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Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain [Hardcover]

Oliver Sacks
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book by Sacks, Oliver

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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A cut above the usual Sacks book May 23 2008
Format:Hardcover
Although this admission may make me a "bad" psychology student, it has to be said: I previously gave up on Oliver Sacks because I found his writing style boring, self-involved, and far too crammed with technical neurological terminology that lacked the detailed explanation that would allow those unfamiliar with brain physiology to follow. I generally prefer, for example, the work of Dawkins and Ramachandran, who always seemed to me to be able to balance the perfect ratio of the subjective and the objective, even when discussing phenomena that most humans would find surreal or supernatural. Despite my hesitations, I decided to read Musicophilia because its content deeply interested me, and I'm glad I did.

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?
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Musicophilia made me realize how others perceive music. It was a shock. I assumed that everyone experienced music the same way. Wrong!

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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Musicophilia Feb. 3 2013
By Kitty
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I originally decided to give this book as a gift to a colleague who is very involved with teaching music and singing in choirs. I ordered another copy for myself, mainly because the author is the same doctor who wrote the true story that became the movie, "Awakenings". The book is very detailed and fascinating in a scientific sense, but I suppose I was expecting a less strenuous read. It feels like a textbook in several places and focuses heavily on how music is interpreted by patients with various types of brain injuries or neurological conditions. Nevertheless, some intriguing stories about unusual situations are told.
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