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Review of Of Sound Mind: How our brain constructs a meaningful sonic world by Nina Kraus

In Of Sound Mind, Nina Kraus lays out the different ways in which, “sound connects us to the world”. In polls, most people most fear losing their vision, but Kraus makes a strong case that we should be more concerned about losing our hearing.

The book covers the mechanics of hearing, both outside and inside our heads. Although sound starts as just air molecules moving back and forth, inside our heads sound is really important to our mental health and the book covers the importance of sound as language and the role of music in our lives. Sound (through rhythm) also gives our sense of time and hence meaning and causality in the world around us.

The author also covers bird song, the connection between music and language (think of the rhythmic patterns in the music of Elgar and Debussy and how they match English and French speech), and the impact of aging. I hadn’t realized the etymology of the word ‘noise’ which comes from an old French word meaning quarrel or dispute (sharing the same root as the latin word ‘nausea’).

When I wrote Brand esSense, there was no comparable work on our sense of hearing (although several books on music and audio branding) and this book fills the gap well. It is highly recommended. I particularly liked a quotatioon from Helen Keller, “Blindness disconnects us from things; deafness disconnects us from people”.

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