The Music Instinct, By Philip Ball

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As prolific as he is profound, Philip Ball weaves science into culture with a dexterity and virtuosity that avoid any sense of overstretch. This book, learned while never less than absorbing, could so easily have fallen victim to a glib reductionism as Ball explores the possible roots of music in Darwinian "sexual selection".

Yet he quickly moves forward from sociobiology into a sophisticated, uplifting argument about music as the ultimate brain-food. It refines our cognitive tool-kit while deepening identity and community.

From Mozart to Led Zeppelin, his examples vitalise his themes as fresh research helps penetrate the mysteries of how we hear what music does, and then cerate meanings from it. Ball can truly make scholarship sing.