rachel's Reviews > Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain

Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks
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's review
Feb 15, 2009

it was amazing
Read in February, 2009

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, making coffee etc. can do so once they're aided in creating a little song about it.
At one point Oliver Sacks writes that when he first encounters someone who has been struck nonverbal by stroke or epilepsy or whatever he often starts singing "happy birthday" to them and invariably evokes a response. There's a story of a woman who had lost the power of one of her legs, but would notice an involuntary tapping response when she was listening to jigs and other boisterous fiddle music who was able to walk again. And it goes on.
It almost seems like this is a best of Oliver Sacks, where he goes back to a life's work, from Awakenings to the Man Who Mistook His Wife for A Hat and onwards to explore the ways the music played a role in working with each individual or groups of individuals he encountered. It's a beautiful book for anyone to read. It also reminded me that once upon a time I was interested in becoming a music therapist, and so may have set me on a hopefully very good course for the next chunk of years.
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