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Music Ethnomusicology

Wired for Music

A Search for Health and Joy Through the Science of Sound

by (author) Adriana Barton

Greystone Books Ltd
Initial publish date
Aug 2023
Ethnomusicology, Neuroscience, Healing, Reference
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2022
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Aug 2023
    List Price

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Where to buy it


“Beautifully written… a riveting account of how melodies and rhythms connect us, and help us deal with alienation and anxiety.”—Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, author of The Body Keeps the Score

Shortlisted for the Science Writers and Communicators of Canada Book Awards

In this captivating blend of science and memoir, a health journalist and former cellist explores music as a source of health, resilience, connection, and joy.

Music isn’t just background noise or a series of torturous exercises we remember from piano lessons. In the right doses, it can double as a mild antidepressant, painkiller, sleeping pill, memory aid—and enhance athletic performance while supporting healthy aging. Though music has been used as a healing strategy since ancient times, neuroscientists have only recently discovered how melody and rhythm stimulate core memory, motor, and emotion centers in the brain. But here’s the catch: We can tune into music every day and still miss out on some of its potent effects.

Adriana Barton learned the hard way. Starting at age five, she studied the cello for nearly two decades, a pursuit that left her with physical injuries and emotional scars. In Wired for Music, she sets out to discover what music is really for, combing through medical studies, discoveries by pioneering neuroscientists, and research from biology and anthropology. Traveling from state-of-the-art science labs to a remote village in Zimbabwe, her investigation gets to the heart of music’s profound effects on the human body and brain. Blending science and story, Wired for Music shows how our species’ age-old connection to melody and rhythm is wired inside us.


About the author


  • Short-listed, SWCC Book Awards

Contributor Notes

Editorial Reviews

“Music, as much as language, is part of our essence as human beings. Since time immemorial every group of people has expressed who they are with music and employed it as a social glue and a healing elixir. Wired for Music seamlessly chronicles the universal power of music, rhythms, and synchrony to establish and maintain human connections, joy, and empathy. Beautifully written from both the heart and the intellect, it gives us a riveting account of how melodies and rhythms connect us, and help us deal with alienation and anxiety. May every parent and teacher—everybody who aspires to make our world a better place—read this wonderful book.”
—Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, author of The Body Keeps the Score

“Witty and soulful, this will delight music fans.”
Publishers Weekly

"If you’ve ever drifted away from a once-loved piano in the basement or an old guitar in your closet, this book will lead you home. Barton reminds us that our relationship with music doesn’t have to be quite so complicated. Smart, healing, enlightening, and uplifting. It’s pitch-perfect. I just loved it."
—Dr. Jillian Horton, author of We Are All Perfectly Fine: A Memoir of Love, Medicine and Healing

"A truly unique book. I loved the mix of personal stories, investigation, history, travel, reflection, and research. So good. Full of both fun facts and poignant observations. Whether you are a music fan, a science fan, or a science and music fan, this book is for you!"
—Timothy Caulfield, author of Relax, Dammit!: A User's Guide to the Age of Anxiety

"Brilliantly written, restlessly curious, and endlessly engaging, Wired for Music is at once a passionate memoir of a life-long engagement with the art and a deep dive into the science and history of what makes us musical creatures. A fascinating read for musicians and non-musicians alike."
—Steve Silberman, author of NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity

"An accomplished and inspiring debut… [that] challenges traditional approaches to musical training, exploring what happens when we put joy before discipline, personal expression before talent, spontaneity before perfection… We don't have to be perfect to love music, or to benefit from it. In fact, it's better if we aren't. I'm grateful to Wired for Music for this beautiful lesson."
—Angie Abdou, author of This One Wild Life

“Adriana Barton’s Wired for Music is an eye(and ear!)-opening exploration of music’s amazing effects on the human brain. A pleasure to read.”
—William Gibson, author of Agency and Neuromancer

“Music is primal, heartening, soul-expanding. Adriana Barton takes us on a journey of discovery, reminding us what a central role it plays. Combining memoir, science, and philosophy, Wired for Music is an elegant and deeply researched book that reveals how melody and rhythm can define us, heal us, and dance us toward our better selves.”
—Michael Harris, author of The End of Absence and All We Want

“In Wired for Music, Adriana Barton weaves history, science, and personal experience into a brilliant piece of storytelling. Barton’s quest is twofold: to understand the meaning of music in her own life and to explore its impact on the human mind and spirit. Together, her personal and reportorial discoveries work in perfect harmony. A beautiful and captivating book.”
—Claudia Kalb, author of Spark: How Genius Ignites, From Child Prodigies to Late Bloomers

"From childhood lullabies to Grade 5 dance mania, music is a powerful river, able to carve deep channels in the human brain... Wired for Music brings many of these experiences back in all of their orchestral splendour."
The Tyee