Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain Hardcover – 2007
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Music can move us to the heights or depths of emotion. It can persuade us to buy something, or remind us of our first date. It can lift us out of depression when nothing else can. It can get us dancing to its beat.? But the power of music goes much, much further. Indeed, music occupies more areas of our brain than language does—humans are a musical species.
Oliver Sacks’s compassionate, compelling tales of people struggling to adapt to different neurological conditions have fundamentally changed the way we think of our own brains, and of the human experience. In Musicophilia, he examines the powers of music through the individual experiences of patients, musicians, and everyday people—from a man who is struck by lightning and suddenly inspired to become a pianist at the age of forty-two, to an entire group of children with Williams syndrome, who are hypermusical from birth; from people with “amusia,” to whom a symphony sounds like the clattering of pots and pans, to a man whose memory spans only seven seconds—for everything but music.
Our exquisite sensitivity to music can sometimes go wrong: Sacks explores how catchy tunes can subject us to hours of mental replay, and how a surprising number of people acquire nonstop musical hallucinations that assault them night and day. Yet far more frequently, music goes right: Sacks describes how music can animate people with Parkinson’s disease who cannot otherwise move, give words to stroke patients who cannot otherwise speak, and calm and organize people whose memories are ravaged by Alzheimer’s or amnesia.
Music is irresistible, haunting, and unforgettable, and in Musicophilia, Oliver Sacks tells us why.
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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