Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy: How Music Captures Our Imagination

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9780688142360: Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy: How Music Captures Our Imagination
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Drawing on advances in neurophysiology, psychology, music theory, and philosophy, the author explores the intimate connections humans form with their favorite types of music and the physical and mental reactions music produces in us.

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What is music? How and why does it affect us? What is the nature of musical genius? Author/composer Robert Jourdain explores these and other questions, from the essential nature of sound through composition, performance, and, finally, the nature of ecstasy. His prose is eminently readable, offering a very accessible account of a difficult subject to the general reader as well as to the musical sophisticate. This is a fascinating and intriguing book, written by someone who clearly knows his subject.

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Human beings have always found intensely personal meaning in patterns of sound. They help us identify ourselves and reflect our personalities and our values. Attack someone's political opinions and risk being taken for a fool, but assault someone's musical tastes and you may be taken as an enemy. Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy> is a far-reaching study of how music captivates us so completely and why we form such powerful connections to it.

Leading us to an understanding of the pleasures of sound, Robert Jourdain draws on a variety of fields including science, psychology, and philosophy. He uses music from around the world to show how melodies work, how rhythm differs from beat, and why some sounds are beautiful and others ugly. Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy looks at the evolution of music and introduces surprising new concepts of memory and perception, knowledge and attention, motion and emotion, all at work as music takes hold of us.

Along the way, a fascinating cast of characters brings Jourdain's narrative to vivid life: "idiots savants" who absorb whole pieces on a single hearing, composers who hallucinate entire compositions, a psychic who claimed to take dictation from long-dead composers, and victims of brain damage who can move only when they hear music. In each of these, Jourdain assures us, we will see parts of ourselves. Using such examples, he helps explain the parallels between music and language, and asks how the brain reacts to each.

This scintillating study promises to engage and stimulate all lovers of music - in fact, your favorite song may never sound exactly the same again.

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