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Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  35,065 Ratings  ·  1,764 Reviews

With the same trademark compassion and erudition he brought to The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Oliver Sacks explores the place music occupies in the brain and how it affects the human condition. In Musicophilia, he shows us a variety of what he calls “musical misalignments.” Among them: a man struck by lightning who suddenly desires to become a pianist at the age o

Kindle Edition, Revised and Expanded, 401 pages
Published September 23rd 2008 by Vintage (first published 2007)
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Suzuki It is just so absorbing. Not many books hold enough ideas in one place to keep my attention. But this one does. I can't get to the next chapter…moreIt is just so absorbing. Not many books hold enough ideas in one place to keep my attention. But this one does. I can't get to the next chapter without wanting to find someone to discuss it with.(less)
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Sep 19, 2013 Mike rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 50-books-2008
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
Jan 10, 2008 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Lynne King
Apr 14, 2016 Lynne King rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 20th-century
I was flying forwards. Bewildered. I looked around. I saw my own body on the ground. I said to myself, ‘Oh shit, I’m dead.’ I saw people converging on the body. I saw a woman – she had been standing waiting to use the phone right behind me - position herself over my body, give it CPR … I floated up the stairs – my consciousness came with me. I saw my kids, had the realization that they would be okay. Then I was surrounded by a bluish-white light … an enormous feeling of well-being and peace. Th ...more
Glenn Sumi
Apr 03, 2015 Glenn Sumi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Have you ever experienced an “ear worm” – i.e., a melody “stuck” in your head? Have you ever found yourself humming or whistling a tune for no reason, then thought back to the lyrics or theme of that song and realized it had something to do with what’s on your mind? Have you ever tried to remember what letter comes after another in the alphabet and found yourself singing that “ABC” song from childhood?

Check, check and check.

All of these are explored in Musicophilia, a fascinating series of essay
Oct 14, 2008 Jafar rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 28, 2010 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Huda Aweys
Jul 26, 2015 Huda Aweys is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
في كتابي (الصوت روح) أشرت الى كوني مطمئنة ، و واثقة من أن الله عز و جل قد وفرّ للصم مداخل أخرى لأرواحهم (كوني عبرت عن نظريتي الروحانية حول السمع و عن كونه نافذة للروح و مدخل لها) ، .. و عن كوني لا املك فكرة حاليا عن تلك المداخل او الوسائل ، و ان كنت انوي بحثها مستقبلا
لأعثر الآن على سند (الى حد ما ، ليس سيئا كبداية لبحثي على الأقل ! ) لما قلت ، في كتاب علمي بحت .. هو هذا الكتاب الذي بين يدي الآن :
مع انقطاع المدخلات السمعية الطبيعية ، قد تصبح القشرة السمعية مفرطة الحساسية بقدرات مضاعفة للتخيلات
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
Mar 02, 2008 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.

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.
Sep 20, 2012 Ghada rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2-re-read
!....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
Jan 24, 2008 liz rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Mar 05, 2008 brian tanabe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 23, 2007 Bobby rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
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
Jan 31, 2016 Benjamin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I get the feeling Oliver Sacks likes to reuse material. He retells the stories of his clients throughout his books, always with references to his other work. This isn't entirely bad, but I had to speed through some parts that were a tad bit repetitive. The subject matter is fascinating, and perfectly delivered for the layman(Which I happen to be). I have a newfound respect for the power of music therapy and music itself.
Sep 14, 2015 Bob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology, music
Summary: Renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks chronicles the neuroscience of music–the various ways music affects the brain, and the unusual effects of various neurological conditions on our perception, performance, and experience of music.

Oliver Sacks died on August 30 of this year. A few months earlier, my son gave me this book, and it seemed especially appropriate to pull it off the “to be read” pile and acquaint myself with the work of this neuroscientist and physician. Before opening the book,
Jan 17, 2008 Alex rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 28, 2009 Aaron rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, non-fiction
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
Nov 10, 2009 rachel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
2.5 stars

I am a music geek.

I play piano and I'm also taking a Music Theory Class right now. So I was really pumped to read a book about how music affects you.

But the thing is, all these concept aren't explored. I feel like too many topics were squeezed into one book. Even more, some of them are very repetitive. In this book, I've read in so many chapters about how people with certain disorders and illnesses have a special reaction to music. Yes, there are many diseases, but it just got really r
Jan 06, 2008 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 31, 2016 Courtney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There was so much in this... I might also look into the audiobook so that I might be exposed to the material again.

I highly enjoyed the parts specific to those with Autism, Williams Syndrome, and Tourettes. I have witnessed a young boy become alight through music when he might otherwise be (nearly) nonverbal. I suspect him to possess perfect pitch and look forward to more of his milestones.

Additionally, I liked the tales about those with Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and dementia having some allevia
Bookish Dervish
Apr 21, 2014 Bookish Dervish rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
هذا ثاني كتاب ّأقرأه لأوليفر ساكس و الحق أنه غني خاصة لأن موضوع الموسيقى مجهول تماما بالنسبة لي.
من كان يضن أن اللغة و الموسيقى تشتركان بالمنشأ .
هلوسات موسيقيةهو شق ممتع من الكتاب. مرعبة هي هذه الحالة إن فقدت السيطرة. إننا جميعا نستشعر موسيقى قسرية خاصة تلك المستعملة في الإشهار أو قطع موسيقية من ذاكرتنا و الحمد لله أنها جميعا نسيطر عليها إلا في حالات مرضية كما يصفها الدكتور ساكس.
درجة النغم المطلقة. أود الحصول عليها و إن تعسر ذلك فلا أقل من أن أحاول الحفاظ عليها لدى ولدي.
الحس المتزامن. أستطيع فقط
Aug 24, 2015 Kara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Musical instincts are universal, but we do not understand why. Nor do we understand how the brain processes music. Mr. Sacks is a neurologist with decades' worth of patients and in this book he has collected the stories of some of his patients and other people he has met whose brains give some insight into how we process music. Some of the stories focus on savants with fantastic musical abilities, but who are incapable of taking care of themselves. Some of the stories focus on regular people who ...more
Aug 13, 2013 Nawar rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ^_^
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.
Anatoly Shneyer
Dr. Sacks was an amazing storyteller and the book is filled with interesting anecdotes and facts and is very well written. But, at times I felt a bit lost. I don't think you need a background in neuroscience in order to appreciate or understand the book, but a knowledge in music will definitely make the read a lot more flowing. Again. you don't have to have the knowledge (it`s not a book about Musicology) but at least for me at times I felt lost when reading about octaves and rhythm (just a smal ...more
Sagar Vibhute
Nov 13, 2014 Sagar Vibhute rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a musical person. Doesn't mean I'm working on concert piano pieces or mastering the jazz trumpet, but music is a part of everyday life. I usually plug into music during work - this depending on what work I'm doing can be either a distraction or the complete opposite and totally shut out everything except my work - or when reading, or working out, or traveling on the bus (a game of mine is to match the beat of the song with hitting a pothole or speed bump, yes so much fun, OK back to the revi ...more
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
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
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Oliver Wolf Sacks, CBE, was 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 Elsie, a surgeon. When he wa
More about Oliver Sacks...

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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.” 1946 likes
“Music is part of being human.” 83 likes
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