Wired for Music: A Search for Health and Joy Through the Science of Sound by Adriana Barton

“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.”

I sat on a long sandy beach, visiting with a stranger, a homeless man who became a new friend. It was, in fact, a memory. The two of us watching sunrise where two bodies of water converge—Atlantic and Caribbean—meeting in a frothy white line that resembled galloping horses approaching horizon. The visual, apropos, as the man on the beach spoke of music and science, and that watery space where the two intertwine. Two facets of much the same thing.

When I received Adriana Barton’s Wired for Music, published by Greystone Books, I was taken back to that beach, squinting into a rising sun, contemplating that line in the water. A separation merely imagined, as the swirl never stilled, only shifted between hemispheres. This book, akin in its way to two sides of one sphere, is both treatise and memoir, well-researched narration from a skilled musician and writer. A blur much like the spindrift, investigative journalism and storytelling communicated through eddies of prose.

“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.”

And with that our conflict’s revealed. Our search. Dancing that line on the water, where joy and the healthful endeavours of music consistently ebb and flow. A place many of us can reside, or glimpse on occasion. Space not unlike that golden sand beach where two former strangers contemplated the world, expressed through science and sound. In reading Barton’s memoir, I felt I had found one more friend on that shore.

“Tentatively, I drew the bow across the strings. Screech! I tried again. This time, the whisper of horsehair against metal became a wave of sound that rippled through me and bounced around the room. The next bow stroke triggered another wave of vibrations, another swell of delight.”

Yes, Adriana was there with us too, in a way, on the edge of an ocean and sea, linked to the pulse of the tide. Each surge a thrum, a string stroke, merging seemingly disparate realms into something much greater. A unifying portal to wellbeing, where science and music reside in the magic of story and song. Shared space we inhabit, intrinsically wired for music.

Adriana Barton is a journalist, author and former staff reporter at The Globe and Mail. Her writing on health, science, visual arts, architecture, music and pop culture has appeared in publications including Azure, Boston Globe, Western Living, BlackFlash, and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. Adriana studied the cello for 17 years with teachers including international solo artist Antonio Lysy and Stephen Geber, former principal cellist of the Cleveland Orchestra. Book research and journalism assignments have taken her to Syria, Jordan, India, Zimbabwe and Brazil. She lives in Vancouver, Canada, with her husband and son.

  • Title: Wired for Music: A Search for Health and Joy Through the Science of Sound
  • Author: Adriana Barton
  • Publisher: Greystone Books, 2023
  • ISBN: 9781778401114 (Paperback)
  • Pages: 272

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Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of A Season on Vancouver Island, theGone Viking travelogues, andA Perfect Day for a Walk: The History, Cultures, and Communities of Vancouver, on Foot(Arsenal Pulp Press, Fall 2024). Recipient of a Fellowship at London’s Royal Geographical Society for his expeditions, Bill’s a frequent presenter and contributor to magazines, universities, podcasts, TV and radio. When not trekking with a small pack and journal, Bill can be found on Canada’s west coast, where he lives near the sea on Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh land.