PERFORMING ARTS

Why You Like It: The Science and Culture of Musical Taste

Flatiron: Macmillan. Apr. 2019. 720p. notes. index. ISBN 9781250057198. $29.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250057204. MUSIC
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OrangeReviewStarWhy did my Pandora radio station jump from "This Must Be the Place" by the Talking Heads to "All My Friends" by LCD Soundsystem? Gasser, musicologist and the chief architect of Pandora's Music Genome Project, knows why, and why you'll like it. In a sprawling tome, he explores how the ingredients of music—sound, melody, rhythm, harmony, and timbre—shape our musical tastes. Gasser suggests that musical taste isn't just a fleeting predilection but intrinsic to the music itself. The book's 16 chapters coil around one another, alternating between music and extramusical subjects (sociological, psychological, or cultural aspects of music) to form a double helix structure. Though the author admirably attempts to explicate musical theory, his depth of analysis can sometimes be a challenge for novice readers. Nevertheless, his study of Taylor Swift, Dizzy Gillespie, and Ludwig van Beethoven is so engaging that you will probably hear a "harmonic modulation to the dominant" the next time you listen to "Shake It Off."
VERDICT A brilliant and passionate work about music's indelible aesthetic algorithm; for anyone curious about why their favorite songs strike a chord with them. [See Prepub Alert, 10/22/18.]

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