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The Music Instinct

Philip Ball

The Music Instinct offers the first comprehensive, accessible survey of what is known – and what remains unknown – about how music works: why we can comprehend it, why we are moved by it, why we make music and what roles it serves in culture and society.

It also advances some new ideas about those questions, pointing out where there are current gaps in our enquiries and investigations and suggesting new directions.

The book questions some of the popular ideas that musicians and musicologists have advanced about the nature of music: for example, that scales and harmony have their origins in acoustic physics; that emotion in music is all about expectations and their violation; and the numerous tidy but untestable stories told about the evolutionary origins of music. The Music Instinct celebrates its topic while taking a sceptical, questioning approach to the current theories advanced to explain it. By doing so, it challenges some of the fundamental assumptions we hold about music and its role in our cultures

First published:
Published by:
Random House – The Bodley Head
Hardcover 452 pages

About the author

Philip Ball is a freelance science writer. He worked previously at Nature for over 20 years, first as an editor for physical sciences (for which his brief extended from biochemistry to quantum physics and materials science) and then as a Consultant Editor. His writings on science for the popular press have covered topical issues ranging from cosmology to the future of molecular biology.

Philip is the author of several popular books on science, including works on the nature of water, pattern formation in the natural world, colour in art, and the science of social and political philosophy. He has written widely on the interactions between art and science, and has delivered lectures to scientific and general audiences at venues ranging from the Victoria and Albert Museum (London) to the NASA Ames Research Center and the London School of Economics.

Philip has a BA in Chemistry from the University of Oxford and a PhD in Physics from the University of Bristol.