Cover Image: This Is What It Sounds Like

This Is What It Sounds Like

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Member Reviews

Thanks to W.W. Norton and NetGalley for an ARC of this book

I came into this book, based on the subtitle, thinking it was going to be a bunch of pop science "here's a bunch of neuroscience on why your brain like melodies that do [thing], but DOESN'T like melodies that sound [other thing]" in a very music primer-y way that ultimately feels dated in a few years.  I should have known better with someone like Susan Rogers behind the mixing board.

This is a great book if you want to become a better listener of music. Susan and her co-author break down the different "layers" of what makes up a song - both the actual melody/rhythm/timbre for sure, but also what your brain registers as "authenticity", and what a producer brings to the mix - and why that affects the sort of music you like.  It's accessible and smart without talking down to those of us with musical theory training.  The final section where a bunch of different listeners each talk about a song that has meaning to them sort of lost me after an otherwise stellar beginning, but there's a lot to like here that goes much deeper than a project with this sort of topic would be expected to go.
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This book is a super interesting read if you're just a regular person who enjoys music. It helps explain in layperson's terms why the music we like is music we like. Do we focus on melody? Do we have a special sweet spot for timbre? Do we love music that speaks to us below the belt or between the ears? 

This book will make you want to re-listen to all the songs you love and really think about why you love those songs.
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This book is incredible, and I find myself wanting to reference it all the time. I loved finding out all about what makes a person tick with regards to music, and these two authors are conversational and include anecdotes as well as serious science and studies. The result is a book that’s approachable, really cool, and seriously interesting. I do recommend keeping an open musical mind and your phone with you to look up the songs referenced. Four and a half stars, rounded up.
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I enjoyed the mix of science and Susan's anecdotes about music production. I'll definitely be paying more attention to the elements of a record and why I like certain songs over others in the future thanks to this book. I'll recommend to anyone who loves music.
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This was such a fun read! As a music maker and music lover, it was really interesting to learn about the science of why people love to hear what they love to hear. Although it’s written in a way that’s easy to understand, it did take me some time to get through because there’s over 100 song references (a lot If which I’ve never heard before and I wanted to make sure I listened as I went along).

 I’m compiling a Spotify playlists that I’ll make public once the book is released so ppl who use Spotify can listen to all the songs in one place if they’re interested.
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This guide to music and ourselves comes out on September 20, 2022. W.W. Norton and Company provided me an early galley for review.

Three things drew me immediately to this book: that glorious cover (I love the colors), a title drawn from lyrics by one of my favorite artists ever (the genius Prince) and one of the authors (Susan Rogers did amazing studio work with Prince during the 80's). I knew this one would be an interesting, enlightening read. You'll want to have a listening device handy as you read for a deeper experience.

This book very much reads like a college text on music theory and neuroscience. And that is to be expected given Rogers' background, education and role as a professor at the Berklee College of Music. If she does not use this as her textbook for a class, she should. I learned so much from it, and I wasn't bored like I had been in some of my college classes back in the day. This is fun stuff, and her writing style is very approachable.

An aspect of the book which I like is the "record pull" - where Rogers asks the reader to listen to tracks to help illustrate her points. This interactive element is very key to understanding the book's points and for the reader to connect to their own music profile.

This is one I would recommend to anyone who enjoys music, likes to understand how different elements of it work, and how we as humans process it.
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Thanks to WW Norton and Netgalley for providing this ARC. Very interesting guidance on analyzing the different aspects of your personal music listening profile. Because I’m not a musician myself, sometimes I had difficulty understanding some of the examples used (e.g., someone playing behind the beat I just don’t get that, maybe I have bad beat perception!). But it was fun to read along with my iPhone and stream the various songs used as examples. Definitely interesting if you’re a music lover.
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Music is magic, and Susan Rogers and Ogi Ogas communicate that so wonderfully in This is What It Sounds Like. I adored hearing about how my varied music tastes reflect so much of who I am - also, the cover is stunning, and who doesn't love that?
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A engaging and fascinating look at why people's musical preferences exist for specific songs from a music producer turned neuroscientist. 

Each section examines a different aspect of a record (authenticity, realism, novelty, melody, lyrics, rhythm, and timbre) and the different ways they appeal to the human brain and what that means for your musical taste. The authors make the topic easy to understand using a range of musical examples and scientific studies combined with a written tone that makes the topic accessible, and engaging. The authors clear passion for the topic makes the book even more charming.

The extra benefit of being able to hear about behind-the-scenes stories from Roger's experience in music producing (especially with Prince) is the icing on the cake of this illuminating book. 

I highly recommend to anyone who loves reading about music or neuroscience.
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A deep dive with often-fascinating explorations of various songs, how they are put together and how they compare to other songs and art in other forms. The book gets rather technical and/or philosophical in places, which will be a great pleasure for the right readers.
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