presumed Innocent" and "Ordinary Heroes"

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