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Comparing Notes: How We Make Sense of Music


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How does music work? Indeed, what is (or isn’t) music? We are all instinctively musical, but why? Adam Ockelford has the answers. 

A tap of the foot, a rush of emotion, the urge to hum a tune; without instruction or training we all respond intuitively to music. Comparing Notes explores what music is, why all of us are musical, and how abstract patterns of sound that might not appear to mean anything can, in fact, be so meaningful.

Taking the reader on a clear and compelling tour of major twentieth century musical theories, Professor Adam Ockelford arrives at his own important psychologically grounded theory of how music works. From pitch and rhythm to dynamics and timbre, he shows how all the elements of music cohere through the principle of imitation to create an abstract narrative in sound that we instinctively grasp, whether listening to Bach or the Beatles.

Authoritative, engaging, and full of wonderful examples from across the musical spectrum, Comparing Notes is essential reading for anyone who’s ever loved a song, sonata, or symphony, and wondered why. 

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