This is Your Brain on Music, Daniel J. Levitin

Somewhat arcane, still this specialist’s tale gives ample cause for amazement at the Herculean tasks our brains must perform to allow us the pleasures of music.  Beginning with the minute timekeeping which allows us to distinguish rhythm and pitch, moving on to the filtering with differentiates one source of line from all the others, and the comparing and grouping skills which allow us to recognize instruments as similar but different – and human voices as unique individuals even when one voice is imitating another which we also still recognize  – Levitin shows how basic skills employed in music appreciation (a term permanently loaded by its application to cushy credits in schools thought the English-speaking realm) may have promoted early Hominid survival, explaining their evolution, ubiquity and dopamine-producing appeal.

The overall impression gained from reading this slender volume is one of wonder – that all this can be going on behind the veil of our self-consciousness; naturally, constantly and with so little effort.

What a piece of work is humankind!

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