The World in Six Songs

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The World in Six Songs
File:The World in Six Songs.jpg
Author Daniel J. Levitin
Country U.S.A.
Language English
Subject music; cognitive neuroscience; anthropology;evolution; memoir
Publisher Dutton Penguin
Publication date
Pages 368
ISBN 978-0452295483
OCLC 757065811
LC Class ML3838.L48 2008
Preceded by This Is Your Brain on Music
Followed by The Organized Mind

The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature is a popular science book written by the McGill University neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin, and first published by Dutton Penguin in the U.S. and Canada in 2008, and updated and released in paperback by Plume in 2009, and translated into six languages. Levitin’s second New York Times bestseller, following the publication of This Is Your Brain on Music, received praise from a wide variety of readers including Sir George Martin, Sting, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Adam Gopnik. The Los Angeles Times called it "masterful". The New York Times wrote: "A lively, ambitious new book whose combined elements can induce feelings of enlightenment and euphoria. Will leave you awestruck."[1] The London Times wrote "Levitin is such an enthusiastic anthropologist, such an exuberant song and dance man, such a natural-born associative thinker, that you gotta love the guy." [2] It was named one of the best books of 2008 by the Boston Herald and by Seed Magazine.[3]

The World in Six Songs combines science and art to reveal how music shaped humanity across cultures and throughout history. This book leans more heavily on anthropology and evolutionary biology than did This Is Your Brain On Music, which skewed more toward findings in psychoacoustics and neuroscience.

Levitin identifies six fundamental song functions or types (friendship, joy, comfort, religion, knowledge, and love) then shows how each in its own way has enabled the social bonding necessary for human culture and society to evolve. He shows, in effect, how these six song types function in our brains to preserve the emotional and literal history of our lives and species. Levitin illuminates, through songs, how music has been instrumental in the evolution of language, thought and culture. Musical examples ranging from Beethoven to The Beatles, Busta Rhymes to Bach, are used to support the book's propositions (all the songs mentioned in the book are available for free streaming on a website for the book,

Using cutting-edge scientific research from his music cognition lab at McGill University; his own experiences in the music business; and interviews with musicians such as Sting and David Byrne, as well as conductors, anthropologists, and evolutionary biologists.


  1. Itzkoff, D. (2008, August 31). "Book Review". The New York Times, p. BR5.
  2. Finlayson, I. (2009, April 18). "Book Review". The Times
  3. Seed Magazine (2008, December 23). "SeedPicks 2008". Seed Magazine