I’ve been interested in music and science since taking a physics of music class back in college (20 years later, amazingly, I discovered my violin teacher of 2000, Kevin Bushee, was married to the daughter of the professor who taught that class), so I was intrigued to find this Wired piece in which neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, formerly a rock producer, talks about the neuroscience of music.
Brain excited by music. Image by Daniel Levitin, from Wired story on his work.
As it happens, the piece carries a bonus for anyone following the debate over whether talent or genius is innate — an ongoing argument that Jonah Lehrer’s Seed article, “How to Get to Carnegie Hall,” recently fanned into flame. Levitin concurs with Lehrer (and most students of expertise) in saying that there’s no innate gift for music. “We”ve debunked the myth of talent,” he tells Wired. “It doesn’t appear that there’s anything like a music gene or center in the brain that Stevie Wonder has that nobody else has.”
As noted, Lehrer’s article has more on this. I’ve got an article on the same subject — with some overlap, but not too much to make either Lehrer or me uncomfortable, I trust — coming out in New Scientist next month. I’ll post it here when it’s out. In the meantime, the Wired story on Levitin makes good reading, as does both Lehrer’s article and his blog follow-ups.
I should mention that Levitin has a new book out, This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession, with a rather entertaining website. I suspect Levitin is the only person to get jacket puffs from both Oliver Sacks and the producer of Clash.