Tim Falconer, a self-confessed “bad singer,” always wanted to make music, but soon after he starts singing lessons, he discovers that he’s part of only 2.5 percent of the population afflicted with amusia — in other words, he is scientifically tone-deaf. While many tone-deaf people are indifferent to music, or even actively dislike it, for Falconer music is a life-long passion.
Now available in paperback, Bad Singer chronicles his quest to understand human evolution and music, the brain science behind tone-deafness, his search for ways to retrain the adult brain, and his investigation into what we really hear when we listen to music. In an effort to learn more about his brain disorder, he goes to a series of labs where the scientists who test him are as fascinated with him as he is with them. He also sets out to understand why we love music and deconstructs what we really hear when we listen to it. And he unlocks the secret that helps explain why music has such emotional power over us.
Throughout this journey of scientific and psychological discovery, he puts theory to practice by taking lessons with a vocal coach in order to achieve his personal goal: a public display of his singing abilities.
Tim Falconer is the author of Bad Singer: The Surprising Science of Tone Deafness and How We Hear Music, which the Globe and Mail named to The Globe 100 Best Books of 2016. He’s also written books on activism, our love-hate relationship with the car, end-of-life ethics, and parenting. Falconer teaches creative nonfiction at the University of King’s College in Halifax, is a faculty editor in the literary journalism program at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, and taught magazine journalism at Toronto’s Ryerson University for two decades. A former writer-in-residence at Berton House in Dawson City, he returns to the Yukon as often as he can, but lives in Toronto.
Praise for Tim Falconer and Bad Singer:
“Bad Singer deftly combines a memoir of Falconer’s personal musical history with a scientific look into how humans hear music.” — Maclean’s
“A remarkable story of dogged determination to prove his own body wrong and, as such, is one of the more illuminating cultural studies of modern times.” — Globe and Mail
“An engaging, step-by-step look into how scientists study tone deafness . . . an essential tale about how human beings, even those of us with tin ears, can’t help but be drawn to music . . . Over the last decade there have been a number of books published about the science of music — such as Daniel Levitan’s This Is Your Brain on Music, Oliver Sacks’s Musicophilia, and David Byrne’s How Music Works — and Bad Singer is a doubly successful effort because it doesn’t retread the same ground of these books, with Falconer couching his subject in a personal journey that’s enjoyable to follow.” — National Post
“A spirited, even adventurous look at the mysteries of how the human brain perceives and processes sound — and even, on occasion, manages to make beautiful music.” — Kirkus Reviews“Falconer is old school in his traditional approach to journalism. He conducts lengthy interviews and fluidly articulates complex scientific concepts. He’s the protagonist yet he doesn’t digress into self-indulgence. The result is fresh, intelligent prose. While he may be a bad singer, he’s a thorough researcher and gifted raconteur. What Falconer lacks in pitch he makes up for in curiosity and passion.” — Toronto Star
“In his journey to understand why, exactly, he can't hold a tune — while having the ears and taste to appreciate great singing and songwriting — Tim Falconer takes us on a deeply absorbing journey into the worlds of brain science, singing coaches, music psychologists, ethnomusicologists, and into his own keening, music-loving heart. Bad Singer is a fun, fascinating, beautifully written, and strangely moving tale of a melodically-challenged man who yearned to sing. And it has much to say about the mystery of how music moves all of us, good and bad singers alike.” — John Colapinto, author of Undone
“Falconer’s self-deprecating humour keeps Bad Singer’s tone lighthearted and as entertaining as the photos of him hamming it up as a singer on the book cover. Lines like ‘I’m a bad singer. And deep down, it matters’ produce an undercurrent of sorrow, but far more pronounced are his curiosity, vulnerability, and perseverance. It’s a deeply human book, and his most personal.” — Quill & Quire
“An engaging tale.” — Winnipeg Free Press
“As a reader you can’t help but empathize with Falconer as he struggles through his singing lessons, learning to control his voice even though he can’t always hit the pitches. And you cheer him on when, at the end of his quest, not exactly cured of amusia, he finally faces his audience — and the music.” — Montreal Centre-Ville Magazine
“A fascinating read that combines personal narrative with scientific and cultural research.” — Chart Attack