Quotes from This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession

Daniel J. Levitin ·  314 pages

Rating: (42.7K votes)


“Music may be the activity that prepared our pre-human ancestors for speech communication and for the very cognitive, representational flexibility necessary to become humans.”
― Daniel J. Levitin, quote from This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession


“If music serves to convey feelings through the interaction of physical gestures and sound, the musician needs his brain state to match the emotional state he is trying to express. Although the studies haven't been performed yet, I'm willing to bet that when B.B. King is playing the blues and when he is feeling the blues, the neural signatures are very similar. (Of course there will be differences, too, and part of the scientific hurdle will be subtracting out the processes involved in issuing motor commands and listening to music, versus just sitting on a chair, head in hands, and feeling down.) And as listeners, there is every reason to believe that some of our brain states will match those of the musicians we are listening to.”
― Daniel J. Levitin, quote from This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession


“A bowl of pudding only has taste when I put it in my mouth - when it is in contact. with my tongue. It doesn't have taste or flavor sitting in my fridge, only the potential.”
― Daniel J. Levitin, quote from This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession


“For the artist, the goal of the painting or musical composition is not to convey literal truth, but an aspect of a universal truth that if successful, will continue to move and to touch people even as contexts, societies and cultures change. For the scientist, the goal of a theory is to convey "truth for now"--to replace an old truth, while accepting that someday this theory, too, will ve replaced by a new "truth," because that is the way science advances.”
― Daniel J. Levitin, quote from This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession


“When they find out what I do for a living, many people tell me they love music listening, but their music lessons 'didn't take.' I think they're being too hard on themselves. The chasm between musical experts and everyday musicians that has grown so wide in our culture makes people feel discouraged, and for some reason this is uniquely so with music. Even though most of us can't play basketball like Shaquille O'Neal, or cook like Julia Child, we can still enjoy playing a friendly backyard game of hoops, or cooking a holiday meal for our friends and family. This performance chasm does seem to be cultural, specific to contemporary Western society. And although many people say that music lessons didn't take, cognitive neuroscientists have found otherwise in their laboratories. Even just a small exposure to music lessons as a child creates neural circuits for music processing that are enhanced and more efficient than for those who lack training. Music lessons teach us to listen better, and they accelerate our ability to discern structure and form in music, making it easier for us to tell what music we like and what we don't like.”
― Daniel J. Levitin, quote from This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession



“If a song is a living, breathing entity, you might think of the tempo as its gait—the rate at which it walks by—or its pulse—the rate at which the heart of the song is beating.”
― Daniel J. Levitin, quote from This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession


“Headphones opened up a world of sonic colors, a palette of nuances and details that went far beyond the chords and melody, the lyrics, or a particular singer’s voice. The swampy Deep South ambience of “Green River” by Creedence, or the pastoral, open-space beauty of the Beatles’ “Mother Nature’s Son”; the oboes in Beethoven’s Sixth (conducted by Karajan), faint and drenched in the atmosphere of a large wood-and-stone church; the sound was an enveloping experience.”
― Daniel J. Levitin, quote from This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession


“It is difficult to appreciate the complexity of the brain because the numbers are so huge. The average brain consists of 100 billion neurons.”
― Daniel J. Levitin, quote from This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession


“The number of combinations possible and hence the number of different thoughts or brain states each of us can have exceeds the number of known particles in the entire known universe.”
― Daniel J. Levitin, quote from This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession


“And the fetus hears music, as was recently discovered by Alexandra LaMont of Keele University in the U.K. She found that children recognize and prefer music they were exposed to in the womb, a year after they are born.”
― Daniel J. Levitin, quote from This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession



“Music communicates to us emotionally through systematic violations of expectations.”
― Daniel J. Levitin, quote from This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession


“Even more so in nonindustrialized cultures than in modern Western societies, music is and was part of the fabric of everyday life.”
― Daniel J. Levitin, quote from This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession


“He would buy me a pair of headphones if I would promise to use them when he was home. Those headphones forever changed the way I listened to music.”
― Daniel J. Levitin, quote from This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession


“Headphones also made the music more personal for me; it was suddenly coming from inside my head, not out there in the world. This”
― Daniel J. Levitin, quote from This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession


“At every turn, this provocative work unlocks deep secrets about how nature and nurture forge a uniquely human obsession”
― Daniel J. Levitin, quote from This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession



About the author

Daniel J. Levitin
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