A tap of the foot, a rush of emotion, the urge to hum a tune; without instruction or training we all respond intuitively to music. Comparing Notes explores what music is, why we are all musical, and how abstract patterns of sound that don't actually mean anything can in fact be so meaningful.
Taking the reader on a clear and compelling tour of major twentieth century musical theories, Professor Adam Ockelford arrives at his own important psychologically grounded theory of how music works. From pitch and rhythm to dynamics and timbre, he shows how all the elements of music cohere through the principle of imitation to create an abstract narrative in sound that we instinctively grasp, whether listening to Bach or the Beatles.
Based on three decades of innovative work with blind children and those on the autism spectrum, the book draws lessons from neurodiversity to show how we all develop musically, and to explore the experience of music from composer and performer to listener.
Authoritative, engaging and full of wonderful examples from across the musical spectrum, Comparing Notes is essential reading for anyone who's ever loved a song, sonata or symphony, and wondered why.
'A profound and deeply important book. There is wisdom and humanity on every page - the most enjoyable work of non-fiction I've read in a very long time.' (James Rhodes)
An extraordinary book ... beautifully written (Cerys Matthews, BBC Radio 6)
[A] perceptive chronicle of [Ockelford's] experiences with extraordinary music makers (Nature)
Demystifies an art form, and offers unexpected insights into our pre-verbal past ... Ockelford extracts the core ideas from music theory that are notoriously difficult for non-specialists, and demonstrates just how accessible they can be in the right hands. (New Scientist)