This blog is part 7 of my series exploring Daniel Levitin’s “The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature”. I would highly recommend you start at the beginning of 7-part blog series of Levitin’s book to fully appreciate his writing. I would also highly recommend following Daniel Levitin to continue learning from this musician and neuroscientist.
For those new to my blog, I use book chapters from each book I read as my blog prompts!
Chapter Seven: Love or “Bring ‘Em All In”
I am unfamiliar with this Waterboys’ song Levitin chose for this chapter, but it is obvious by his description this is one of his favorites:
- [it] is to my ears among the most perfect love songs ever written. It is the yearning of one human to feel at one with the world, to embrace all that is contained in it. It is a love song to all of us, to the good and the bad, to the great and the small.
Levitin does three things with his final chapter. He, of course, talks about love’s lessons, but he also talks about the connection of the love song with brain and social structures. Finally, he provides the perfect close to the book with a quick review of all the “six songs”.
What is Love?
Levitin tells his readers, love song lyrics tell us love is good, and love is bad; love is a drug, and love is death to loneliness. Is it any surprise that lyrics of love top the pop music charts? Romantic love is the first most common theme, followed closely by the end of love.
Is it too abstract to say love can be good or bad? Before I wrote this blog I decided to create a “love” playlist from my existing music, and I listened to almost all of them before I finished:
- Found myself today singing out loud your name. You said I’m crazy. If I am, I’m crazy for you. Sometimes sitting in the dark, wishing you were here turns me crazy, but it’s you who makes me lose my head. (performed by Adele)
- She’s left me no chance at redemption, no further exemption – Just a big red “Goodbye” in lipstick on the wall. Goodbye says it all. (performed by Blackhawk)
- Baby I believe in you and everything you do. Every time we kiss, it always feel like this. (performed by New Kids on the Block)
- Here’s an open invitation to a perfect place. If you need some time to think, shelter from the rain, I’ve got just the spot for you. Welcome to my heart! I promise to take care of you. (performed by Bell Biv Devoe)
- Your body is my favorite magazine, and your face is my favorite book. It ain’t the way that you rock your hair. It ain’t the stylish clothes you wear. It ain’t the clearness of your tone when you’re talking on the phone. It ain’t the way you say my name or how you look in your lingerie because if I took it all away, it still would be the same because you’re so naturally sexy. (performed by L*A*W
- Guess what, I’m having more fun, and now that we’re done, I’m gonna show you tonight, I’m alright. I’m just fine. And you’re a tool so, so what! I am a rockstar. I got my rock moves, and I don’t want you tonight. (performed by P!nk)
- I can’t stop thinking about you, girl. I’ll keep hoping that you’ll hear these words. I can’t stop thinking. You’re in my mind; a picture of your face is left to remind. (performed by Danny Wood)
- And that makes two of us. We are birds of feather. True love brings together a precious few of us. (performed by Raffanelli & Selby)
- I just want to lay next to you for awhile. You look so beautiful tonight. Your eyes are so lovely. Your mouth is so sweet. (performed by Michael Jackson)
- There she goes, so beautiful, so fine from head to her toes. When she talks, it’s just like when wind blows. When she smiles, the whole world knows, and I just wanna be in her world. (performed by Greg Double)
- If love is so damn hard, then tell me why we stay and give ourselves as fools not knowing what’s at stake? We offer up some empty words like we know what it takes. (performed by Joey Mcintyre)
The songs’ similarities with metaphors and similes show that it’s not too abstract to call love good or bad. Levitin describes love songs as having a lot of sappy lyrics, but beautiful harmonies. Perhaps this is the reason why love songs become so memorable and sentimental: of all the “types” of music that exemplify human nature, love songs are the only ones that couples choose as their song.
Immediately upon reading about love being an addictive drug, I thought of “Poison”, “Bad Medicine”, and “I Need You”.
Love Songs’ Place in Society and the Brain
Love songs are important not only because they articulate feelings and teach us life lessons, but also because they are necessary for social structure. Levitin explains,
- .. monogamy … requires that we establish bonds and feelings of intense attachment; love and its neurological correlates can be seen as the evolutionary adaptation that makes these long-term bonds possible. Once the adult male-female love mechanism is in place, it can be easily adapted for parent-child love.
Why is music so representative of our human nature? Levitin explains whether it be knowledge, joy, comfort, friendship, religion, or love – it is the pre-frontal cortex that controls our understanding and perhaps appreciation of music. With this structure being one of the largest in the brain, it also affects our ability to be social.
You’ve heard of books being called timeless, right? I think this book would fit into that category.Each chapter provides an opportunity for further research, provides a guideline for instruction, and could be used as an opening for discussion. Levitin chose his songs, in my opinion, that were his favorites; but the song titles could be changed (respective of the aspect of human nature) depending on the audience, without changing the message of each chapter.
For me, I intend to take a closer look at Levitin’s chapter on knowledge as an inspiration for my new dissertation topic.