Adriana Barton is a science journalist and cellist. Her new book Wired for Music: A Search for Health and Joy Through the Science of Sound is a blend of science and memoir. In it, she explores music as a source of health, resilience, connection, and joy. These are her picks for the best books about the power of music.
1. This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel J Levitin
Penned by the neuroscientist who scanned Sting’s brain, this book covers the gamut of human musicality: why we tap our feet to music, how songs stimulate emotion, why we like the music we like.
2. The Music Lesson by Victor L Wooten
A teacher makes a case for “unlearning” the mental habits that trip us up. “I know musicians who have worked on simple techniques for years with little progress,” he says. “That is because for years their attention has been on technique, not music.”
3. Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks
A neurologist’s love letter to music’s profound effects on the sentient jelly between our ears. Includes charming stories of musical quirks, from amusia (inability to derive pleasure from music) to a striking affinity for music found in people with Williams syndrome.
4. How Music Works by David Byrne
The former Talking Heads lead singer’s globe-trotting opus includes a recipe for a thriving new wave club: cheap rent, free beer for performers, and “a sense of alienation from the prevailing music scene”.
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5. Rhythm to Recovery by Simon Faulkner
A guide to using drumming to support social and emotional growth in people not easily reached by conventional counselling. Instead of lectures about peer pressure, for example, teens can learn to hold a steady rhythm while other drummers try to throw them off. Principles become embodied.