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Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain Paperback – Sep 23 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Sacks is an unparalleled chronicler of modern medicine, and fans of his work will find much to enjoy when he turns his prodigious talent for observation to music and its relationship to the brain. The subtitle aptly frames the book as a series of medical case studies-some in-depth, some abruptly short. The tales themselves range from the relatively mundane (a song that gets stuck on a continuing loop in one's mind) through the uncommon (Tourette's or Parkinson's patients whose symptoms are calmed by particular kinds of music) to the outright startling (a man struck by lightning subsequently developed a newfound passion and talent for the concert piano). In this latest collection, Sacks introduces new and fascinating characters, while also touching on the role of music in some of his classic cases (the man who mistook his wife for a hat makes a brief appearance). Though at times the narrative meanders, drawing connections through juxtaposition while leaving broader theories to be inferred by the reader, the result is greater than the sum of its parts. This book leaves one a little more attuned to the remarkable complexity of human beings, and a bit more conscious of the role of music in our lives. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Music seems to be meaningless, and our love of it inexplicable, but neurologist Sacks, one of the foremost physician-essayists of the day, charmingly argues that music is essential to being human in ways that have only begun to be understood. In many different circumstances, music may arise involuntarily within a person, as attested to by Sacks' initial presentation of cases of sudden intense affinity for music and development of musical skills, of so-called brain worms or tunes that automatically repeat within the mind, and of musical seizures and hallucinations. Despite the range of individual experience of music, from amusia, or incomprehension of melody and/or rhythm and/or harmony, to absolute ("perfect") pitch to synesthesia (e.g., "seeing" the colors of tones), it seems from the clinical literature that anyone could have a sudden loss or gain in musicality. Indeed, the seeming universality of musical mental imaging, even in the utterly deaf, has encouraged the therapeutic use of music to treat an ever-increasing number of illnesses, including the results of severe brain damage, congenital retardative conditions, and such degenerative neuropathies as parkinsonism and Alzheimer's. Sacks' reporting on all of this makes for quite an omnium-gatherum on the main contention that, in essence, musicality is humanity. His customary erudition and fellow-feeling ensure that, no matter how clinical the discussion becomes, it remains, like the music of Mozart, accessible and congenial. Olson, Ray --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Do you ever ask anyone what happens when they hear music? I didn't before I read this book. Now I plan to ask everyone.
Dr. Sacks has the kind of fine writing style and awareness of music that makes his tales seem as appealing as the cases that Dr. Sigmund Freud wrote about. As Dr. Sacks pointed out, Dr. Freud didn't care for music so that gentleman failed to investigate and report on many of the phenomena in this book.
We don't exactly know why the mind and body interact with music in the ways that they do. Part is undoubtedly heredity. Part is undoubtedly due to exposure to musical influences. Some may relate to the language spoken in the home. Difficulties with seeing may also be an influence. Injuries to the body and brain can play a large role. Dr. Sacks does a masterly job of using case after case to explore one aspect or another of these dimensions so that a complex picture emerges that's even more remarkable than the brain processes involved in reading.
One of the biggest surprises in the book is that musical talent seems to be inhibited by some parts of the brain. In similar way, music can also inhibit some other brain functions that we would like to get rid of.
I had always wondered about those with perfect pitch, and the book explores that. There are also wonderful sections on other seemingly inherited musical abilities.
Dr. Sacks adds a lot of perspective to the history of music by making observations about various composers and the way that their compositions reflect certain musical abilities than others while explaining how the mental processes are different.Read more ›
Music arising in the mind without prompting may seem a common enough occurence. The advertising industry has demonstated fully music as an uncontrollable meme. The cases Sacks portrays here are of another sort. In some cases the music has taken over - sometimes supplanting other thinking processes and reducing the victim to near helplessness. The chief problem is often a lack of variety. More than the adverts' jingles, particular tunes may emerge from the distant past to occupy the sufferer's waking hours. A well-disciplined mind, such as Doctor P's, may be able to use the uncalled for music in ways that get them through daily tasks. Others don't have that ability and the music proves a terrible distraction. The music renders them "incapable of hearing themselves think".
Therapy for such conditions is in its infancy and may actually be subverted by the deluge of music impinging our ears daily. Sacks notes the proliferation of the iPod devices bringing music to listeners who seem to pass the day in another realm. This, however, is not relieving a condition, but may be generating a new one.Read more ›
Although Sacks again re-uses many of his old case studies, now relating them to music, and still cites his own books and experiences more than anyone else's, he finally struck that chord of interest in me that had been strangely absent when reading his other work. Musicophilia is a highly intriguing exploration of how and why humans experience the many strange phenomena associated with what we call music, from the perspectives of both clinically normal and brain-damaged individuals. For example, where do auditory hallucinations come from and what do they mean? What occurs when we cannot get a song "out of our heads"? How is it that the most severely amnesic man in the world cannot even remember that he had been conscious one minute before, but can play from memory complicated piano pieces or conduct an orchestra?Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Music as is revealed in this book is not for listening enjoyment but can be of help to those who are mentally challenged. It can obviously be a tool in the medical realm.Published 3 months ago by Serious Reader
I originally decided to give this book as a gift to a colleague who is very involved with teaching music and singing in choirs. Read morePublished on Feb. 3 2013 by Kitty
I used sections of this book in discussion with my students about music's importance to humanity. I enjoyed reading this book and I shared stories from it with students to... Read morePublished on Jan. 21 2012 by David Sabine
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