David Sulzer is the Karl Kruszelnicki music nerds have been looking for. I just wish he’d used a catchier title for his book. Because far from being a scientific treatise on the physics and neuroscience of music, Music, Math and Mind is a hugely entertaining, easy-to-understand account of how music works and why it has such an effect on us.
Not only that. Yes, Sulzer is a neuroscientist and currently professor of Psychiatry, Neurology, Pharmacology at the School of the Arts, Columbia University. But he’s also an experienced composer, performer and recording artist across several genres, from classical to alt-rock. Just google The Krotopkins or Soldier String Quartet.
Sulzer clearly explains acoustics, musical notation, composition, the physiology of the ear and many other aspects essential to his subject, across time and cultures and using real-world examples. He also offers plenty of exercises and suggestions for listening, again mixing up the genres. After all, there is no room for prejudice or elitism in science. Nor should there be in music.