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an in-progress book

Music has always mattered deeply to people. Each era, each culture, has had its own ideas about why. Many ancient peoples held that music puts us in touch with the divine as it also shapes character. Later cultures appreciated music for its ability to provide artistic edification, personal expression, light entertainment, and mood management. Judging from the popular success of several recent books, it seems abundantly clear that we’re still intensely curious about the hold that music has on us. Some familiar titles include:
This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel Levitin, Musicophilia by Oliver Sachs, The Singing Neanderthals by Steven Mithen, and The Music Instinct by Philip Ball. These books use psychology to explain how music can stimulate regions of the brain that affect everything from memory to purchasing decisions, from physical stamina to an openness to new ideas, from a sense of peace and well-being
to a sense of unease and mission.

While each of these books offers valuable observations about what music can do, they stop shy of recommending how anyone might apply these insights or why. That's how this book is different. We explore what it might look like to hear music “better.” Not better in the sense that we can win listening contests or snub our noses at those whose musical tastes aren’t as sophisticated as ours. Better in the sense that we begin to notice more as we listen, enjoy it for all it has to offer, and that we learn to let music affect us more fully.

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