Levitin makes the science of music readily understandable to the non-scientist and non-musician alike.

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THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON MUSIC

THE SCIENCE OF A HUMAN OBSESSION

A neuroscientist with a rich musical background explains what is being learned through research about music and the mind.

Levitin, a former record producer, now director of the Levitin Laboratory for Musical Perception, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University, sees music as a window into the essence of human nature. To bring the uninitiated up to speed, he devotes his opening chapters to answering the question of what music is, covering rhythm, meter, tempo, loudness and harmony, as well as providing basic information about the workings of the human brain. Levitin describes recent studies, some but not all at his own laboratory, that seek answers to questions about the brain mechanisms underlying emotion and memories associated with music. Noting that there is no single music center in the brain, he recounts how listening to music causes a number of brain regions, from the oldest and most primitive to the newest and as far apart as the frontal lobes and the cerebellum at the back of the brain, to be activated in a particular order. Levitin also considers the neurobehavioral basis of musical expertise; the origins of particular musical preferences; and the evolution of music. Taking issue with Steven Pinker’s assertion that music is but an evolutionary accident piggybacking on language, Levitin cogently presents arguments for music’s primacy in human history. Two appendixes provide additional information on the processing of music in the brain and on musical chords. The author displays an easy familiarity with a wide range of musical genres and the characteristics of numerous musical instruments and performers’ voices. He draws his explanatory examples from jazz, rock-’n’-roll, classical music, nursery and folk songs, and musical theater, to name but a few, tossing in references to the Beatles and Beethoven, Joni Mitchell and Bach, Frank Sinatra and Sousa.

Levitin makes the science of music readily understandable to the non-scientist and non-musician alike.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2006

ISBN: 0-525-94969-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2006

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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