Riffing on Books and Life – Arts & Sciences Literary Blog by interactive new media author & artist Terry Bailey

15Aug/10

Riffing on This Is Your Brain On Music, Part 1

Your Brain On Music book cover

Went to hear my favorite songwriter, Merlin Snider, the other night at Coffee Gallery Backstage in Pasadena. During the performance he mentioned that he was reading a great book, This Is Your Brain on Music by Daniel Levitin. I was in the middle of that book myself! Guess that is a clue as to why I am a fan of Merlin's music - "synchronicity" David Peat would call it (yes, I will get to that book, too, at some point). You might want to check this Music and Your Brain book out, and I will write about it next week. My college students are walking around in a daze since I shared with them one early disclosure Levitin makes: there is no color in the world. Or sound. It is a black and white and silent world. Color and sound don't happen until your brain registers and decodes molecular vibration waves induced by light striking an object in the case of color, and of something striking or plucking a musical instrument or object in the case of sound. So, yes, to answer the generations old question, "If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?" - we can now definitively answer what we thought was just a riddle. "No!" There is no sound unless there is a brain there to turn a vibration into a sound! Sound is all in your head. Color, too. Lately I drive around my world mesmerized by the thought that it is all really black and white (well, actually, grayscale). I bet Merlin could write a cool song about that. Back with you soon.

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