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You Are the Music: How Music Reveals What it Means to be Human

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A deft, unique exploration of how music makes us who we are, throughout our lives. You are the music / While the music lasts' T.S. Eliot, The Four Quartets Do babies remember music from the womb? Can classical music increase your child’s IQ? Is music good for productivity? Can it aid recovery from illness and injury? And what is going on in your brain when Ultravox’s ‘Vienna A deft, unique exploration of how music makes us who we are, throughout our lives. You are the music / While the music lasts' T.S. Eliot, The Four Quartets Do babies remember music from the womb? Can classical music increase your child’s IQ? Is music good for productivity? Can it aid recovery from illness and injury? And what is going on in your brain when Ultravox’s ‘Vienna’, Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht or Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Bonkers’ transports you back to teenage years? In a brilliant new work that will delight music lovers of every persuasion, music psychologist Victoria Williamson examines our relationship with music across the whole of a lifetime. Along the way she reveals the amazing ways in which music can physically reshape our brains, explores how ‘smart music listening’ can improve cognitive performance, and considers the perennial puzzle of what causes ‘earworms’. Requiring no specialist musical or scientific knowledge, this upbeat, eye-opening book reveals as never before the extent of the universal language of music that lives deep inside us all.


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A deft, unique exploration of how music makes us who we are, throughout our lives. You are the music / While the music lasts' T.S. Eliot, The Four Quartets Do babies remember music from the womb? Can classical music increase your child’s IQ? Is music good for productivity? Can it aid recovery from illness and injury? And what is going on in your brain when Ultravox’s ‘Vienna A deft, unique exploration of how music makes us who we are, throughout our lives. You are the music / While the music lasts' T.S. Eliot, The Four Quartets Do babies remember music from the womb? Can classical music increase your child’s IQ? Is music good for productivity? Can it aid recovery from illness and injury? And what is going on in your brain when Ultravox’s ‘Vienna’, Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht or Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Bonkers’ transports you back to teenage years? In a brilliant new work that will delight music lovers of every persuasion, music psychologist Victoria Williamson examines our relationship with music across the whole of a lifetime. Along the way she reveals the amazing ways in which music can physically reshape our brains, explores how ‘smart music listening’ can improve cognitive performance, and considers the perennial puzzle of what causes ‘earworms’. Requiring no specialist musical or scientific knowledge, this upbeat, eye-opening book reveals as never before the extent of the universal language of music that lives deep inside us all.

30 review for You Are the Music: How Music Reveals What it Means to be Human

  1. 5 out of 5

    Eustacia Tan

    Here's the thing, while I've been taking piano lessons since kindergarten (although I stopped for about 3 years from age 12-15), I'm a lousy piano player. Very very lousy. So, I've always wondered, did these music lessons even help? Well, the answer is, probably. But not that much. You Are The Music is supposed to explain music to the layman. Or rather, "to read this book requires no expert knowledge of or training in music, psychology, brain science, or any other kind of academic discipline." An Here's the thing, while I've been taking piano lessons since kindergarten (although I stopped for about 3 years from age 12-15), I'm a lousy piano player. Very very lousy. So, I've always wondered, did these music lessons even help? Well, the answer is, probably. But not that much. You Are The Music is supposed to explain music to the layman. Or rather, "to read this book requires no expert knowledge of or training in music, psychology, brain science, or any other kind of academic discipline." And that's mostly true. There were some (brain science) parts that I didn't quite understand, but for the most part, the book was easy to understand. The book is divided into three sections. The first looks at the impact of music on childhood development, the second looks at how music affects the brain, what it's like to struggle with music, and how it impacts working life. The third section looks at music memory and how music can be used to support health and well-being at all life-stages. Without a doubt, my favourite section was the first section, followed by the second section. For some reason, I had some trouble understanding the third section. One of the things that I took from this book was the discussion about music and work (in my case, studying). I've always found it difficult to study without music. The only thing is that the music should be (preferably) in a language different from the one that I'm studying in (i.e. it becomes background music). If you're looking to study more about music, I think this is a good introduction book because the author helpfully summarises different research studies and explains what they mean. And it's interesting, so if you have an interest in music, you should consider reading this. Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review. This review was first posted at Inside the mind of a Bibliophile

  2. 5 out of 5

    Angie

    I'm a total and complete music junky. I get cranky if I don't get to shows on a regular basis, there's always a song in the background. Every memory has a soundtrack and every song has a memory. As Steve Almond wrote, "The only thing with music is that you can't eat it." I should have loved this book. It details various experiments and studies done in the academic world about how music affects us, how it helps us grow, learn, and shapes who we become. It's written in layman's terms, no need for a I'm a total and complete music junky. I get cranky if I don't get to shows on a regular basis, there's always a song in the background. Every memory has a soundtrack and every song has a memory. As Steve Almond wrote, "The only thing with music is that you can't eat it." I should have loved this book. It details various experiments and studies done in the academic world about how music affects us, how it helps us grow, learn, and shapes who we become. It's written in layman's terms, no need for a degree and all that fancy book learnin' to understand the text. It's a dry read, it took me a while to get through since I had to be really alert to start in on it again or risk dozing off. It's not the writer's fault, or the book's fault really, but there's a reason I could never ever spend my time reading studies or even conducting them. There are some fascinating tidbits and good takeaways but I wouldn't call it a must read for anyone that's not in the field of music studies.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Brian Clegg

    Although there’s quite an industry now in debunking claims that something or other is what makes us human, I’ve some sympathy with the slightly different twist in the subtitle of Victoria Williamson’s book: ‘how music reveals what it is to be human.’ You may not have to be human to be musical, but it certainly gives us some interesting insights into our brains. In a detailed exploration of the psychology of music, Williamson takes us into the fact and fable of claims like the old chestnut that li Although there’s quite an industry now in debunking claims that something or other is what makes us human, I’ve some sympathy with the slightly different twist in the subtitle of Victoria Williamson’s book: ‘how music reveals what it is to be human.’ You may not have to be human to be musical, but it certainly gives us some interesting insights into our brains. In a detailed exploration of the psychology of music, Williamson takes us into the fact and fable of claims like the old chestnut that listening to music (particularly Mozart) can improve your child’s intelligence. The simple answer is that listening doesn’t, but learning to play an instrument or sing does make a small difference in some very specific brain functions, like being able to distinguish sounds. However it’s worth pointing out that, unless the real aim is to learn how to play or sing, the amount of effort required is totally out of proportion to the gain. And if children aren’t young enough for our voyage into the capabilities of music, even see if music can influence the unborn child. Later on there’s an in-depth look at music in our adult life and the relationship between music and memory – including the remarkable factoid that 30 percent of people can correctly identify the name and artist of a popular song after hearing it for only 0.4 seconds, a tiny snippet of sound. Interestingly, though the people tested were young adults, they found it easiest to identify 1960s and 1970s tunes. Williamson suggests (probably tongue in cheek) that music was better then. I’d suggest it might be more a combination of being the kind of music their parents would listen to – so the music the test subjects were brought up with – and an effect of the way that distinctive tunes were more common back then, in an age without sampling, rapping and song-free dance music. I am reasonably musical – I sang in a Cambridge college chapel choir – so I expected to be absolutely delighted with this book… but though there is lots of lovely material in there, I felt a little let down. In part it is because the style is a little flat – the book felt about twice as long as it really is – but mostly I suspect it is because music psychologists and professional musicians think that music is more important than it really is. Yes, it plays a pivotal role in our teens, but for most of our lives it’s just something to stick in if you are bored in the car or gym or while doing the washing up – or that is very effective at eliciting emotions in the background in films (the music that swells under the ‘Daddy, my daddy!’ sequence in the Railway Children is enough to make me cry without the visuals) – which is immensely powerful, but still not really a of major significance in our lives. So a brilliant idea, with plenty of really interesting content – and a must-read for anyone that interested in music or the workings of the human brain – but not as enjoyable as I hoped it would be. It’s quite possibly because I was so looking forward to it that it was inevitably a bit of a disappointment – so I do recommend you try it for yourself.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Lloyd

    How not to write a science book: combine huge strings of inadequately summarised citations into repetitive paragraphs, interspersed with unscientific and uninteresting anecdote. The book reads like the writing of an undisciplined and untalented undergraduate, trying to make too many points without selecting which are worth making, passing vague remarks at extant work without much attempt at critical analysis or consideration whether the aim of the initial study actually backs up the point. If yo How not to write a science book: combine huge strings of inadequately summarised citations into repetitive paragraphs, interspersed with unscientific and uninteresting anecdote. The book reads like the writing of an undisciplined and untalented undergraduate, trying to make too many points without selecting which are worth making, passing vague remarks at extant work without much attempt at critical analysis or consideration whether the aim of the initial study actually backs up the point. If you're the kind of person that says things like "human beings only use 10% of their brains" then this book might give you a few other inaccurate sound bites to 'impress' people, although you might already know most of the book's factoids from an occasional idle glance through Metro's 'science' column.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ola

    A fine and enthusiastically written introduction to the psychology and physiology of music. A light read, that for my taste brushes a bit too lightly over a wide range of subjects.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Pat

    You Are The Music by Victoria Williamson has a significant subtitle: How Music Reveals What It Means To Be Human. Williamson is a part-time musician & an academic specialising in the psychology of music. So, she's well equipped to try to explain how music affects & shapes us throughout our lives, from even before we're born right up to old age. Fortunately, Dr Williamson is an engaging writer & has written a book that is obviously full of what she's learned about music & psycholo You Are The Music by Victoria Williamson has a significant subtitle: How Music Reveals What It Means To Be Human. Williamson is a part-time musician & an academic specialising in the psychology of music. So, she's well equipped to try to explain how music affects & shapes us throughout our lives, from even before we're born right up to old age. Fortunately, Dr Williamson is an engaging writer & has written a book that is obviously full of what she's learned about music & psychology throughout her life & career. To her credit, she has targeted her book more towards the casual music fan than the academic, though You Are The Music could easily serve as an excellent introduction to the subject for college students. Throughout, Williamson attempts to dispel some of the myths that have been mistakenly used to try to educate or heal the young, the old or the unwell & introduces us to some of the most significant & important academic studies in the field. The most important thing I took from her book is that any study on music & the brain is only worthwhile if the subject is into the music being used. So, keep on listening to your favourite music because, as Bob Marley sings on Trenchtown Rock, "one good thing about music - when it hits, you feel no pain".

  7. 5 out of 5

    Colten Blair

    Every once in awhile I love to muscle through a text-bookey-book about something that interests me. "You Are the Music" is one that has been on my shelf for a loooong time now, but as so often happens, I started reading it exactly when I was meant to. During a time when music-making was becoming less and less of a passion in my life and more of an obligation, I found this book to be a nice balance between science-meets-revelry, which was exactly what I needed to relight the spark. The book cover Every once in awhile I love to muscle through a text-bookey-book about something that interests me. "You Are the Music" is one that has been on my shelf for a loooong time now, but as so often happens, I started reading it exactly when I was meant to. During a time when music-making was becoming less and less of a passion in my life and more of an obligation, I found this book to be a nice balance between science-meets-revelry, which was exactly what I needed to relight the spark. The book covers a wide scope of science-based, and peer-reviewed studies about music-making through the lifetime, and touches on issues of why musicianship is such a uniquely "human" activity, and delves nicely into the neuroscience involved in how we do it, and why we love it. This book isn't particularly long, and most would likely find it a bit dry. But, during a time in life when my career and work is so often about fluffy artistic expression, I found reading some clear-cut science and learning about some of the musical research that is being done in the world to be refreshing.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Claudia -

    Music is with us from the womb to the grave. Mostly welcomed, sometimes annoying and often taken for granted, but just imagine what complex processes are going on in our brains when we listen to music, let alone master an instrument. Music can influence our emotions and subconsciously, subtly, change our behaviour. It often plays a major role in our teenage years and we can still remember music even if we’re losing our marbles. Music psychologist Victoria Williamson looks at the role music plays t Music is with us from the womb to the grave. Mostly welcomed, sometimes annoying and often taken for granted, but just imagine what complex processes are going on in our brains when we listen to music, let alone master an instrument. Music can influence our emotions and subconsciously, subtly, change our behaviour. It often plays a major role in our teenage years and we can still remember music even if we’re losing our marbles. Music psychologist Victoria Williamson looks at the role music plays throughout a lifetime, at work, play and therapy. The book combines cutting edge scientific research with the accessibility of a TED-talk, it is a fascinating insight into our relationship with music.

  9. 5 out of 5

    John Griffiths

    an interesting read about a theme I hadn't really thought about before which is the effect music has on us in different contexts and different stages of our lives. The author is an academic and draws on lots of scientific studies. If I had a frustration it was that it didn't really connect to what I do as a musician so was rather theoretical. But if you're studying music it might be worth a look

  10. 5 out of 5

    Fiza Pathan

    This was a really interesting read. I'm a musician (guitar, piano) & music lover myself & this book really answered a lot of questions I had about the 'music in us'. Of course, the book covers music in all stages of life as well as they psychology of a musician & music lover. This book is a well presented & great read. I especially loved the 'earworm' topic covered in the book. Kudos to the author !

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    I found this very interesting, but if anything I found it a bit short. I know the author was consciously trying to make it an outline guide to the subject, but I think she could have gone a bit longer and still achieved that - it felt a bit rushed.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    An interesting and entertaining book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Triananess

    Seems like I read something I have already known but only with scientific background. I want to read more about binaural music which I cant seem to find in this book. Or I missed it?

  14. 5 out of 5

    Anni (Tea in the Treetops)

    Have you ever wondered how we get earworms? Or whether unborn babies really hear the Mozart played to them? If you’re curious about how music affects us throughout our lives, you might find You Are the Music an interesting read. It’s been a while since I’ve read a non-fiction book but this one sounded particularly interesting to me, as a mother of two young kids. The early sections of the book deal with how music is heard and processed right from when we can first hear in utero, and then through Have you ever wondered how we get earworms? Or whether unborn babies really hear the Mozart played to them? If you’re curious about how music affects us throughout our lives, you might find You Are the Music an interesting read. It’s been a while since I’ve read a non-fiction book but this one sounded particularly interesting to me, as a mother of two young kids. The early sections of the book deal with how music is heard and processed right from when we can first hear in utero, and then through the early stages of childhood and into adolescence. The later sections of the book deal with music in adult lives – at work, play and music for well-being. This book is essentially a look at all the different studies that have been done in relation to music and human physiology and psychology. It almost reads like a big literature review with study after study being referenced, making it a dry read at times. The subject matter is so fascinating that I was able to plough through the slow spots. One thing that was apparent from the extensive list of research is that there is plenty more of it to be done. Many of the studies are one-off projects with small sample sizes, which gives fairly inconclusive results. Music is such an individual experience for people with everyone having their own unique preferences that it’s actually hard to find a sample size large enough. The same music can affect different people in very different ways, depending on their upbringing, education and preferences. In fact we still don’t really know a lot about how music affects our bodies or our minds, but there is plenty of research going on to find out more. Ever wondered what kind of dance moves are most attractive to a potential mate? Does listening to music at work increase productivity or distract you? You Are the Music answers these questions and asks plenty more. This review was originally posted on Tea in the Treetops in June 2014.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

    Anyone who knows me knows how much I love music, so the subject of this book really appealed to me. The author is a researcher and lecturer in music psychology, and in this book she explores the ways music influences our lives. She starts pre-birth looking at how or if music affects babies in utero. Then she moves on to whether playing classical music for babies actually makes them smarter. She also delves into what affect music has on productivity, whether it can promote healing, and what cause Anyone who knows me knows how much I love music, so the subject of this book really appealed to me. The author is a researcher and lecturer in music psychology, and in this book she explores the ways music influences our lives. She starts pre-birth looking at how or if music affects babies in utero. Then she moves on to whether playing classical music for babies actually makes them smarter. She also delves into what affect music has on productivity, whether it can promote healing, and what causes earworms among a variety of other topics. It was a fascinating book to me, and her research really reinforced some things I experience with music in my own daily life. For anyone who has even the slightest inkling of a love for music and wonders about its affect on humans and how we live I would highly recommend this book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

    Very useful introduction to and summary of the ways music can function for human beings. I conduct research in areas that overlap, so am familiar with the general territory. This helps me to realize just how challenging the task Victoria Williamson set herself really was, She manages to walk the line between stimulating the interest of a general reader and presenting deeper insights arising from complex research. I imagIne Ms. Williamson is an excellent teacher. She is always confident yet never Very useful introduction to and summary of the ways music can function for human beings. I conduct research in areas that overlap, so am familiar with the general territory. This helps me to realize just how challenging the task Victoria Williamson set herself really was, She manages to walk the line between stimulating the interest of a general reader and presenting deeper insights arising from complex research. I imagIne Ms. Williamson is an excellent teacher. She is always confident yet never patronizing. Her love for the subject generates an enthusiasm to share of the kind good teaching depends on. I highly recommend this book - it's also worth checking out the author's TED Talk presentation on music and memory.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia Egbert

    There are some dry and technical moments in this book but overall it was fascinating. It reaffirmed my belief in music lessons for my children. Alas, only my youngest has committed to staying with her lessons and I can indeed see the difference in her reading and comprehension in our schooling. I do have to say that I am terribly grateful that I am not one of those unfortunate souls who have, by genetics or accident, no ability to comprehend music, their brains literally cannot follow music. I r There are some dry and technical moments in this book but overall it was fascinating. It reaffirmed my belief in music lessons for my children. Alas, only my youngest has committed to staying with her lessons and I can indeed see the difference in her reading and comprehension in our schooling. I do have to say that I am terribly grateful that I am not one of those unfortunate souls who have, by genetics or accident, no ability to comprehend music, their brains literally cannot follow music. I read about these poor folks while sitting at the DMV and I am telling you that I found myself in such a funk that I had to walk around outside for a half hour just to see light in the world again.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    This author seems capable of writing a great book but this one is not it. The scope of the book sounds fairly manageable but the author looks into so many niche aspects of music use in a relatively small book that it becomes crowded with hastily summarised research findings. Dull topics get, in my opinion, more airtime than the interesting ones. Furthermore I can only assume that the tagline was forced by the publisher, because this book certainly does not explore "how music reveals what it mean This author seems capable of writing a great book but this one is not it. The scope of the book sounds fairly manageable but the author looks into so many niche aspects of music use in a relatively small book that it becomes crowded with hastily summarised research findings. Dull topics get, in my opinion, more airtime than the interesting ones. Furthermore I can only assume that the tagline was forced by the publisher, because this book certainly does not explore "how music reveals what it means to be human" any more thoroughly than Silent Spring explores how pesticides reveal what it means to be human.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Laura Clements

    This book was OK, it gave a good general overview of how much music is involved in our lives. I liked learning the details of various experiments, as well as how valuable music lessons really can be. Unfortunately it seems like a lot of research still needs to be done, so it was hard to get answers to a lot of questions I found myself asking. It was worth a read if this is a topic you're interested in.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    I really enjoyed this book. It is very well-written and an easy read. I learned a lot about many aspects of music and life. I recommend this book for anyone who has a career in music to the average person who just likes to listen to it! I also recommend it for anyone who is interested in how we operate as people in general. Great book! I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Georgina Lara

    This is an interesting exposition of the role of music in our lifes from babies in the womb to adults dispelling some myths (namely the 'Mozart effect') and explaining current research of so-called music therapy. You should be warned though that this book is a basic exposition of a wide range of topics and does not really go in depth but it is useful to point the way if you would like to go deeper.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    Got a free example from the author in exchange of an honest review. So here it is. I was sooo excited when I got it. The title sounded interesting. Than, when I began to read it, I was kind of disappointed. Not the author's fault. She had to use those theoretic parts (which can be boring for an outstanding eye). Also, I think she made a great job following the music in our lives from the very beginning to the end of it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ali Al Yousuf

    To be honest this is the first book i finish in my life as a self learning, i used to read ot literaly everyday for the whole Jan 2015, it is amazing how the author Victoria Williamson sectioned the book as a lifespan of the human life, i incredebly enjoyed reading it with passion of my beloved topic, i used to highlight important information and im happy to go through them again in the future, Thanks Victoria :) .

  24. 4 out of 5

    Wan Shoo

    This is a book that could contribute greatly to the well being and healthcare of a person by having 'music'. An enjoyable read with interesting stories. I would recommend to anyone who would like to use 'music' as a nurturing or/ or therapeutic tools. I find the book very enlightening.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Marcia

    As a musician, I am fascinated by the effects that music has on us all through our lives. This is an interesting and accessible exploration of that...definitely worth reading!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sambasivan

    Rarely researched subject. Music has a general palliative quality. This is proven by multiple researches as enunciated by the author. Very good primer on the psycholgy of music.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    I won this book in a Goodreads first-reads contest. This book was quite interesting and enlightening about how music affects us, shapes up, becomes a part of us throughout our lives.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    I learned a lot reading this book!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jackie

    I registered a book at BookCrossing.com! http://www.BookCrossing.com/journal/12632754

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    Rec-ex. Ingen recension här.

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