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How Music Works: The Science and Psychology…

How Music Works: The Science and Psychology of Beautiful Sounds, from… (edition 2010)

by John Powell

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2141254,496 (3.86)5
Title:How Music Works: The Science and Psychology of Beautiful Sounds, from Beethoven to the Beatles and Beyond
Authors:John Powell
Info:Little, Brown and Company (2010), Hardcover, 272 pages
Collections:Your library, Psychology and Cognitive Science, (Other) Science and Math, Arts / Architecture
Tags:music, psychology, acoustics, librarything early reviewers, popular science

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How Music Works: The Science and Psychology of Beautiful Sounds, from Beethoven to the Beatles and Beyond by John Powell


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Exactly what it says, an overview of the basics from instruments to writing to physics. Well done, even if I knew most of it already, I still learned something by the fact that it’s so clearly written. ( )
  bongo_x | May 16, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This was a pretty enjoyable book about music and music theory. I thought Powell's writing really shone in his discussion of the acoustics of various instruments / sound in general, although my interest in those topics might be biasing my opinion somewhat. Regardless, his explanations about harmonics, waveforms, etc were particularly well done; I've taken a few courses on speech acoustics in the past, and I wish my professors had been so clearly spoken! I found the book dragged somewhat in the middle, where music theory dominates-- I'm not sure the book truly benefits for 60+ pages on scales/keys, for instance. It picks back up at the end again, happily, although the final chapter ("Listening to Music") seemed to be a bit of a hodge-podge. His discussions of analog/digital technology and how microphones/speakers work were very clearly written, however, if a bit too simplistic for my tastes.

Anyway, if you're looking for a book on basic music theory that isn't super dry, I'd certainly recommend the title. If you're looking for something more physical/psychogical science oriented, this may not be your title. ( )
  kelsiface | Jan 11, 2013 |
Interesting approach, I was surprised he was able to avoid naming the notes as long as he did. Strong on the physics and acoustics. Humor veered a bit too the cornball on occasion. ( )
  encephalical | Dec 5, 2012 |
As the title says, this is a book about how music works -- but about how it works in physical sense, not in an artistic or emotional sense. This took me aback, since I'd expected (having foolishly failed toread the write up or the reviews) something about sense and sensibility.

But I am very glad I got the book, and read it. The author sets out to make the mechanics of music clear even to readers with no musical education. I am just such a one, and the book does indeed make a lot of things very clear, starting with what makes a sound musical. It proceeds through picth and frequency, tonality, intervals and scales, keys, modes, and on and on.

I learned a lot from the book, and enjoyed doing so. The style is very clear and simple, the organization is excellent, and the examples are well chosen. Only time will tell whether or not having read the book enhances my appreciation of music, In the meantime, I have learned a lot of stuff that is fun to know.

My only question about this book is whether it might be TOO clear and simple for readers who already know a lot about music. I can"t judge that, but such readers might want to read reviews by their peers. ( )
  annbury | Oct 5, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book is a technical book about music, how it works and what it is. It discusses the physics of music in very non-technical and easy-to-understand terms. It also covers some of the history, and why things are the way they are.

According to the author, the target audience is everyone, whether a neophyte to music or an aficionado. I disagree with this assessment. I found the book interesting, but low in information density and primarily of use to those who haven't studied much music.

The book does cover all the major details of music. I also felt the author does a good job of making it understandable. Even though I have studied music, I felt John Powell helped me solidify my understanding of a number of topics.

John Powell also interjects his humor into the book, making it more palatable for those who already know the information he is covering. However, I felt he went overboard and could have used a lot less. At times, it got rather old.

Due to the low density of information, the book is a fairly fast read without sacrificing the ability to retain information.

The book also includes a CD. The CD contains sound tracks that compare different elements of music. For instance, one of the tracks compares and discusses the sound from a guitar string played from different positions, focusing on the quality and timbre of the sound. The CD is short, but has a few interesting elements to it. You will probably listen to it once and forget about it.

If you don't know much about music, this book would probably be a good place to start. Otherwise, I don't think it provides much value.

Care to discuss this book?
http://books.randolphking.com/?p=666 ( )
  Nodosaurus | Mar 27, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316098302, Hardcover)

What makes a musical note different from any other sound? How can you tell if you have perfect pitch? Why do 10 violins sound only twice as loud as one? Do your Bob Dylan albums sound better on CD or vinyl? John Powell, a scientist and musician, answers these questions and many more in HOW MUSIC WORKS, an intriguing and original guide to acoustics. In a clear, accessible, and engaging voice, Powell fascinates the reader with his delightful descriptions of the science and psychology lurking beneath the surface of music. With lively discussions of the secrets behind harmony, timbre, keys, chords, loudness, musical composition, and more, HOW MUSIC WORKS will be treasured by music lovers everywhere. The book also includes a CD of examples and exercises from the book.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:10 -0400)

John Powell, a scientist and musician, answers questions about harmony, timbre, keys, chords, loudness, musical composition, and many more in this intriguing and original guide to acoustics.

(summary from another edition)

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