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

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

Have you ever wondered how off-key you are while singing in the shower? Or if your Bob Dylan albums really sound better on vinyl? Or why certain songs make you cry? Now, scientist and musician John Powell invites you on an entertaining journey through the world of music. Discover what distinguishes music from plain old noise, how scales help you memorize songs, what the humble recorder teaches you about timbre (assuming your suffering listeners don’t break it first), and more.
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Publisher's Summary

An enthralling investigation into the mysteries of music. Have you ever wondered how off-key you are while singing in the shower? Or if your Bob Dylan albums really sound better on vinyl? Or why certain songs make you cry?

Now, scientist and musician John Powell invites you on an entertaining journey through the world of music. Discover what distinguishes music from plain old noise, how scales help you memorize songs, what the humble recorder teaches you about timbre (assuming your suffering listeners don’t break it first), why anyone can learn to play a musical instrument, what the absurdly complicated names of classical music pieces actually mean, how musical notes came to be (hint: you can thank a group of stodgy men in 1939 London for that one), how to make an oboe from a drinking straw, and much more.

With wit and charm, and in the simplest terms, Powell explains the science and psychology of music. Clever, informative, and deeply engaging, How Music Works takes the secrets of music away from the world of badly dressed academics and gives every one of us—whether we love to sing or play air guitar—the means to enhance our listening pleasure.

©2010 John Powell (P)2010 Gildan Media Corp

What the Critics Say

"Powell conveys the material with enough humor and cocktail party facts to keep the book light and fun." (Publisher's Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (311 )
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Performance
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  •  
    milene Brasília, Brazil 12-26-11
    milene Brasília, Brazil 12-26-11 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Funny and inspiring"
    What made the experience of listening to How Music Works the most enjoyable?

    The examples and the author's comments at the end of each chapter


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The author


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No, it is a book to study slowly


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chad Duluth, GA, United States 01-21-12
    Chad Duluth, GA, United States 01-21-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "I recommend this to anyone who is in to music!"
    Would you listen to How Music Works again? Why?

    I would listen to this again so that I could brush up on some of the very helpful points this book makes.


    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    andrew Bountiful, UT, United States 11-25-11
    andrew Bountiful, UT, United States 11-25-11
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    "A Shade of Gray"

    Rather lifeless narration, as others have said. His voice is quiet and tedious. I also felt for much of the book that this company had discovered a man incapable of humor. Wasn't there a Saturday Night Live sketch about a disease where people were incapable of finding anything funny...He tells these jokes like he has no idea what a joke is. There is very little change in voice. The information was pretty interesting though, somewhat basic. But it will teach you to tune a pentatonic harp, and I learned enough that I felt my money was well spent. I'd have listened to it all in a few days if I could have kept my head up for more than two hours straight through the narration. Though he seemed more subtle and understated than stodgy by the end, when I'd adjusted to him.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sam 05-08-15
    Sam 05-08-15 Member Since 2014
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    "For the layperson or curious scientist"

    Finally, an accessible discussion of what music actually is, from the nature of harmonious sounds all the way to the equal temperament system!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark 01-26-15
    Mark 01-26-15 Member Since 2015
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    34
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    "increased my knowledge of music"
    Any additional comments?

    I'm not a musician, but was interested in learning the theory of music. This book delivered brilliantly.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    McCoffee Saratoga, CA, United States 01-17-15
    McCoffee Saratoga, CA, United States 01-17-15

    I like history and biography, novels too. I do have a thing for zombie books as well. I need crappy thrillers now and then.

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    "Some good chapters, but no musical sound bites"

    A few chapters--like those on the development of the diatonic scale are really interesting. The author himself steps in at the end of some chapters to demonstrate principles on his guitar, and this really helps. Problems: there are spoken passages referring to notes and scales that could easily have been backed by musical audio. There are hundreds of places where this could have been done. In a description of a flute, there's no sound bite of a flute. Curious why they didn't bother to use more sounds. Some of content is poorly suited to the audio format.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dr. Barnesville, GA, United States 01-06-15
    Dr. Barnesville, GA, United States 01-06-15 Member Since 2013
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    "A good companion book for college music students.."
    Would you consider the audio edition of How Music Works to be better than the print version?

    depends on the reader/listener. I am the kind of person who focuses best while driving, so audio books are great.


    What did you like best about this story?

    It covers a lot of basic information on sound and music in a straight-forward, easy-to-understand manner with enough humor to keep it from being dry.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Film???? no


    Any additional comments?

    YES - the writer should have a music theorist edit the terminology. There is a difference between a note (what we see on paper) and a pitch (what we hear). the author confuses these. There are a few other discrepancies which might hinder other music theory teachers from adopting this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark Raglan, New Zealand 05-04-14
    Mark Raglan, New Zealand 05-04-14 Member Since 2011

    I love listening to books when cycling, paddleboarding, etc but I press pause when I need to concentrate. Its safer & I don't lose the plot!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Huckleberry Jeeves"

    This was mostly an entertaining and educational explanation of what it says on the label: How music works. I enjoyed it and learned a lot.

    As for the narrator, what were they thinking? If you made a recording of Huckleberry Finn would you cast actors with posh English accents? No, because that would sound stupid wouldn’t it? Similarly, in this book, the author uses many English expressions about going to pubs and eating chips with gravy, and these sound ridiculous out of the mouth of the American narrator.

    Whenever I wasn’t distracted by this conspicuous miscasting, I was enjoying the audiobook.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marcin Bagsik Gliwice 04-14-14
    Marcin Bagsik Gliwice 04-14-14 Member Since 2015
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    "That's how it works!"
    What did you love best about How Music Works?

    Easly explained diference between ordinary music listener and those with perfect pitch, why some sounds match together and others not. How acients tuned their instruments and why it was standardized just in 1939. It's must have! for everyone who like to play or just learn to play an instrument.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes, it was.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J. C. Thailand 02-19-14
    J. C. Thailand 02-19-14 Member Since 2015

    I live in Thailand, and love to listen to audible.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Very good"

    Actually I liked it read by an American with intermittent blurbs read by the British author. It was really neat. I learned a lot and had fun listening. Highly recommended! The narration is wonderful. Add a little multi media with some music thrown in, and you have a winner! Loved it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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