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Children's Nonfiction History

Science of Song, The

How and Why We Make Music

by (author) Alan Cross, Emme Cross & Nicole Mortillaro

illustrated by Carl Wiens

Kids Can Press
Initial publish date
Sep 2021
History, Inventions, Physics
Recommended Age
8 to 12
Recommended Grade
3 to 7
Recommended Reading age
8 to 12
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2021
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


What is music? How is it made? And what's changed --- and what hasn't --- about how we listen to it? Here's all the best stuff about the science and history behind our connection to music.

Though most of us know we love listening to music, we may not spend much time thinking about how this came to be, or the science, technology, engineering and mathematics that are crucial to its existence. This illustrated book explores all of this, starting with the basics --- how does sound work? and what, exactly, is music? --- and then describes how music and the ways we experience it have transformed over the years. It details the progression of recorded music, from the phonograph to streaming. It covers how everyday items like headphones were created, and includes a look at the science of how we experience music (like why we can't get certain songs out of our heads). And, to amp up the interest, playlists accompany each topic, featuring a range of artists and multiple genres and styles.

Alan Cross, Emme Cross and Nicole Mortillaro --- a creative team of well-known journalists and writers from television, radio and print --- have created an engaging, accessible and relevant look at music geared to adolescents who are just beginning to get interested in the subject. It's a fascinating blend of history and science, broken into readable chunks, with graphic, colorful illustrations by Carl Wiens to enhance the text. This book has strong cross-curriculum links to physical science, engineering, technology, music and history. The playlists on every spread can be used to spark discussions as children “listen along.” Includes a timeline, glossary, resources and index.

About the authors

Alan Cross is an internationally known broadcaster, writer, blogger and speaker. In his 30 years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters.  He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music. He’s also written four reference books on alt-rock, recorded four audiobooks, written liner notes for dozens of CDs and contributed to magazines and other publications in Canada and the US.  He’s also a sought-after college and university lecturer, writes a weekly national music column for Metro and travels to music festivals all over the world. His new radio show is The Secret History of Rock, which runs across Canada and in the US.  Alan has been deeply involved exploring the present and future relationships between music, technology and social networking.

Alan Cross' profile page

Emme Cross is a veteran journalist who has worked at the biggest media outlets in Canada and has met everyone from politicians to rock stars. The Science of Song is her first book for children. She lives in Oakville, Ontario.

Emme Cross' profile page

The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) was founded ad hoc in 1868 and incorporated in 1890 with a dual membership of professionals and amateurs. It has 29 Canadian chapters and over 5,000 members. The Journal of The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada is entering its 117th year of publication, and the RASC also produces a number of other publications and guidebooks.

Nicole Mortillaro is an avid amateur astronomer, author, editor, Senior Science Reporter for CBC News and the editor-in-chief of the Journal of The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. She is the author of Saturn, and lives in Toronto, Canada.

Nicole Mortillaro's profile page

Carl Wiens is an award-winning illustrator and printmaker who teaches illustration at Sheridan College. His work has appeared in children's books and publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Time magazine. Carl lives in Belleville, Ontario.

Carl Wiens' profile page

Editorial Reviews

A strong and well-curated text sure to engage young people on multiple levels of music history and science.

School Library Journal, starred review

As a survey of how music recording has provided us with opportunities to listen to great music and indeed how recorded music has been used as a building block to create more music, The Science of Song could be a useful springboard for student projects.

CM Magazine

Engaging and relevant, this attractively designed book will inspire further exploration.

Kirkus Reviews

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