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Daniel Levitin

Daniel Levitin

Daniel Levitin in 2005
Background information
Birth name Daniel Joseph Levitin
Born December 27 1957 (1957-12-27) (age 54)
Origin San Francisco, California, U.S.
Genre(s) Rock
New Wave
Folk Rock
Occupation(s) Producer, Cognitive Neuroscientist, Writer
Instrument(s) Tenor Saxophone, Guitar, Bass, Vocals
Years active 1980 to Present
Label(s) 415 Records
Columbia Records
Sony Music
Warner Bros. Records
Infrasonic Records
TwinTone Records
Blue Öyster Cult
The Afflicted
The Grateful Dead
Chris Isaak
Stevie Wonder
Steely Dan
Joe Satriani
The Mortals
The Alsea River Band
Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers

Professor Daniel J. Levitin, (born December 27, 1957, San Francisco) is an American cognitive psychologist, neuroscientist, record producer, musician, and writer.[1] Within cognitive psychology, he has published articles on absolute pitch and music cognition and perception.[2][3] He has worked as a producer and sound designer on albums by Blue Öyster Cult, Chris Isaak, and Joe Satriani[4]; as a consultant to Stevie Wonder and Steely Dan[5][6]; and as a recording engineer for Santana and The Grateful Dead[7]. Records and CDs to which he has contributed have sold in excess of 30 million copies.[8][9] He is the author of the best-selling book This Is Your Brain On Music: The Science of a Human Obsession, (Dutton/Penguin, 2006; Atlantic [UK] 2007).[10][11][12] From September, 2006 to April 2007 he served as a weekly commentator on the CBC Radio One show Freestyle.

Additional recommended knowledge


Biography and Education

Born in San Francisco, California the son of Lloyd Levitin, a businessman and professor, and Sonia Levitin, a novelist, Levitin was raised in Daly City, Moraga and Palos Verdes, California.[13] He studied electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and music (guitar and saxophone performance, plus jazz arranging) at the Berklee College of Music before dropping out of college to join a succession of bands. He returned to school in his thirties, studying cognitive psychology/cognitive science at Stanford University (he received his B.A. in 1992 with honors and highest university distinction). He attended the University of Oregon where he received his M.Sc. (1993) and Ph.D. (1996). He then completed three post-doctoral fellowships, first in human-computer interaction at Paul Allen's Silicon Valley think-tank Interval Research, then in neuroimaging at the Stanford University Medical School, then in perception at the University of California, Berkeley.[14] His scientific mentors were Roger Shepard, Michael Posner, Douglas Hintzman, John R. Pierce and Stephen Palmer. He has been a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Stanford University, and Dartmouth College. Since 2000, Levitin has taught in the Departments of Psychology, Music, Computer Science, Education, the School of the Environment, and the Program in Behavioural Neuroscience at McGill University in Montreal.[15] In 2006, he was awarded the Principal's Prize for Excellence in Teaching at McGill.

Levitin has worked on and off as a stand-up comedian and joke writer, performing at the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco with Robin Williams in 1984, and at comedy clubs in California; he placed second in the National Lampoon stand-up comedy competition regionals in San Francisco in 1989, and has contributed jokes to Jay Leno, Arsenio Hall, as well as the nationally syndicated comic strip Bizarro, some of which were included in the 2006 compilation "Bizarro and Other Strange Manifestations of the Art of Dan Piraro" (Andrews McMeel).

Music Producing, Consulting, and E-Music Career

In the late 1970s, Levitin consulted for M&K Sound as an expert listener assisting in the design of the first commercial satellite and subwoofer loudspeaker systems, an early version of which were used by Steely Dan for mixing their album Pretzel Logic. Following that, he worked at A Broun Sound in San Rafael, California, building speaker cabinets for The Grateful Dead, for whom he later worked as a consulting record producer. Levitin was one of the golden ears used in the first Dolby AC audio compression tests, a precursor to mp3 audio compression.[16] From 1984-1988 he worked as Director and then Vice President of A&R for 415 Records in San Francisco, becoming President of the label in 1989 before the label was sold to Sony Music.[17] Notable achievements during that time included producing the punk classic "Here Come The Cops" by The Afflicted (named among the Top 10 records of 1985 by GQ magazine); engineering records by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, Santana and the Grateful Dead; and producing tracks for Blue Öyster Cult, the soundtrack to Repo Man, and others.[18] Two highlights of his tenure in A&R were discovering the band The Big Race (which later became the well-known soundtrack band Pray for Rain); and for having had the chance to, but not signing M.C. Hammer.

After leaving 415, he formed his own production and business consulting company, with a list of a clients including AT&T, several venture capital firms, and every major record label. As a consultant for Warner Bros. Records he planned the marketing campaigns for such albums as Eric Clapton's Unplugged and k.d. lang's Ingénue. He was a music consultant on feature films such as Good Will Hunting and The Crow: City of Angels, and served as a compilation consultant to Stevie Wonder's "Song Review ~ A Greatest Hits Collection," and to "As Time Goes By" and "Interpretations" by The Carpenters. Levitin returned to the studio in 2002, producing three albums for Quebec blues musician Dale Boyle: String Slinger Blues (2002), A Dog Day for the Purists, 2004, and In My Rearview Mirror: A Story From A Small Gaspé Town (2005), the latter two of which won the annual Lys Blues Award for best Canadian Blues album. In 2006 mixed and co-produced tracks for Diane Nalini's "Songs of Sweet Fire" CD. He has performed on saxophone with Mel Tormé and Sting, and on guitar with members of the Steve Miller Band, Whitney Houston's band, and David Byrne.

In 1998 he helped to found (and its sister companies, and, the first internet music recommendation company, sold in 2006 to the All Music Guide group. He has also consulted for the United States Navy on underwater sound source separation).

Writing career

Levitin worked as a reporter for the Palos Verdes View Newspaper (circ. 100,000) while still in high school, and served as its temporary editor during the summers of 1975 and 1976, gaining valuable experience at writing non-fiction for a mass audience. After leaving 415 Records in 1989, he began writing commercial articles for music industry magazines Billboard, Grammy, EQ, Mix, Music Connection, and Electronic Musician, and became a contributing writer to Billboard's Reviews section from 1992-1997. "I didn't have any formal writing experience, but I had some very good editors who taught me how to write, how to organize my thoughts. I also started and finished a novel with Editor Arthur Levine who went on to discover J.K. Rowling, and who gave me a lot of good advice. I wanted to study writing formally, and I finally got the chance in 1989 when the Stanford Writer's Workshop professors let me sit in on advanced writing workshops. I gained years' worth of writing lessons in two semesters," he explained.[19] In 1990 he was appointed Music Editor of the industry magazine "Recording-Engineer-Producer (REP)," a positon he held until the magazine was sold in 1993. He performed "shop talk" interviews with George Martin, Phil Ramone, Stevie Wonder, George Massenburg and others of his colleagues, published for the benefit of working engineers, producers, and musicians.

He edited a textbook for Bradford Books, a division of MIT Press, "Foundations of Cognitive Psychology: Core Readings," (2002) used as an undergraduate text at several universities [20]. He published "This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession" (Dutton/Penguin 2006; reissued in paperback by Plume/Penguin 2007) which spent more than 12 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List [21] and was nominated for two awards (The Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Quill Award).


  • Finalist, Los Angeles Times Book Prize (2006), "This Is Your Brain on Music," Best Book on Science and Technology.
  • Nominee, Quill Award, Best Debut Author (2006), "This Is Your Brain on Music."
  • Awarded nine RIAA gold and platinum records.[22]
  • Best Film Soundtrack award, Sundance Film Festival, 1985, for Architects of Victory
  • Gold Medal, Venice Film Festival, 1985, Film Soundtrack Production, for Architects of Victory
  • Lys Award, Best Blues Album, 2005, Dale Boyle: In My Rearview Mirror: A Story From A Small Gaspé Town
  • Lys Award, Best Blues Album 2004, Dale Boyle and the Barburners: A Dog Day for Purists
  • "Top 100 Papers in Cognitive Science" by the Millennium Project for "Absolute Memory for Musical Pitch," Perception and Psychophysics, 1994.

Selected Publications


  • "From Demo Tape to Deal" (1992). Alfred.
  • "The Billboard Encyclopedia of Record Producers" (1999). New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, E. Olsen, C. Wolff, P. Verna, Editors; D. J. Levitin, Associate Editor.
  • "Foundations of Cognitive Psychology: Core Readings" (2002), Cambridge, MA:" M.I.T. Press
  • "This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession" (2006), New York: Dutton/Penguin. (Released in the U.K. and Commonwealth territories by Atlantic, 2007). (Appeared on the New York Times Bestseller List both in hardcover and paperback)

Music Essays

  • Phil Ramone - A Legend Continues to Grow. Mix , 15(7), July 1991, 87-91.
  • The REP Interview: George Massenburg. Recording - Engineering - Production, 23(9), September, 1992, 18-22.
  • lang time coming: k.d. Scores Top 10. Billboard, October 10, 1992, 14-15.
  • Excitement at your feet: George Martin takes on The Who's Tommy. Electronic Musician, 9(11), November, 1993, p. 146.
  • Signal Parent: Thomas Stockham on the Birth of Digital Audio. NARAS Journal, 5(1), 1994, 7-24.
  • A conversation with Joni Mitchell. Grammy Magazine, 14(2), Spring, 1996, pp. 26-32. Cover story.
  • Conversation in the key of life: Stevie Wonder. Grammy Magazine, 14(3), Summer, 1996, 14-25. Cover story.
  • Blue Moon Rising: The John Fogerty Interview. Audio Magazine, January, 1998.

Scientific Articles (Selected)

  • Levitin, D. J. (2006). Music and the Brain. Paste Magazine, August, 2006.
  • Langford, D. J., Crager, S. E., Shehzad, Z., Smith, S. B., Sotocinal, S. G., Levenstadt, J. S., Chanda, M. L., Levitin, D. J. and Mogil, J. S. (2006). Social Modulation of Pain as Evidence for Empathy in Mice. Science, 312, (June 30, 2006), 1967- 1970.
  • Vines, B.W., Krumhansl, C. L., Wanderley, M, & Levitin, D. J. (2006). Cross-Modal Interactions in the Perception of Musical Performance. Cognition, 101, 80-113.
  • Levitin, D. J. (2005). Musical behavior in a neurogenetic developmental disorder: Evidence from Williams syndrome. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1060(27), 325-334.
  • Levitin, D. J. (2000). In search of the musical mind. Cerebrum, 2(4), 1 - 24.
  • Levitin, D. J., & Cook, P. R. (1996). Absolute memory for musical tempo: Additional evidence that auditory memory is absolute. Perception & Psychophysics, 58, 927-935.


  • Diane Nalini, Songs of Sweeet Fire. 2006. (Mixing Engineer, Production Consultant).
  • Dale Boyle, In My Rearview Mirror: A Story From A Small Gaspé Town. 2005. (Production Consultant)
  • Dale Boyle and the Barburners, A Dog Day for the Purists. 2004. (Producer).
  • Dale Boyle and the Barburners, String Slinger Blues. 2002. (Producer).
  • The Carpenters. As Time Goes By. A&M Records/Universal, 2000. (Consultant on song selection, liner notes writer.)
  • Various Artists. Original motion picture soundtrack, Good Will Hunting. Hollywood/Miramax Records, 1998. (A&R Consultant. )
  • Stevie Wonder. Stevie Wonder Song Review: A Greatest Hits Collection. Motown, 1996. (Consultant on song selection. Liner notes writer.)
  • Steely Dan, Gold, Decade, Gaucho, Aja, The Royal Scam, Katy Lied, Pretzel Logic, Countdown to Ecstasy, Can't Buy A Thrill, MCA, 1992. (Consultant on CD Remastering.)
  • kd lang, Ingénue, Reprise, 1992. (Consultant.)
  • Eric Clapton, Unplugged, Reprise, 1992. (Consultant.)
  • Joe Satriani, Flying in a Blue Dream, Relativity/Combat/Ruthless, 1990 (Engineering (Asst), Sound Design (Contributed Guitar Sounds)).
  • Chris Isaak, Heart Shaped World, Warner Brothers, 1989. (Engineering (Asst), Sound Design (Contributed Guitar Sounds)).
  • Blue Öyster Cult, Imaginos, Columbia/C.B.S. Records, 1988. (Co-Producer).
  • Santana, Freedom, Columbia, 1987. (Engineering).
  • Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, Rockin' and Romance, Twin/Tone (U.S), Sire (U.K.), 1986. (Engineer).
  • True West, Drifters, Passport/JEM Records, 1985. (Co-Producer).
  • The Big Race, "Happy Animals," from the Soundtrack of the Paramount Film Repo Man, 1985. (Producer, Engineer)
  • The Afflicted, Good News About Mental Health, Infrasonic, 1984. (Producer)
  • Blue Öyster Cult, The Revölution by Night, Columbia Records, 1983, (Co-producer).


  1. ^ (January 2000) "Executive Turntable". Billboard.
  2. ^ Parncutt, R. and Levitin, D.J. (2001). "Absolute Pitch", in S. Sadie (Ed.): The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. New York: St. Martins Press, 37-39. 
  3. ^ Levitin, D. J. and Rogers. S.E. (December 2005). "Absolute pitch: Perception, coding, and controversies". Trends in Cognitive Sciences 9: 26–33.
  4. ^ Evan Serpick (March 18, 2007). "Music Under the Microscope". Rolling Stone.
  5. ^ James Sullivan (August 20, 2006). "He's Rocking the World of Neuroscience". Boston Globe.
  6. ^ Ann McIlroy (March 12, 2001). "Dr. Rock 'n' Roll". Globe and Mail.
  7. ^ Susan Dominus (March 18, 2007). "Rockin' Boffin". London Daily Telegraph, Seven Magazine.
  8. ^ (November/December) "La musique pour maître à penser.". Découvrir.
  9. ^ Ann McIlroy (March 12, 2001). "Dr. Rock 'n' Roll". Globe and Mail.
  10. ^ (June 5, 2006) "Oliver Sacks meets Jerry Garcia in 'This Is Your Brain on Music' by rocker-turned-neuroscientist Daniel Levitin'". Publishers Weekly.
  11. ^ (September 21) "Books: Bestsellers: Top selling fiction and non-fiction titles (week of September 21". MacLeans.
  12. ^ (November 5) "CHARTS Bestsellers (week ending Nov 05, 2006)". The Book Standard.
  13. ^ (2002) "Levitin, Daniel J.", Marquis Who's Who in America. New Providence, NJ: Marquis Who's Who LLC. 
  14. ^ (2002) "Levitin, Daniel J.", Marquis Who's Who in America. New Providence, NJ: Marquis Who's Who LLC. 
  15. ^ McGill University. Retrieved on November 15, 2007.
  16. ^ (2002) "Levitin, Daniel J.", Marquis Who's Who in America. New Providence, NJ: Marquis Who's Who LLC. 
  17. ^ 415 Records. Wikipedia. Wikipedia (November 25, 2006). Retrieved on Nov. 25, 2006.
  18. ^ All Music Guide:Artist:Daniel Levitin. Retrieved on September 14, 2006.
  19. ^ Peacock, S. (2003). Contemporary Authors. Farmington Hills, MI: Thompson Gale. 
  20. ^ MIT Press. Retrieved on November 15, 2007.
  21. ^ New York Times. Retrieved on November 15, 2007.
  22. ^ Thompson, Clive (December 31, 2006). "Music of the Hemispheres". New York Times: Section 2 Arts & Leisure, Page 1.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Daniel_Levitin". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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