4 out of 4 stars
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The Science of Music and the Music of Science by Michael J. Montague, Ph.D., is a broad introduction to how science and music connect and intertwine. It discusses a variety of concepts within this domain, from the unique way that music evolved in humans to the nature of waves and even string theory. Since this is just an introduction, though, it's far more accessible than you might think. Every concept is discussed in a way that doesn't rely on prior knowledge in the field, though I believe people with some formal training in either discipline stand to gain even more from reading this book.
Throughout the book, the author does a great job of maintaining a light and personal tone, as well as describing potentially unfamiliar aspects of science and music in a way that's both concise and clear. General audiences might struggle with keeping track of some of the technical language that is introduced, though, so this isn't a light read by any stretch of the imagination. It requires a lot of focus - potentially even note-taking or annotation - to fully appreciate the text.
It is also very well-organized, and with fifteen chapters, the book's roots in a class syllabus are obvious. Some topics, like how the brain processes music, require much more space than others, such as music's evolutionary origin, and these differing requirements are taken into account very well with regards to the book's overall structure. There are some issues with formatting on Kindle, such as oddly laid out tables and embedded images that don't scale in size correctly, and I found a handful of typos. These problems are few and far between, though, and they don't really hinder understanding.
Despite these efforts, the book's biggest shortcoming is clear: it's rather dry. Technical analyses of music and science by nature require some level of jargon, and since the book is geared towards people who aren't necessarily familiar with scientific and musical terms, words frequently need to be defined. It's also very difficult to use relatable anecdotes to illustrate scientific studies, though the author makes a valiant effort. I believe that this is merely a requirement of the subject matter, and it would certainly be much more of a problem without the author's conversational tone and careful organization.
Ultimately, I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. It's targeted at a very specific audience: people who are interested in the scientific study of music and how it pertains to the human experience. Within this limited scope, the book is very tightly organized and well-executed. If you're interested in a crash course about the relationship between music and science, and you don't mind a challenging, intellectual read, I highly recommend it.
The Science of Music and The Music of Science
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