Learn the evolutionary reason for “Motownphilly”

In his 2006 book This Is Your Brain on Music, Daniel J. Levitin explained the evolutionary necessity of songs in shaping human identity. Now he’s back to reveal how that evolutionary work was accomplished through just six categories of song: Friendship, Joy, Comfort, Knowledge, Religion, and Love. In The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature (available now), each category gets a chapter to prove how its unique properties transformed the human brain.

Levitin is both a research scientist and a professional musician (he wrote the incidental music in Repo Man, among other accomplishments), and those two facets of his brain balance the book with equal measures of neuroscience and Nick Hornby–esque enthusiasm. The result is a rare feat, both brain workout and beach read, a book that explains the mysteries of oxytocin (the trust-inducing hormone released during communal singing as well as in women during childbirth) and why Sting chants “eh-oh” at the end of “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic.”

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