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The Power of Music

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The award-winning creator of the acclaimed documentary "The Music Instinct: Science & Song," explores the power of music and its connection to the body, the brain, and the world of nature. Only recently has science sought in earnest to understand and explain this impact. One remarkable recent study, analyzing the cries of newborns, shows that infants' cries contain common The award-winning creator of the acclaimed documentary "The Music Instinct: Science & Song," explores the power of music and its connection to the body, the brain, and the world of nature. Only recently has science sought in earnest to understand and explain this impact. One remarkable recent study, analyzing the cries of newborns, shows that infants' cries contain common musical intervals, and children tease each other in specific, singsong ways no matter where in the world they live. Physics experiments show that sound waves can physically change the structure of a material; musician and world-famous conductor Daniel Barenboim believes musical sound vibrations physically penetrate our bodies, shifting molecules as they do. The Power of Music follows visionary researchers and accomplished musicians to the crossroads of science and culture, to discover: how much of our musicality is learned and how much is innate? Can examining the biological foundations of music help scientists unravel the intricate web of human cognition and brain function? Why is music virtually universal across cultures and time-does it provide some evolutionary advantage? Can music make people healthier? Might music contain organizing principles of harmonic vibration that underlie the cosmos itself?


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The award-winning creator of the acclaimed documentary "The Music Instinct: Science & Song," explores the power of music and its connection to the body, the brain, and the world of nature. Only recently has science sought in earnest to understand and explain this impact. One remarkable recent study, analyzing the cries of newborns, shows that infants' cries contain common The award-winning creator of the acclaimed documentary "The Music Instinct: Science & Song," explores the power of music and its connection to the body, the brain, and the world of nature. Only recently has science sought in earnest to understand and explain this impact. One remarkable recent study, analyzing the cries of newborns, shows that infants' cries contain common musical intervals, and children tease each other in specific, singsong ways no matter where in the world they live. Physics experiments show that sound waves can physically change the structure of a material; musician and world-famous conductor Daniel Barenboim believes musical sound vibrations physically penetrate our bodies, shifting molecules as they do. The Power of Music follows visionary researchers and accomplished musicians to the crossroads of science and culture, to discover: how much of our musicality is learned and how much is innate? Can examining the biological foundations of music help scientists unravel the intricate web of human cognition and brain function? Why is music virtually universal across cultures and time-does it provide some evolutionary advantage? Can music make people healthier? Might music contain organizing principles of harmonic vibration that underlie the cosmos itself?

30 review for The Power of Music

  1. 4 out of 5

    David Rubenstein

    I enjoyed this book immensely--with the exception of one chapter, to be described below. The book reviews the recent research into how music affects us, at the neurological, behavioral, and medical levels. There are fascinating descriptions of the outcomes of fMRI and PET scans of the brains of people listening to music. Emotional centers in the brain are activated while listening to music--not really a surprise. What is surprising, is that those same emotional centers are activated most during I enjoyed this book immensely--with the exception of one chapter, to be described below. The book reviews the recent research into how music affects us, at the neurological, behavioral, and medical levels. There are fascinating descriptions of the outcomes of fMRI and PET scans of the brains of people listening to music. Emotional centers in the brain are activated while listening to music--not really a surprise. What is surprising, is that those same emotional centers are activated most during the pauses, or silences that occur within a piece of music. Emotional centers are activated even more strongly while listening to bird song! And even more surprising: While musicians are playing music, the emotional areas in their brains--are not activated at all! Perhaps musicians are concentrating on their technique, and trying not to "emote" to the music they are producing. Numerous examples of health benefits from music are given in the book. Victims of stroke may not be able to speak--but sometimes they can sing! Autistic children may have a hard time looking at people in the eyes when speaking. But, expose them to music, and they start looking at people in the eyes for up to a week after the exposure! Biomusicology is a new field. Scientists are studying various species of animals that seem to produce music or at least to enjoy it. I was surprised that an elephant can hit a drum with a mallet, with rhythmic stability that exceeds that of a human. However, the elephant cannot synchronize his playing with human musicians. The so-called "Mozart effect" where people's IQ is increased after listening to music--is a myth. There is no scientific basis for this idea. But singing along with other people has a real, measurable effect on one's consciousness and brain state. The book examines the often-cited blurb that music is a universal language. Well, in one sense it is--all cultures have music. But music is interpreted differently in various cultures. For example, intervals of an octave, fifth and fourth are interpreted the same in all cultures. But the minor third, which is interpreted by Western listeners as being sad, is not interpreted that way in some other cultures. Archaeologists have unearthed flutes that are 30-40,000 years old. They are amazingly easy to play, and they involve technologies that allow expressiveness that are not used today. They are capable of playing scales that are similar to Western music. The only chapter of the book that I disliked was The Music of the Spheres. Now, I enjoy reading about astronomy and cosmology, but it is more than a bit of a stretch to think that compressional waves in the primordial universe--that manifest themselves in the cosmic background radiation field--have something to do with music. Waves are ubiquitous in nature, but when they require transposition by 50 octaves in order to be audible, it just does not bear much insight into how music affects life on earth.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Barry Hammond

    An extremely interesting book about all the latest research being done in the last 15 years or so on the relationships between music and the brain and what it has revealed. Every page contains some new revelation. Elena Mannes, who is herself from an extremely well-connected musical family, talks to scientists in a number of fields and to musicians who are also scientists about the latest cutting edge research. A book to totally change perceptions about both music and how the brain functions and An extremely interesting book about all the latest research being done in the last 15 years or so on the relationships between music and the brain and what it has revealed. Every page contains some new revelation. Elena Mannes, who is herself from an extremely well-connected musical family, talks to scientists in a number of fields and to musicians who are also scientists about the latest cutting edge research. A book to totally change perceptions about both music and how the brain functions and everything from brain function, cosmic organisation and healing to spirituality. A must-read book. - BH.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Amy Brown

    Honestly, I can't rate a book I didn't finish, and I didn't even get through the 2nd chapter of this one. I was looking for harder science and mind-blowing connections between brain and music, but this just seemed touchy-feeling and devoid of hard facts. I would read a whole page then wonder, "What did I read? What was the content?" Honestly, I can't rate a book I didn't finish, and I didn't even get through the 2nd chapter of this one. I was looking for harder science and mind-blowing connections between brain and music, but this just seemed touchy-feeling and devoid of hard facts. I would read a whole page then wonder, "What did I read? What was the content?"

  4. 5 out of 5

    Oriol

    Interesting review of the state of the art of music cognition, wide audience oriented

  5. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    i did enjoy this book but it feels weird rating ones i’ve read in an academic nature (probs because i inherently hate all required reading and rarely commit to the whole thing ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    There is some interesting information here. I was especially interested in the research on music and medicine. If we could learn more about how the brain responds to music, the implications for the medical community and therapies would be enormous! There was only a bit of cited research on music and education, which can be slightly disappointing to those of us involved in arts education in any way. Of course, she does share that it's difficult to measure the effect music has on ones ability to l There is some interesting information here. I was especially interested in the research on music and medicine. If we could learn more about how the brain responds to music, the implications for the medical community and therapies would be enormous! There was only a bit of cited research on music and education, which can be slightly disappointing to those of us involved in arts education in any way. Of course, she does share that it's difficult to measure the effect music has on ones ability to learn, as there could be other factors at play. However, simply the research and studies done that show music's positive effect on the brain is helpful in that arena, I feel. One part of the book I didn't really care about was the question of whether music is only a human experience or if animals make music as well (as opposed to only making sounds for communication which sound musical to our ears). Perhaps this question is interesting, but the hundreds of hours of research to find answers to the question seem a little silly. Why does it matter whether music is a purely human experience or if it crosses boundaries into the animal kingdom? I guess I didn't.

  7. 4 out of 5

    James Govednik

    This book includes quite an array of interesting aspects of music research. The sheer number of studies and research projects the author presents is remarkable, and the book is written in a very accessible, easy-to-read style. Like other similar books I’ve read, however, it didn’t satisfy in terms of the “so what” question. As a music teacher, I’m always hopeful for research that can be used to help shape policy decisions and improve funding for the arts. But as fascinating as these various stud This book includes quite an array of interesting aspects of music research. The sheer number of studies and research projects the author presents is remarkable, and the book is written in a very accessible, easy-to-read style. Like other similar books I’ve read, however, it didn’t satisfy in terms of the “so what” question. As a music teacher, I’m always hopeful for research that can be used to help shape policy decisions and improve funding for the arts. But as fascinating as these various studies and experiments are, the most that I could say about them in sum would be, “Wow! That’s cool!” One idea from the book that impressed me was how many different areas of the brain are involved in making music and listening to music. And some of the cosmic research that is identifying similarities between cosmic sounds and our systems of music—that’s pretty…cool. (Sorry) The potential for musical prescriptions in the future is also very interesting to read. Certainly it can be said that, at least in terms of book publications, there is clearly a strong interest in our interest in music.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ray Carroll

    Throughout this entire book, Mannes struggles to walk the line between sentiment and science, and the result is that readers feel they haven't seen enough depth in either. I feel like I just read a 220 page list of different studies that people have done about music as it relates to a myriad of different fields, and while a great deal of that was certainly interesting, it wasn't grounded enough in exposition to make me feel as if I had learned much of anything about music. Throughout this entire book, Mannes struggles to walk the line between sentiment and science, and the result is that readers feel they haven't seen enough depth in either. I feel like I just read a 220 page list of different studies that people have done about music as it relates to a myriad of different fields, and while a great deal of that was certainly interesting, it wasn't grounded enough in exposition to make me feel as if I had learned much of anything about music.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This sat on my shelf for way too long. A nice read about the science being done around music and the brain. She takes you through what we know about the history of music, as well as what scientists are learning about the genetics and neurology of music. I'm sure some of this has been developed since the book came out, it would be interesting to get a second edition. This sat on my shelf for way too long. A nice read about the science being done around music and the brain. She takes you through what we know about the history of music, as well as what scientists are learning about the genetics and neurology of music. I'm sure some of this has been developed since the book came out, it would be interesting to get a second edition.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Radhika S

    The book presents studies on music from the point of view of spanning physicists, chemists, biologists, anthropologists, literature, philosophers, astronomy. The underlying message is the quintessential nature of music in the universe; the universe itself having originated from 'sound', as revealed in various religious scriptures. The book presents studies on music from the point of view of spanning physicists, chemists, biologists, anthropologists, literature, philosophers, astronomy. The underlying message is the quintessential nature of music in the universe; the universe itself having originated from 'sound', as revealed in various religious scriptures.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rose

    current topics in vaious areas of music. Not fast reading as it has lots of info. Kind of like a documentary in words. Very good!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Glenda Walsh crouse

    Fantastic! A must read for musicians, music teachers and parents of little musicians.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Eldredge

    Awesome! Interesting and inspiring. I always knew music was powerful, but I had no idea how powerful.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Spohn

    I highly recommended this book. I read it with a highlighter. Definitely a keeper.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Barbara McVeigh

    Interesting introduction to the effects of music, but I wanted more science.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Don't bother reading this one. Dan Levitin, Oliver Sacks, and other actual scientists and musicians have it covered with far better books and far better writing skill. Don't bother reading this one. Dan Levitin, Oliver Sacks, and other actual scientists and musicians have it covered with far better books and far better writing skill.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lori Beals

    Interesting and inspiring discussion of music research in various fields, and music effects on individuals, emotionally and physically, and on society, and even animals.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Fidelicious

    A great introductory book to the topics such as the benefits of music in our daily lives. Very enlightening, and not too heavy at the same time with good amount of references.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Victoria McOrangepeel

    This was the absolute worst horror book I've ever read! It was dry, boring, no jumpscares whatsoever, and I definately would not reccomend it to my imaginary friend, steve. However, the movie for it was great! This was the absolute worst horror book I've ever read! It was dry, boring, no jumpscares whatsoever, and I definately would not reccomend it to my imaginary friend, steve. However, the movie for it was great!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sally

    The subject interests me very much but the author's presentation didn't bring it alive to me. I read things that had excited me in other books and lectures which didn't even raise my interest here, just flat. A mismatch between reader and author. The subject interests me very much but the author's presentation didn't bring it alive to me. I read things that had excited me in other books and lectures which didn't even raise my interest here, just flat. A mismatch between reader and author.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ellis

    Good although slow

  22. 4 out of 5

    Always2014

    内容比较零碎,作者对文字的驾驭能力较差。还是节省时间读写别的书吧。 The content is too fragmented. Author's writing skill may benefit from some practice. I would rather spend time reading some other books. 内容比较零碎,作者对文字的驾驭能力较差。还是节省时间读写别的书吧。 The content is too fragmented. Author's writing skill may benefit from some practice. I would rather spend time reading some other books.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ted Lehmann

    In The Power of Music (Walker Books, 2011, 284 Pages, $9.39 on Kindle) Elena Mannes explores how music has affected the human organism from the mysts of time to the laboratories of tomorrow. In doing so, she examines the role of music in primitive societies, its power to move the mind and the spirit, its ability to heal, and the mystique of its resonance in our minds and bodies. She does so in a mostly lively style, avoiding too many references to brain geography while presenting hard science an In The Power of Music (Walker Books, 2011, 284 Pages, $9.39 on Kindle) Elena Mannes explores how music has affected the human organism from the mysts of time to the laboratories of tomorrow. In doing so, she examines the role of music in primitive societies, its power to move the mind and the spirit, its ability to heal, and the mystique of its resonance in our minds and bodies. She does so in a mostly lively style, avoiding too many references to brain geography while presenting hard science and deep speculation with visual language that makes the findings of serious research available to the lay reader. As a film maker, her visual style brings the stories she has to tell to life, while she remains a reputable reporter, providing extensive footnotes and notes. Through interviews with scholars and musicians along with field trips to concert halls and primitive societies, she not only describes the musical experience, but makes it real and personal through her own experience. Much of the discussion of various effects music has on individuals (and groups) relies on medical and psychological research using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) which enables us to watch the brain in operation as it receives various kinds of stimulation. These images show, in vivid color and constant motion, various parts of the brain as they become involved in responding to stimuli. The images show that different frequencies, rhythms, and activities involve the brain in ways that could not even be imagined with earlier technology. Combined with more conventional measurements of blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing, a picture emerges of the entire body being effected by listening to and/or making music. The measurements also indicate that groups, listening together, may fall into synchronicity as their breathing and heart rates synchronize with others present. Studies have shown that even fetuses in utero experience the sounds of voices along with the tonalities and rhythms of music they hear. Such studies led to a fad in which mothers fed music by Mozart and others to their systems in order to, supposedly, increase the intelligence of their unborn children.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kristian

    This book can be tough to get through if you're not at all interested in science, but it's definitely fascinating! You will learn about many of the more recent developments regarding music and its connection to our brains and livelihoods. You'll also learn about the emerging career paths in science and healthcare, allowing us to study our ties to music in new ways. Many incredible findings that we never could look into before. All musicians, or those really into the scientific aspects of how mus This book can be tough to get through if you're not at all interested in science, but it's definitely fascinating! You will learn about many of the more recent developments regarding music and its connection to our brains and livelihoods. You'll also learn about the emerging career paths in science and healthcare, allowing us to study our ties to music in new ways. Many incredible findings that we never could look into before. All musicians, or those really into the scientific aspects of how music affects humans (as well as animals) should read this.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jim Westlyn

    I can't quite put my finger on it; I don't know if it was the pace, the style of writing, or the depth of detail, but, even though I have a genuine passion for the subject, this work never really held my interest. Still, the research was solid and I picked up some information that was novel and new. I can't quite put my finger on it; I don't know if it was the pace, the style of writing, or the depth of detail, but, even though I have a genuine passion for the subject, this work never really held my interest. Still, the research was solid and I picked up some information that was novel and new.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    This is an extremely comprehensive overview of the "science" of music. Were I researching this topic, this book would be incredibly helpful. But in parts it reads like multiple abstracts strung together. I mark it two stars because, for me, the information was not presented in the most engaging manner. This is an extremely comprehensive overview of the "science" of music. Were I researching this topic, this book would be incredibly helpful. But in parts it reads like multiple abstracts strung together. I mark it two stars because, for me, the information was not presented in the most engaging manner.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jim Angstadt

    Substance-wise, this book covered much of the recent brain science. Unfortunately, the treatment reminded me of a low-quality TV show. For example, she cited McFerrin, Levitan, and others, that are much quoted and seen on TV. Presentation-wise, the author spent a lot of time on her personal upbringing wrt music and a musical family; this wore thin real fast. Quit after 60 pages.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tawnya

    Lame

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rukundo Nicholas

  30. 5 out of 5

    Andreu

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