Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain
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Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain

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3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  20,434 ratings  ·  1,405 reviews
What goes on in human beings when they make or listen to music? What is it about music, what gives it such peculiar power over us, power delectable and beneficent for the most part, but also capable of uncontrollable and sometimes destructive force? Music has no concepts, it lacks images; it has no power of representation, it has no relation to the world. And yet it is evi...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published October 16th 2007 by Knopf Canada (first published 2007)
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Mike
Dr. Sacks' Musicophilia covers a wide range of tremendously interesting instances of music's odd effects on the mind, however it's anecdotal nature is both its greatest strength and greatest weakness. Because the stories fly by quickly it is easy to tear through a number of them and find your self saying, "Huh. Weird." But because it lacks a thorough exploration of many of the stories, the anecdotes often remain nothing greater than anecdotes. Most tend to involve Dr. Sacks stating the name of a...more
Sarah
Sacks is, for me, a perfect meeting of a science writer and a writer of creative non-fiction. He has an equal interest in telling an affecting, human story and with exploring how (and why) the brain works. While lots of science writing is dry and objective (as it should be) and while mainstream feature writing often ignores the more complicated science stuff, Sacks is a rare talent who has a penchant for story telling and for explaining the newest research on the brain. He doesn’t condescend, an...more
Jafar
This book was interesting, I guess. Lots of anecdotes about the effect of music on behavior and personality, but not enough analysis. Sacks usually is more of a story teller than a hardcore neuroscientist in his popular book – at least in the other two that I’ve read by him – but in this book he fails to be a good story teller too. Too many tidbits and little stories. I definitely recommend This Is Your Brain on Music over this book if you’re interested in a real scientific analysis of music and...more
Jason
It’s not a common characteristic, but I recommend this book for all environments where you read. Coffee shop, living room, park bench, subway, or to ignore your spouse--it receives my seal of 4+ stars. Musicophilia is a lurid, but respectable, look into the brains and lives of people that appear normal on the outside, but have strong, strange and intractable relationships to music. The relationship is sometimes harmful, often incomprehensible, sometimes therapeutic, even charming, but always unf...more
Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
The neurologist Oliver Sacks has a great book called Musicophilia (and a series of talks available on YouTube) which goes into some really interesting descriptions of the brain's relationship to music. One story involves a man getting hit by lightning and afterward having a newly acquired and deeply profound love of music (almost any music, too), profound to the point that he would feel a euphoria akin to religio-mystical rapture or an extremely pleasurable drug experience in all situations if m...more
Matt
Oliver Sacks has been one of my favorite authors ever since I first read The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat. I still completely amazed, and a little bit disturbed, when I think back to his account of the woman who lost her sense of proprioception - the internal body sense that lets you know your body is there, even when you have your eyes closed. No other author (since Proust) has explored the nuances of consciousness so carefully, nor pointed out how tenuous the our grip on reality can be.

I...more
Keith Putnam
I am a huge sucker for pop science about human consciousness. Sacks, unfortunately, has the habit of boring me with far too many anecdotes which he fails to link in any progression of Greater Understanding.
liz
I wasn't hugely impressed with this. Sacks's writing sometimes gets extremely dry as he goes into the technicalities of how the brain functions. I found his other books, with chapters each covering a variety of conditions ("Anthropologist on Mars," "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat"), to be much stronger, even though they were less consistent thematically. It seemed that at times Sacks had to stretch to find patients with some of the musical conditions he described -- not a good sign, sinc...more
brian tanabe
This is my first oliver sacks -- I always meant to read the Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat but alas never got around to it.

I love mr. sacks' delightful anecdotal storytelling and his intellect that makes fresh and accessible the study of the brain. It *almost* makes the issues dealt with in the book pleasant.

In a nutshell, this book is about the power of music, backed by many accounts from the medical perspective of the interaction between music and the brain. It's hard to tell without a lot...more
Bobby
I really tried to perservere with this book, but after 100 pages I had to put it down. First, although marketed to a popular audience (even making it to the best sellers list), there are massive amounts of musical jargon and a background of musical knowledge would be extrememly helpful. Second, the books seemed to lack cohesive threads or narritive. I found it extremely disjointed with every few paragraphs changing to a different patient with very few being fully developed or resolved. Third, I...more
Alex
Musicophelia is an enchanting read, though one is struck more by the phenomena depicted—amusias, musical hallucinations, comatose patients suddenly "awakened" by nothing more than a familiar melody—than the manner of their depiction. Sacks has always been lauded for his fluid, personable style, and for good reason, but in the wake of classics such as The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Uncle Tungsten, his writing seems excessively florid and repetitive—neither tight enough nor substantial...more
LonelyRose
!....وحدها الموسيقى تبقى

في الكتاب حالات لبشر ما يقدروش يفتكروا أساميهم ما يقدروش يفتكروا إزاي يمسكوا المعلقه (بسبب زهايمر, سكته , ورم, مشكله اتولدوا بيها, حتى مع إستئصال أجزاء من الدماغ...إلخ) الإنسان ينسى كل حاجه و الموسيقى وحدها موجوده و هي الشيء الوحيد اللي أصعب الحالات بتتجاوب معاه

المقصود بالموسيقى كل شيئ ليه نغمه..لحن, تراتيل..إلخ

كتاب أكتر من رائع, سمعته أوديو...لفت نظري جداً لأهمية العلاج بالموسيقى و الفن عموماً (خصوصاً في موضوع التَوَحُد) , وحابه أعرف عنه أكتر

كنت أتمنى أكون مثقفه موسيقياً...more
rachel
In his characteristic compassion and curiosity Oliver Sacks looks at what seems to be the infinite ways that music interacts with our brains- from the worms that play maddeningly in our heads to the power of music as an aid in communication with people who either from birth or from stroke or other life altering situation have lost the ability to vocalize. And okay, this blows my mind, that people who otherwise cannot remember the sequence of basic routines in life, like getting up, shaving, mak...more
Aaron
Starts off with a fairly unsatisfying collection of anecdotes around loss or gain of musical ability. The real heft arrives halfway as Sacks starts pulling together the real research and making implications.

The message here is that music is not some frivolous side effect of our neurology. Rather, music is processed by dedicated machinery in our brains and can affect us in profound and surprising ways.

There are tantalising implications that humans have the capacity for much greater musical abilit...more
Richard
I'm reading this slowly and between other books. I have it on my electronic reader and so usually focus on it when I'm traveling. I always feel I learn something from Sacks, and this book is no different in that respect.

Now finished. I love Sacks. I always learn something. His 'stories' or examples are terrific. And there is an underlying humanity to him that always seems to understand what is good about someone, no matter how serious the neurologic, etc. defect. In this book, he explores the p...more
Nawar
استحوذ هذا الكتاب على كل تفكيري لمدة 4 أيام على التوالي :)
على الرغم من كونه كتاباً موجهاً للأطباء إلا أن الأفكار و الحوادث التي عرضها بطريقة سهلة و مبسطة تجعلها مفهومة و محببة لكل من يقرؤها
يتحدث عن حالات خاصة و غريبة متعلقة بالموسيقا عند كل من المرضى و الأصحاء
مما يجعلك في بعض الأحيان تشك في أن الدكتور ساكس يتحدث عنك في كتابه
من أروع ما قرأت ^_^
Patrick Gibson
I hear music on color. Doesn’t everyone? Mozart is blue; Bach canary yellow; Mahler is purple and maroon; Berlioz lime and Elgar is beige. Stravinsky is a Jackson Pollok and Janacek is a Rothko. I know you know what I mean.

Since my life has one of the longest continually running soundtracks on record “Musicophobmyass” seemed like it should be something in a major key for me. It has a few wrong notes but by and large it is a pleasant minor opus. More like Barber’s “Essay for Orchestra” than Verdi...more
Racquel
It's interesting to read through the reviews from other readers on these pages: such a wide range of responses to this book. Some felt it was too technical, others not technical enough; some see the author as a scientist, others as a popular writer pandering to the audience. Many had an expectation that there should have been more substantive analyses of the issues raised, while a few felt it was too analytical. Having read "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" many years ago, Musicophilia st...more
Pamela
I've never read any of Sacks's other collections, so perhaps Musicophilia rates so highly with me because I've never read The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat. Despite Sacks's overwhelming bias towards classical music as the only kind of music worth discussing as well as his suspicious extensive personal history of music-related neurological phenomena, I found this collection to be an interesting and diverse set of case studies. I'm kind of a sucker for psychological and neurological oddities,...more
Jim
Dec 08, 2007 Jim is currently reading it Recommends it for: People interested in what makes us human; music lovers; Sacks fans
Have just dipped in to this, another excellent entry from humanist neurologist Oliver Sacks. This book deals with music and its effect on the brain and by extension on our lives as humans. Sacks has the ability to take you inside states of mind that you might not have been able to imagine before. What puts him a cut above is his passionate humanism. He is always interested in the people he treats, not as clinical subjects, but as complicated and beautiful people with long histories, loves, hates...more
Jamie
An interesting book, probably even more so for people more musically inclined than I am.

I was most fascinated by the stories of patients with severe amnesia or dementia who were able to recall songs or play music quite well; as if musical memory were stored in a separate, undamaged portion of the brain. Also very interesting were the theories on why only some people have perfect pitch, and the stories of people with Williams Syndrome, who are gregarious, verbally expressive and often very musica...more
رغداء قاسم
كتاب مرهق للغاية :(
أعشق الكتب العلمية جداً و خصوصاً تلك الكتب لإخصائي علم الاعصاب و اوليفر ساكس يتميز باسلوبه الادبي الرفيع و معلوماته الواسعة بعيداً عن عالم الطب و دخوله إلى أجواء المرضى الداخلية و الاهتمام النادر بهم على عكس ما اعتدناه من جفاء الاطباء..
معلوماتي الموسيقية صفر ، وانا لا استطيع أن أترك كتاباً دون أكماله ما دام "أكرام الكتاب ختمه" و كذلك لا أستطيع أكمال كتاب دون أن افهمه ..لذا اضطررت إلى الاستعانة بالكوكل عدة مرات و تحميل كتب و مقاطع فيديو و اغاني لإعرف ما يتحدث عنه ..
الكتاب مثير...more
Malbadeen
Woooooooa!!! Heeeeeeey!!!! Look at me I'm Oliver Sacks and I'm tellin you some more wacky stuff about brains.

oh-la-la. I'm so fancy.

(interesting topic but I prefer the podcast interview to the book - which I was able to stick with through apx. chapter 6 before throwing in the towell. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/st...)
Ebrahim Abdulla
من مُنطلق عالم الأعصاب، يتحدث ساكس في هذا الكتاب عن حالات مرضية فريدة ومُدهشة وعلاقتها بالموسيقى؛أتت هذه الحالات الدراسية (التي عرفها ساكس شخصياً في الغالب) مع كتابة تخصصية عن الأعصاب والدماغ، بالإضافة لاستشهادات جميلة من الأدب والموسيقى تدل على إطلاع المؤلف. نرى من هذه الحالات مثلاً الهلوسة الموسيقية التي تجعل الشخص يستحضر مقطع موسيقي وأحياناً سيمفونية كاملة فجأة ودون مقدمات، وحالات من لديهم عمى موسيقي، هؤلاء الذين يسمعون الموسيقى وكأنها أصوات قرع مُزعج أو ضجيج، ولا يستطيعون التمييز بينها (وهم...more
Blake Charlton
deftly written, expertly researched, at times fascinating, but rarely compelling.

i must confess here to having an enthusiastic appreciation for music, but little or no talent for or understanding of its performance or composition. on the whole i find language more fascinating and the music contained with in language and lyrics to be the most compelling music. sacks barely mentions this phenomenon, but he does go on at lenght to wonder if something is fundamentally wrong with those of us without...more
Mike Hankins
Your reaction to this book will probably depend on your interest in the subject matter, but there are so many great points of entry to this topic that it's sure to be fascinating to just about anybody.

Musicophilia is essentially a neuroscientist's report on the effects of music on the brain. There is a ridiculously wide variety of topics covered, from musical hallucinations, to savant composers and performers, to the role of music therapy in treating a variety of disorders, to perfect pitch, to...more
notgettingenough
I wrote to Sacks just after starting this, suddenly thinking he was the man to answer a question I'd been asking musicians for years.

When I was little I played violin and piano to a high standard, but although I was technically supposed to be equal in both, the fact is I was a fine violinist and a crap pianist. I never really liked the piano.

Being lefthanded, it never surprised me that I was good at the violin, since, after all, the left hand does more or less everything whilst the right hand s...more
Denae
I cannot remember a time in my life when I have not loved music and loved to sing. I was raised in an environment where singing, and singing in front of others was pervasive. That being said, other than voice lessons, I have very little formal knowledge of what music is. I do not play an instrument or read music easily, and I most certainly have never been taught how music impacts the brain. Fortunately for me, in Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain Oliver Sacks addresses the latter, and...more
Oleg Kagan
The intersection between music and neuroscience is a ripe subject for a book, yet I felt Oliver Sachs' effort at it was uneven. Part of the reason was the sheer variety of aspects with which he examined the topic; there were chapters on autistic savants, folks with Williams Syndrome, Parkinson's and Alzhiemers, brain damage, and the list goes on. My interest-level in each of these is not consistant and therefore my attention as I listened to this book bobbed.

It didn't bother me that Sachs referr...more
James
Sacks is evergreen in my book. His quirky curiousity, his core compassion for his troubled patients, and his ability to patiently describe advanced neuroscientific disorders in layman's terms all endear me to him and any of his books.

This book is special. Unlike Anthropologist on Mars or The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, both of which take you on a powerful tour of a range of brain maladies and the real lives of the people who suffer them, Musicophilia is a much more intimate tale of the a...more
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Title 1 22 Nov 13, 2012 11:40AM  
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Oliver Wolf Sacks, CBE (born July 9, 1933, London), is a British neurologist residing in the United States, who has written popular books about his patients, the most famous of which is Awakenings, which was adapted into a film of the same name starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro.

Sacks was the youngest of four children born to a prosperous North London Jewish couple: Sam, a physician, and E...more
More about Oliver Sacks...
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales An Anthropologist on Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales Hallucinations Awakenings The Mind's Eye

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“Every act of perception, is to some degree an act of creation, and every act of memory is to some degree an act of imagination.” 99 likes
“Music is part of being human.” 40 likes
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