Charlie Morland: “How Music Works – And Why We Love It” – Culture

“All Clowns Eat Vegetables”. Is that true and don’t clowns prefer to eat Nutella bread, at least secretly? That doesn’t really matter here, because what it’s all about are the four first letters of the sentence: ACEG. They designate the notes that lie in the spaces between the five lines of the staff in the bass clef. Music can be quite complicated if you not only want to hear it, but also understand it. From a technical point of view, “How music works – and why we love it” by Charlie Morland hardly shys away from the difficult: rhythm, semitones, chords, scales, even the functional principle of a fugue or the skank as the central beat of reggae are explained here. And what was chromaesthesia again? “People with chromaesthesia see colors when they hear sounds.” Direct hit. The paraphrases are simple, but usually precise. Even if it is perhaps a bit short-sighted to ascribe an origin from the ancient Greek theater to the musical of all things. One notices more that the book comes from Great Britain (“Music and how it works”, Dorling Kindersley, London 2020). The same applies to the multi-ethnic illustrations, which are perhaps a bit very politically correct from a German perspective (although the Asian artists, who are so important in classical music, actually get a raw deal).

It’s about the power of music that it has for our imagination, our memory

The question, why we love music, which is only asked in the German subtitle, certainly meets the purpose of the book. In German-speaking countries in particular there is a tendency to make music palatable to children – or rather parents – by saying that it is useful. The “Mozart effect” – which is also explained: people who hear the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart solve tricky tasks better than those who don’t.

But what is much more important to the book: it is about the power of music, the power it has for our imagination, our memory and our bodies. Because it appeals to the part of the brain “that is responsible for having fun”. Because we want to move towards it together. And because the world of music is so infinitely colourful: all the instruments that you can bow, blow or hit on, European and non-European ones! And especially the different styles in which you can do it: from opera to jazz, from rock to chamber music, from hip-hop to k-pop.

They are all briefly presented here, not in a didactic structure, but in thematically happily changing chapters. And always supported by suitable playlists that encourage you to listen to music yourself and also to make it yourself. There is guaranteed to be one or the other catchy tune. The book also reveals how to get rid of it again: by reading or talking to someone or – yes! – chews. Which brings us back to the question of vegetables or Nutella bread.

But maybe it will resolve itself when dealing with something that works so fascinatingly and that you can love as much as music.

(from 8 years and for music lovers)

Charlie Morland: How Music Works – And Why We Love It. Illustrated by David Humphries. Dorling Kindersley, Munich 2021. 96 pages, 14.95 euros.

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