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Author, neuroscientist to lecture at Straz Center

New York Times best-selling author and Renaissance man Professor Daniel J. Levitin will be giving a free lecture at Ferguson Hall in the Straz Center for the Performing Arts tonight at 7.

As part of the Frontier Forum lecture series hosted by USF’s College of Arts and Sciences, Levitin will discuss his heavily lauded book, “This is Your Brain on Music.” 

The book has been praised for being one of the more charming pieces of popular science literature pertaining to cognitive psychology and neuroscience — fields that Levitin, a rock musician and doctor of neuroscience, has plenty of experience in. 

Published in 2006, “On Music” describes in thorough yet engaging terms the basics of music theory such as timbre, rhythm, pitch and harmony. Outlining in plain detail the elements of a song that make it indescribably catchy or moving, giving the reader the tools to actually describe that thing “you just can’t put your finger on.”

From there, Levitin connects the elements of sound to the way the brain functions, why people have a favorite song, why certain genres of music ‘stick’ and even the process of musical evolution.

The book challenges another theory developed by fellow cognitive scientist, Steven Pinker. Pinker’s idea of “auditory cheesecake” describes the assertion that music was a secondary development of evolution, whereas Levitin asserts that music served a much more important purpose. 

Levitin muses that music’s positive health effects indicate its use as an evolutionarily advantageous force leading to social bonding and increased fitness, ideas shared by Charles Darwin and Geoffrey Miller.

“This is Your Brain on Music” has been praised by such artists as the Talking Heads’ David Byrne, record producer George Martin, Yoko Ono, prolific drummer Neil Peart and The Who’s Pete Townshend, among others. 

Not only was the book a best seller, but it was also picked up by Stanford, MIT, UC Berkeley and the California Institute of Technology physics department as a textbook.