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The Musical Human Reviews

The Musical Human by Michael Spitzer

The Musical Human: A History of Life on Earth

Michael Spitzer

Score pending

2 reviews

Category: Music, Non-fiction
Imprint: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publication date: 1 Apr 2021
ISBN: 9781526602763

'Michael Spitzer has pulled off the impossible: a Guns, Germs and Steel for music' Daniel Levitin 165 million years ago saw the birth of rhythm. 66 million years ago was the first melody. 40 thousand years ago Homo sapiens created the first musical instrument.

  • The GuardianBook of the Day
4 stars out of 5
3 Apr 2021

"a wide-ranging global history of music"

Spitzer isn’t afraid of using a sweeping statement or a corny line, and his fractal compositional technique means he has to make do without the narrative thrust of a conventional, linear argument. But The Musical Human is full of delightful nuggets and sends the reader back to a world of musical examples time and time again.

After following the evolution of music over 165m years, he greets the contemporary split between professional performers and passive consumers with little more than a shrug: “We are where we are, and it is where it is.” If music is as central to human existence as he suggests, we can’t leave musicians dancing to the tune of Deliveroo.


3 stars out of 5
Julian Glover
29 Mar 2021

"This history of life told through sound, from Kakarla Tyagaraja to Julie Andrews, from Schubert to rap, is engaging and ingenious"

It is full of learning and interesting thoughts. Anyone who thinks music is something which reaches its logical peak when played by highly-trained performers in black tie in dark, hushed concert halls is well rebuked by his understanding of sophisticated musical traditions in many cultures. Just because colonialism pushed them aside doesn’t mean they were inferior.