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The Music Instinct
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Philip Ball provides the first comprehensive, accessible guide to how music works and why it is indispensible to humanity

About the Author

Philip Ball is a freelance writer and a consultant editor for Nature, where he previously worked as an editor for physical sciences. He writes regularly in the scientific and popular media, and his many books on scientific subjects include The Self-Made Tapestry- Pattern Formation in Nature, H2O- A Biography of Water, The Devil's Doctor- Paracelsus and the World of Renaissance Magic and Science, and Critical Mass- How One Thing Leads To Another, which won the 2005 Aventis Prize for Science Books. His latest books are The Sun and Moon Corrupted, a novel, Universe of Stone- Chartres Cathedral and the Triumph of the Medieval Mind, and Nature's Patterns. Philip obtained a PhD in physics from the University of Bristol - where he also played a lot of music.

Reviews

"Wonderful account of why music matters... one of the finest and most versatile of current non-fiction writers" * Sunday Times *
"Exemplary... In contemplating the mysteries of music we are also contemplating the mystery of ourselves... Ball, thankfully, doesn't try to provide any easy answers, but rather sends the reader back to the music a better listener" * Observer *
"This is a truly fascinating and eye-opening account of a phenomenon so commonplace we barely think about it, yet one which is also mind-bogglingly complicated. Once you've read The Music Instinct, you'll never listed to music the same way again" * Independent *
"A musical experience in itself...his love of the subject is abundantly evident.. His mastery of many scientific disciplines is a delight" * Daily Telegraph *
"Impressively engaging...it will be the rare music lover that does not come away without having learned many interesting things" * Guardian *

Polymath Ball (Critical Mass: How One Thing Leads to Another) adds to his wide-ranging list of titles with this fascinating, densely packed discourse on ways music interacts with the human brain. Using examples from the Renaissance up to the present day, he explores elements of musical structure such as melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre with an ear to how the listener perceives the music. The writing flows well, considering the challenge of combining research by leading experimental psychologists with exponents of music's theoretical underpinnings. Ball's notion of music as a "gymnasium for the mind" exemplifies the mental activity needed to understand this art form, while its emotional appeal can be a "direct route to the core of our shared humanity." Illustrations, written musical examples, and a website for listening to them are particularly helpful. The extensive bibliography includes both classic treatises and recent articles. VERDICT Likely to appeal to readers with a thorough grounding in the basics of music, Ball does not eschew controversy with his strong opinions.-Barry Zaslow, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

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