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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 (272 )
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Performance
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  •  
    glynn forde new zealand 10-09-12
    glynn forde new zealand 10-09-12
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
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    "Enjoyable"
    Would you listen to How Music Works again? Why?

    A great primer for keen amateurs interested in expanding their knowledge about music.
    I will listen again to refresh my understanding many more times.. its so easily followed.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    N/A


    What three words best describe Walter Dixon’s performance?

    Easy Mellow Clear


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

    Music for dummies


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Fred Neece Ouad cities Illinois 08-22-12
    Fred Neece Ouad cities Illinois 08-22-12 Member Since 2012

    FJN

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Intresting gets better the more you listen"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I would recommend this book to someone who really wants to gain as much information about music and sounds as they can or if you are just learning to play or read music. Some of the technical info I could do without


    Have you listened to any of Walter Dixon’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    Never have. But I do like his style


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

    No because there are some chapters worth listing to a couple of times


    Any additional comments?

    This is a good book for a person who is really into every aspect of music, reading playing, composing, listening, and the technical aspect of sound. Warning you will not learn everything but you pick up enough to make it worth the listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    OJEDA Bogota, Colombia 08-06-12
    OJEDA Bogota, Colombia 08-06-12
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    4
    4
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    Story
    "Interesting, but needs less words and more music"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    Even if the author makes a good effort for giving the listener complete explanations, he misses the opportunity of using music to make his point. Sentences fall short to explain musical concepts and being an audiobook he could have made a great product if he had put more "beautiful sounds" and music in it to help the reader train his ear and develop a musical imagination.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    rchrdy Cary, NC, United States 08-06-12
    rchrdy Cary, NC, United States 08-06-12 Member Since 2012
    ratings
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    2
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Where's the music?"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    Since it's "Audible", the presentation would have been much more meaningful with musical demonstrations for more than a very few of the concepts, not just oral descriptions.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The guitar or flute (during their occassional appearances).


    What three words best describe Walter Dixon’s performance?

    Somehwat self-indulgent.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    It helped pass time at the treadmill.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Yichao WORCESTER, MA, United States 07-30-12
    Yichao WORCESTER, MA, United States 07-30-12 Member Since 2012
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    1
    Overall
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    Story
    "Great starter read for music theory"
    Where does How Music Works rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Top 5%. The way it explains the theory is exceptionally understandable.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The way the author incorporates music pieces into the audio book


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The chapter for how to bring out emotion.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J. Modesto, CA, United States 07-28-12
    J. Modesto, CA, United States 07-28-12 Member Since 2011

    J. Jason Gale

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "GOOD THINGS to KNOW"

    This is one of those books that you're glad you listened to even if you are well versed in the subject matter already. It covers things like where we get the notes in the modern scale, how speakers work and most stuff in between.

    It's not always easy to stick with it; it gets a little dry in spots.

    The biggest complaint I have is there's not enough musical examples. He mentions music by Beethoven, Pink Floyd and many others, but doesn't play the passage. Of course he can't due to copyright laws.

    I surround myself with music constantly and often I recall John's references so it's well worth the listening.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lucas Austin, TX, United States 05-28-12
    Lucas Austin, TX, United States 05-28-12 Member Since 2009

    on a quest to read Audible's entire nonfiction science section...

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great writing but so-so content"

    This author's sense of humor is right up my alley. I'm really in awe of his ability to find humor in the presentation of technical material. I'm a life-long musician and I definitely learned a few things, however, I'm afraid that much of the content is in a no-man's land between the knowledgeable musician and the novice. I don't regret listenting to it or purchasing it but this is not one of my favorite listens. I think this would be great material for someone who's been playing music a couple years and is ready to step up their understanding of musical history and, to some extent, theory.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Martin Westmount, QC, Canada 05-02-12
    Martin Westmount, QC, Canada 05-02-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Good for the beginner but"
    Would you try another book from John Powell and/or Walter Dixon?

    I would be tentative about purchasing another book by the authors. There were many chapters that were too basic for what I was thinking I was purchasing.


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    I would have given us the sound bite of the examples given. For example when describing how composers change keys an example would have been better than simply stating the piece that some may or may not be familiar. Also listening to the scales would have been an improvement over simply stating that the major key sounds positive and goes TTSTTTS.


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    I think the book was trying to be too much like music for dummies and therefore used cute jokes to liven it up. They were not bad but a little personal. The use of instruments was sometimes a good addition, especially if you are a guitarist, but some others could have been used. I didn't hear a harp when they described its nature, which for a beginner would have been interesting.


    Did How Music Works inspire you to do anything?

    This book did not inspire me to compose differently or experiment with new techniques, which is what I had hoped it would do.


    Any additional comments?

    If you are a beginner and want to obtain additional insight into basic music this book will be enjoyable. If you are anywhere beyond beginner you may find half or more of the book as uninteresting.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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