Sunday, March 27, 2011

Levitin on Timing and Expression

In the first of these videos, Daniel Levitin gives an overview of work done in his labs showing that variance from metronomic timing correlates with perceived expression in music. In the second he talks more about the implications of this type of research, name checking Stevie Wonder in the process.

This bit of research may well end up being seen as much of a breakthrough as the recent dopamine study, also out of McGill. They both really get at what's going on with music and emotion, and they each seem to be the first solid, repeatable study that nails down a specific mechanism in the way music works on us. 


  1. Hi, Lyle. I wanted to recommend Levitin's book, "This Is Your Brain On Music," to you. If you haven't read it already, I bet you would really enjoy it.

  2. Hi, Dave - Thanks for stopping by and leaving the comment. You win your bet! I read that book in hard back when it first came out back in 2006 and "enjoy" is way too mild a word for my reaction. After decades of plugging along feeling deep in my bones there really was something to music therapy, that book was the first to really lay things out empirically. One reason for my starting the blog was to have a place to keep tabs on all this sort of research.

    I also read his "The World in Six Songs", which is a response to that "music is just evolutionary cheesecake" comment that got so many people riled up. It's an interesting read, but not as helpful to me as the previous book. (For me the "cheesecake" comment says more about the commenter than music. The presumption of some academics knows no bounds. I think it's way too early to make a judgement on that issue.)

    Then there wasn't much from him for a while and I wondered what was happening, then this latest flurry of research from McGill. I'm going to come back and talk about various things he says in these vids, but mainly I was delighted to see he's still very much on the case. I also liked how engaging and pleasantly mannered he seems to be, which makes him such a great spokesman for the cause.