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Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain

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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 of forty-two; an entire group of children with Williams syndrome, who are hypermusical from birth; people with “amusia,” to whom a symphony sounds like the clattering of pots and pans; and a man whose memory spans only seven seconds-for everything but music. Illuminating, inspiring, and utterly unforgettable, Musicophilia is Oliver Sacks’ latest masterpiece.

400 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2007

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About the author

Oliver Sacks

102 books8,213 followers
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 was six years old, he and his brother were evacuated from London to escape The Blitz, retreating to a boarding school in the Midlands, where he remained until 1943. During his youth, he was a keen amateur chemist, as recalled in his memoir Uncle Tungsten. He also learned to share his parents' enthusiasm for medicine and entered The Queen's College, Oxford University in 1951, from which he received a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in physiology and biology in 1954. At the same institution, he went on to earn in 1958, a Master of Arts (MA) and an MB ChB in chemistry, thereby qualifying to practice medicine.

After converting his British qualifications to American recognition (i.e., an MD as opposed to MB ChB), Sacks moved to New York, where he has lived since 1965, and taken twice weekly therapy sessions since 1966.

Sacks began consulting at chronic care facility Beth Abraham Hospital (now Beth Abraham Health Service) in 1966. At Beth Abraham, Sacks worked with a group of survivors of the 1920s sleeping sickness, encephalitis lethargica, who had been unable to move on their own for decades. These patients and his treatment of them were the basis of Sacks' book Awakenings.

His work at Beth Abraham helped provide the foundation on which the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function (IMNF), where Sacks is currently an honorary medical advisor, is built. In 2000, IMNF honored Sacks, its founder, with its first Music Has Power Award. The IMNF again bestowed a Music Has Power Award on Sacks in 2006 to commemorate "his 40 years at Beth Abraham and honor his outstanding contributions in support of music therapy and the effect of music on the human brain and mind".

Sacks was formerly employed as a clinical professor of neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and at the New York University School of Medicine, serving the latter school for 42 years. On 1 July 2007, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons appointed Sacks to a position as professor of clinical neurology and clinical psychiatry, at the same time opening to him a new position as "artist", which the university hoped will help interconnect disciplines such as medicine, law, and economics. Sacks was a consultant neurologist to the Little Sisters of the Poor, and maintained a practice in New York City.

Since 1996, Sacks was a member of The American Academy of Arts and Letters (Literature). In 1999, Sacks became a Fellow of the New York Academy of Sciences. Also in 1999, he became an Honorary Fellow at The Queen's College, Oxford. In 2002, he became Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Class IV—Humanities and Arts, Section 4—Literature).[38] and he was awarded the 2001 Lewis Thomas Prize by Rockefeller University. Sacks was awarded honorary doctorates from the College of Staten Island (1991), Tufts University (1991), New York Medical College (1991), Georgetown University (1992), Medical College of Pennsylvania (1992), Bard College (1992), Queen's University (Ontario) (2001), Gallaudet University (2005), University of Oxford (2005), Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (2006). He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2008 Birthday Honours. Asteroid 84928 Oliversacks, discovered in 2003 and 2 miles (3.2 km) in diameter, has been named in his honor.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,652 reviews
Profile Image for Glenn Sumi.
404 reviews1,493 followers
November 28, 2021
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 essays by Dr. Oliver Sacks (Awakenings, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat). His writing is clear, civilized and genial, if occasionally repetitive and dryly scientific. (A more ruthless editor might have helped.)

Drawing from more than half a century of clinical work as a neurologist, Sacks recounts tales of patients whose conditions have something to do with music. Among his subjects are people who:

• have musical hallucinations (they constantly hear songs, often Christmas carols or marching tunes)

• associate certain notes or musical intervals with colours or pictures

• suddenly discover, after an accident or some other incident, that they have an aptitude for music or, conversely, lose their musical abilities

There are some absorbing case studies, such as Martin, who was born “normal” but contracted meningitis at three and succumbed to seizures, limiting his intelligence and physical abilities. As an adult, he had a low IQ but remembered 2,000 operas and all of Bach’s cantatas, including melodies and what each instrument and voice played.

I was also intrigued by the woman who can remember pages of text, but only when they’re associated with a melody. (Her professor, recognizing his own lecture notes written verbatim on an exam, thought she was cheating until he discovered her gift.)

And there are eye-opening tales about composers like Ravel, whose famous Bolero, with its relentless repetition, might have been influenced by his frontotemporal dementia, and Shostakovitch, who refused to have a piece of shrapnel removed from his head because it mysteriously provided him with music which he then incorporated into his compositions.

Also included is the incredibly moving story of concert pianist and teacher Leon Fleisher, whose loss of the use of his right hand for three decades transformed his life and approach to art. Sacks’s description of Fleisher playing a transcription of Bach’s “Sheep May Safely Graze” (the pianist regained use of his hand later in life through Botox treatments) for him alone will bring tears to your eyes.

And what about those people who hate or feel indifferent towards music? One of them was the great writer Vladimir Nabokov, who wrote: “Music... affects me merely as an arbitrary succession of more or less irritating sounds… The concert piano and all wind instruments bore me in small doses and flay me in larger ones.”

Before reading this book I didn’t realize that music crops up rarely in the works of Sigmund Freud, or the two James brothers, philosopher William and novelist Henry, although all three were sensitive to other varieties of human experience and expression.

In a work filled with jaw-dropping stories, one of the most incredible happened to Sacks himself. One day he woke up from a musical dream, which followed him throughout the day.

I found something deeply disturbing and unpleasant about the music, and longed for it to stop. I had a shower, a cup of coffee, went for a walk, shook my head, played a mazurka on the piano – to no avail. The hateful hallucinatory music continued unabated. Finally I phoned a friend, Orlan Fox, and said that I was hearing songs that I could not stop, songs that seemed to me full of melancholy and a sort of horror. The worst thing, I added, was that the songs were in German, a language I did not know. Orlan asked me to sing or hum some of the songs. I did so, and there was a long pause.

“Have you abandoned some of your young patients?” he asked. “Or destroyed some of your literary children?”

“Both,” I answered. “Yesterday, I resigned from the children’s unit at the hospital where I have been working, and I burned a book of essays I had written…. How did you guess?”

“Your mind is playing Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder,” he said, “his songs of mourning for the death of children.” I was amazed by this, for I rather dislike Mahler’s music and would normally find it quite difficult to remember in detail, let alone sing, any of his Kindertotenlieder. But here my dreaming mind, with infallible precision, had come up with an appropriate symbol of the previous day’s events. And in the moment that Orlan interpreted the dream, the music disappeared; it has never recurred in the thirty years since.


Amazing.

Near the end, Sacks provides an illuminating and moving chapter on the connection between grief and music. How come some compositions provide consolation and catharsis? And there’s a touching chapter on patients with Williams Syndrome, people who tend to have IQs lower than 60 but who have universally friendly personalities and extraordinary musical ability.

There’s no overarching thesis or direction to Musicophilia – how could there be, really? – but there are plenty of studies and stories that will make you think twice next time you find yourself turning on Spotify.

**
Fun fact: I noticed Sacks cites a study by a Simon Baron-Cohen. I Googled and, sure enough, the scientist is Borat’s (Sacha Baron Cohen) first cousin!
Profile Image for Sarah.
Author 2 books564 followers
January 10, 2008
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, and he doesn’t mind forming personal relationships with his subjects.

In Musicophilia, Sacks focuses on the mysterious and fascinating connection between music and the brain. Through studying musical oddities in patients, he hopes, we can hope to better understand our greater relationship with music - something that, although it is universal among cultures, doesn’t seem to have a clear function or origin.

For example, the book opens with a middle-aged man who is struck by lightening. He isn’t badly hurt, but since the accident, he’s been obsessed with the urge to play the piano. He’s never really played before or had an interest in music, but suddenly he’s up all night composing and trying to get better. Why has this happened? Why is unaffected except for this urge, which takes over his life? Brain scans show that his left frontal lobe has been damaged and Sacks hypothesizes that the left hemisphere of the brain might actually inhibit the more creative and musical right side of the brain. Left brain damage might lead to more “freedom” in the right brain.

The book moves on from there to cover a huge spectrum of diseases, phenomenones, and rarities - spanning from music therapy for those with dementia and Alzheimer’s, to people who suffer from musical hallucinations, to people with perfect pitch, to people with amusica (to them, music sounds like noise - Nabokov suffered from it), to musical savants. The structures of the chapters are very satisfying to me: they start with a story of an individual and then, by the end of the segment, lead to a more general description of the science behind the patient’s symptoms.

One of the more fascinating chapters covers children with William’s Syndrome, which affects about one out of 10,000 people. These people, who all have strangely elfin features, suffer from severe mental disabilities: they can’t ad 5 + 3, they can’t draw a square, they can’t tie their shoes. They have IQs around 60. However, they also tend to be very verbal, very social, and exceptionally musical. Most have perfect pitch and start composing as toddlers. Unlike some cases of severe autism who show a more mechanical and isolated musical talent, patients with William’s Syndrome love to play music in groups - within a community. Sacks visits a camp for children with William’s Syndrome - which is a constant drum circle, sing-along, and musical wrapped up in one.

As in all of his tales, Sacks is sure to find the hope and humanity in even the most difficult patients. One man, an amnesiac who has a short-term memory of only a few seconds, can only stay present within himself while he plays the piano.

More importantly, Sacks doesn’t see his patients as freaks or abnormalities who are simply interesting to read about, but rather as windows into how we can collectively understand how we function. In Musicophilia, I was truly moved by what I read - both by the humanity of the patients and by the awesomeness of the science.
Profile Image for India M. Clamp.
203 reviews
November 25, 2022
Sacks relives pathologies of musical response in his patients while working at Beth Abraham Hospital. He describes music as a panacea and says, “they were liberated by music.” This applies to patients with dementia and sufferers of Williams Syndrome. Despite low IQ, he honors them in kind descriptive terms: having wide mouths, upturned noses and a true adoration of music.

“We humans are a musical species, no less than a linguistic one...we perceive tones, timbre, pitch intervals, melodic contours, harmony (perhaps most elementally) rhythm. We integrate all of these and “construct” music in our minds...”
---Oliver Sacks, MD

Sacks' deeply warm and sympathetic study is about pathologies of musical response and erudition gained from a "normal" faculty of music. In addition, within are new findings from anatomy. We also learn “how is the musicians mind different than others?” There is the curious case of Harry S. having a perfect tenor voice, yet he showed no emotion, except when he sang---as if music brought him to life and sequestered emotions were cathartically released.

Exceptional study/storytelling by Dr. Oliver Sacks. The connections music imparts and patient studies (L-Dopa) are in the book/movie “Awakenings.” I found interesting the case study of a 42-year-old man struck by lightning, then he developed an exigent thirst for music, learned to play piano and compose. Truly an effervescent account of life. Found personal “drug use” confessions by Sacks surprising and iconoclastic to the profession of physician. Read/explore your reaction to music.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jafar.
728 reviews233 followers
October 14, 2008
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 our obsession with it.

Every time that I read a book by Sacks or something similar I get a depressing feeling of being a slave to my brain. It just reinforces the idea that we are our brains. You don’t need to have any of the weird and often fascinating problems that Sacks’ patients have. Even in us “ordinary” people, our personality and behavior are governed by our brain chemistry and neural connectivity. Anatomy is destiny, as Freud said, if anatomy is to mean brain. The positive side is that this way of looking at people can lead to a better understanding and acceptance of others. Next time that you encounter someone with an unpleasant personality trait, or an annoying behavior, or a different outlook to life than yours, just remember that he has a different brain organization from yours. He’s just different from you. This helps to accept people and become less judgmental.
Profile Image for fourtriplezed .
443 reviews90 followers
April 4, 2020
Music response
Music that triggers some kind of response
I have what you want, I have what you need


So sang the Chemical Brothers with what was the entire vocal and lyric content of their song Music: Response. With those three lines sang over and over again to a heavy dance laden beat they make a good soundtrack for the content of this good read on music and the brain. Author Oliver Sacks, I suspect, would not have known who The Chemical Brothers were but I think he would have understood the meaning considering the depth of subject.

Music has played a huge part of my life. Not as a player, very poor 3 chord thrash as a youth was about it, but as a huge consumer. My parents had a diverse mix of classical and jazz for me to devour as a young boy. My mum’s sister was a Beatles fan and my dad’s brother was a musician of some ability who played Sax and Clarinet and even made it onto TV talent shows. My first recording purchased with my own pocket money was a 7” single, Coz I Luv You by Slade. I must have been 11 or 12. It has been a long journey to now paying via download my latest purchase (Sarah Mary Chadwick) such is the way we now procure music. As I say to anyone that asks, over the years my tastes have been truly eclectic, I listen to all genres and all artists, Abba to Zorn one might say.

When I purchased this book back on 24/2/2009 (the receipt was found tucked into the back page on finishing) I was ready to devour it. The trouble was I read Sacks’ more famous “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” first, a book I also had at that time. I did not enjoy Hat at all! It was dense in terminology, lacking in focus and with uninspiring writing did little to hold my attention. Hence this read was placed way back of the reading pack. So now started and finished I have to say that I have enjoyed this a little bit more than I expected to. The writing can still be a little uninspiring though the focus is obvious, a focus that is no bad thing for the likes of me.

Sacks’ covers a lot of territory. Why we may like, dislike or even be indifferent to music. Amnesia and Dementia and why those that suffer may have an affinity with music. Why at some gigs/concerts some musicians spend an inordinate amount of time tuning their instruments between just about every song. There are many interesting anecdotes. Clive Wearing suffered herpes encephalitis of the brain causing amnesia. Clive has been the subject of a documentary called “The Man With the Seven Second Memory”. I recommend looking at a youtube of Clive who has as little as 30 seconds memory at best, can hardly recall the subject of a sentence in discussion but then can still play the piano at a remarkable ability. Sacks thought that Clive had semantic memory as apposed in the absence of explicit and episodic memory but was not that sure. William’s Syndrome was another. I had to admit that I had never heard of this affliction but Sacks discussion and explanation was first rate.

In the end though, this will be my 2nd and last book by Sacks. As much as I have enjoyed this one I know it was the subject matter that was attractive. When getting into his own field of Neurology in explanation of his thoughts on the subject of music and the brain his writing was a little too dense for me. I understand that the subject matter needs certain scientific explanation but as a lay reader I did need to reread sentences a couple of times and internet search medical terms. The bibliography would be useful to the specialist in the field but not so much the layman such as I. Footnoted galore but then some of them are half a page long and as interesting as they can be at times it seemed more like he had footnoted an event he was keen to include in the narrative but knew not how. I do recommend this very interesting book though. If one is curious as to why music and the brain can work together in mysterious ways this will be more than useful.

My Personal Musical Extras.

As I wrote this review I was on forced leave due to the company I work for having its income collapse due to Corvid -19. Time will tell if I return. I hope I do as I enjoy my work. I have my own small office and have a 30 year old battered boom box in the corner to play CD’s on as background. Yes I could go digital but the monstrosity still works and I have so many CD’s from the old day. I packed up about 100 as I left work and then reflected on them, a mix of Classical from Beethoven and Mussorgsky to modern composers such as Glass and Nyman. Jazz was covered too with The Atlantic Years by John Coltrane through to a crazy set of compilation CD’s that I got in the 90’s for jazz in all its subvarieties. When I was in the mood for a certain genre I was covered. The very good Underworld got a serious play in the last week as they seemed perfect for the times, repetitious experimental beats that hit the mark while our office staff discussed our futures.

I work for a printing company and we have a few old Heidelberg cylinders. Whenever I had to go to the production factory they were clunking away in a never ending rhythm that had my brain singing along to whatever suited its 4/4 time. “I need it I don’t want it I need it I don’t want it I need it I don’t want it I need it I don’t want it I need it I don’t want it I need it I don’t want it” was the sound it sang to me on my last visit, a cadence for Mortiis black metal ambient tune called This Absolution. It seemed just right considering the circumstances.

Each evening after work I had always gone for a 30 minute walk. Headphones on, the music of choice had always had an atmospheric bent, Dead Can Dance, This Mortal Coil are just a couple of examples. Now with lockdown there are few reasons to leave the house though excuse is engaging alone for physical exercise. I now get out in the morning and walk for a couple of hours in a local forest. I have found that I do not want to listen to music. That is a strange feeling. I have realised that I needed the sound of the forest, the birds singing and the crunch of the path under my feet. No music seems to suit the present circumstances. This may be the first time in my life that I have felt like this.
Profile Image for Jason.
114 reviews572 followers
December 28, 2010
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 unforgettable. And that’s the bottom line here for this book--incredibly interesting, highly readable, and, after reflecting about people in your lives with contagion to music, totally unforgettable.

- Why do some people hear every musical tone in irrepressible color, like fireworks?
- Why do snippets of songs lodge in the brain for days, weeks, years, even a lifetime?


This is my introduction to Oliver Sacks. A renown neuroscientist with over 5 decades of experience, and a talent for presenting case studies to a plebeian reading public. The great majority of writers are not good writers. And, they’re not neuroscientists either. Sacks, however, is both.

- What about the man with a 60 IQ who knows each note of 2500 symphonies?
- Why do people with gross stuttering speak perfectly when they sing?


Every human has a disease. Sometimes that disease is visible on the outside, and we stare and point, and tell our friends what we saw today--an alien rheumatoid hand, a debilitating kyphosis, a piebald psoriasis scar. Sometimes the affliction is in the mind and worn outside, like an Obsessive Compulisive Disorder, a neurodegeneration or a crippling social phobia. But, for the most part, we all have something--an undiagnosed disease or affliction--something we can manage to hide from everyone (so that people don’t point and stare and go home and tell their friends about what they saw in us today). Perversion, narco, nympho, criminality, victim, depression, protein mutation, future Alzheimer, next year’s dementia, next week’s suicide, next month’s spousal abuse, future diabetic, compulsion, addiction. We all mix together. Some of it’s our fault, some not. But it’s there. And most of it’s in the brain. I like reading psychological analysis of material cases. Psychology ‘levels’ the playing field, in a manner. It helps to know you’re not the only one that suffers from hidden affliction.

- What about the man with amnesia so severe he can’t remember anything beyond 7 seconds ago, yet he plays the piano flawlessly when he never could before?
- Why does music induce epilepsy?


Based on a lifetime of personal interaction with patients, the author reveals scores of cases regarding music-related idiosyncrasies. Like a barbell, on the left are people who cringe at the sound of music, on the right are people who fail to thrive without music, and both sides are connected by a continuum, balanced through the middle. Musicophilia is a compilation that highlights a very recent surge in psychoanalytic and neuroscientific interest in music-based ailments and music-based therapy. There are fantastic new insights to how the brain compartmentalizes music, and how music is integrated as a global cortical tool. Apparently the brain has allocated a large--a mysteriously large--global amount of neurons to music, and we are only beginning to understand how and why. Medicine and science are beginning to pay attention to these emergent signs and symptoms. What was once overlooked and ridiculed, a mere footnote in the literature, is now a fertile growth area in psychoanalysis.

- Why do only 1 in 1000 people have perfect pitch?
- Why can music penetrate depression and dementia when human voice cannot?


This book may not be a watershed event in science, but it was for me. I am amusical, arhythmic, and dysharmonic. It was refreshing to read that many people are like me, on the left side of the barbell. For every person that sings out loud or under their breath at work, there are 2 or 3 of us that can’t carry a tune and refuse to karaoke. It’s not that I don’t like music or can’t be moved or buoyed by music; it’s simply that I don’t have a complex relationship to music, and for the most part, I can take it or leave it. I listen to music about 45 minutes a week, mostly on radio during commute. I don’t collect music, stay current with music, play music, or talk about music. It’s quite common, even though you music-o-philes gasp incredulously at my hideousness. My parents are like this, my wife, my siblings, many of my friends. If I was imprisoned, I would miss reading and exercise, but not music.

- Why is the prime symptom of Williams Syndrome an indefatigable attraction to music?
- Why do humans have music hallucinations?


Perhaps I was attracted to the title Musicophilia subconsciously. I know I’m socially deficient regarding things music, and maybe I wanted to discover what power music holds over people. Perhaps I wanted to apply definitions and causes to my amusia. Alas, I’m not deficient. My brain appreciates music, but has developed in other ways. Despite Oliver Sack’s covering cases like mine, I was quite interested to learn how important, indeed life-sustaining, music is for certain brains.

- Why does music cause such a constellation of emotion in humans?
- Why does a brain on music light up like cherries during CAT scans?


My recently deceased grandfather had dementia near the end. A lanky nonagenarian with a full shock of white hair. He forgot a lot of things, including our names and when to urinate, but he didn’t forget how to polka or whistle or play the harmonica. Musicophilia will tell you why, but I like to think it’s because Gramps had something special I can’t yet find.

I would have awarded 5-stars, but there was no transition between the chapters. Sometimes that works, but in non-fiction I like to see a framework guiding the book. I discovered a loose organization, but each chapter could stand independently in a journal like Neuroscience, Scientific American, or Psychology Today. Still...great take-aways.

New words: synesthesia, metanoia, hypnagogic, hypnopompic, anhedonia
Profile Image for Veronika Sebechlebská.
381 reviews126 followers
December 28, 2020
Od detstva bola pre mňa hudba tá najnepochopiteľnejšia vec na svete.

Keď mi na škole matikárka povedala, Veronika nájdi hodnotu prostredného člena binomického rozvoja výrazu odmocnina z x plus jedna lomené x a to celé na šiestu, tak s prstom v nose.

Keď sa slovenčinárka spýtala, kto chce prísť k tabuli urobiť syntaktický rozbor vety: Keď báčik z chochoľova, prastrýko René mládenca príhody a skúsenosti, ktoré mal s nevestou hôľ, keď na prútených kreslách kradmou rukou siahol na jej, onehdy ešte starootcovskú roľu, čo horela, keď drak vracal, pretože chcel vedieť ako chutí moc a zistil že na pi*u, umrel, a ty mor ho!

Hold my beer, povedala som ja.

Keď mi telocvikárka prikázala, aby som sa vyšplhala po lane, tak som sa rozplakala, pretože som aspoň vedela, čo sa odo mňa chce.

Ale keď mi na hudobnej učiteľka zadala tón na triangli a povedala mi, aby som ho zaspievala, tak nič. Proste nič. Akože ani vizuálne. Ja ani neviem, v ktorej časti tela by sa to malo robiť.

A práve preto som siahla po tejto knižke, aby som pochopila, čo robím zle. V skutočnosti som sa toho veľa nedozvedela, lebo Sacksove knihy sú skór také že ľudia, príbehy, emócie, takže budete skôr híkať a dojímať sa, veľa o fungovaní mozgu sa však v skutočnosti nedočítate, ale zato sa možno vydesíte.

Na jednom mieste Sacks napríklad tvrdí, že mnohí ľudia, priam väčšina si vie vybaviť celé pasáže hudby, s tónmi, melódiou, rytmom, proste so všetkým. Prosím??? Veď ja si ani nedokážem vybaviť hlas svojej matky! Ženy čo ma porodila, vychovala, upiekla mi medovníky, ktorými sa teraz napchávam a ja si neviem spomenúť, ako znie jej hlas! A to si len odskočila na wécko!!!
A tiež v srdci chovám drahú spomienku na to, ako vo veku 13 rokov vrieskam na svoju mladšiu sestru, že keď mi okamžite, ale okamžite nekúpi taký istý kabát, aký mi zničila, rozstrihám všetko jej oblečenie, rozumieš ty krava všetko oblečenie ti rozstrihám, presne tak som na ňu kričala a zaprisahávala som sa, že menovite z jej nových rifieľ narobím štvorčeky jeden krát jeden centimeter a potom ich hodím do kyseliny a spálim a zakopem na hnojisku hneď vedľa jej mŕtvoly. A aj táto spomienka je celá nemá!

Na základe horeuvedených skutočností som došla k záveru, že trpím atonáliou a to buď v dôsledku atrofovaného prefrontálneho laloka alebo perzistentnej retrográdnej atopickej nádchy, každopádne som si istá, že je to presne to, na čo posledných tridsať rokov pomaly umieram.
Profile Image for Keith Putnam.
21 reviews10 followers
March 3, 2009
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.
Profile Image for Amy.
893 reviews219 followers
June 14, 2022
Here is something I would daresay just about most of you don't know about me. I have a special interest in neuroscience and neuroplasticity. I believe its the cutting edge of healing in psychology. The idea that we can tap into or rewire our brains for healing is the most amazing miracle. But here's the kicker, its steeped in scientific fact. Oliver Sacks, author of Awakenings, takes us on a journey here, to understand just how music works in our brains.

Can I admit that I picked up the book finally, where it has been sitting in the hall for 3-4 years, because of a desire to quickly obtain CEU credits? Psychologists need proof of 20 credits by June 30th for every even year. When I saw that I could read this book and take a quiz, well it was a no brainer. I have been wanting to read this book for a long while. I knew now was the time.

My mother gave me the book, knew I would love it. But one of the pleasures, was reading along with her. From the opening paragraphs, there are underlines, margin notes, and a unique signature curlicues for entire paragraphs. My mother was telling me what she liked, found was important. Can I tell you how I treasured that?

Sometimes in my chaotic life, I have to create time for special projects like these. So for the first 2/3s of the book, I slipped away to Cafe Nero to read and take notes for the quiz. How lovely a choice was that, and not just because of a vanilla latte with oat milk, or the chocolate croissant, but because I read the book listening to classical music in the background, near the warm fire with my warm drink and warm tasty. I truly believe that is the only way this book should be read.

Sacks has one main point to make. Music can be the one thing that remains permanent, but also has access to healthy balance (kinetic melody). With parkinsons patients, dementia, strokes, Williams Syndrome, Autism, for each of these challenges, music either is an opening for healing, or preserved talent. Its pretty incredible and marvelous to ponder. With real case studies, he shows us the hundreds of patients he has worked with, and explains the history of the psychological discoveries. Its neuroscience at its finest, with a touch of natural magic, and background melody.

One of my patients struggles with haunting melodies, the refusal of a song to leave her mind. There are whole chapters dedicated to this phenomena, as well as musical dreams. There are a lot of aspects to this, and all of them wonderful and fantastical, and we are still learning more.

I leave you with a few stories. The first is that when I worked 30 years ago for skilled nursing, I joined as a new therapist to the elderly ready to change the world and heal. But what I saw, was that my companionship and understanding did not even a scratch as much as what would happen when I sang for the patients. All the old Jazz Standards, the ones they fell in love to, grew up with. They don't know their children's names, or mine, or sometimes their own. But they can recall and belt out every word of "I'll Be Seeing You," or "I Can't Give You Anything But Love." Every time they saw me in the halls there would be music and singing, hearts, minds and souls, bursting with memory. It was one of the most important things in mental health I have ever done, and I loved every second of it.

For 3-4 years, I got to sing A Cappella music of the old songs and jazz standards to elders in nursing care. Some of them have no visitors, no idea what is going on. Some of them have memory loss, jerking movements, and very restricted lives and minds. But once again, this music had them tapping, singing, even a few times dancing. Chattanooga Choo Choo, Shenendoah. They loved us, and we loved singing for them. All the old songs of their lives. For a brief moment, they were human again. And the best parts? The sing alongs. "Ill be Working on the Railroad." "This Land is Your Land." "This Little Light of Mine." So we have Oliver Sacks, and we have the Notables. Sometimes its not about whats in the book, its about whats in your heart, and how it gets sung. Music connects us, invigorates us, it is our soul's highest connection and expression.

Another thing none of you would know. I sing. You might have known that. A lot. But I sing out loud inappropriately in places. While getting a manicure, in parking lots, restaurants, gyms. Synagogue. I never restrain myself. I just love it. Maybe some people don't but most people thank me, sing a long, say keep going. And so I will. If Music Be the Food of Life, Play On.
Profile Image for Yara Yu.
522 reviews391 followers
September 8, 2021
اوليفر ساكس عبقري سواء كطبيب أو كاتب
أسلوبه في العرض مبهر ومعه علم المخ والأعصاب
غاية في المتعة لأنه لا يتناول حالات تقليدية
بل حالات نادرة تنجذب له
ثاني قراءة له ولا يخيب ظني ابدا
Profile Image for Lynne King.
489 reviews645 followers
April 14, 2016
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. The highest and lowest points of my life raced by me. No emotion associated with these … pure thought, pure ecstacy. I had the perception of accelerating, being drawn up … there was speed and direction. Then as I was saying to myself, ‘This is the most glorious feeling I have ever had’ – SLAM! I was back.”

I will never cease to be amazed by books. This above account was given by Tony Cicoria, forty-two, very fit and robust, and a well-regarded orthopedic surgeon in a small city in upstate New York. He survived an experience of being struck by lighning. He continued his work but from this time on he had the most incredible need to connect with music. He was subsequently divorced and continued with his incredible sudden love for music and composition.

I am not religious and I am not a believer, as such, but I know there is another life after death. I cannot describe it. It is certainly not faith but a certainty from what I have experienced during the last two years that tells me, yes, life continues after death. Many will believe that I am an absolute idiot but I really don’t care. We come from nothing (but there is no proof about this) indeed with birth, but we do indeed go to an illustrious future.

Oliver Sacks has made the most incredible research of people with neurological conditions and all of these case studies are riveting. You can literally pick up this book and look at whatever page and find something amazing. It is really a remarkable reference book and I was just so enthralled to see individuals with evidently insurmountable problems and yet who managed to overcome these through music.

Music is a wonderful thing and it indeed takes up a large part in our brain and so we must enjoy it. Well I do anyway.

It was fascinating when Sacks said that there are certain musical pieces that he has to listen to over and over again before he moves on to a new composer. I can so relate to that. I am on “overkill’ at the moment with Grieg and Sibelius but there are indeed other composers waiting in the wings to enthrall me. Music – my… What else can I possibly say!

I absolutely loved this book and continually look at it. It is in my library and there to stay.
Profile Image for Huda Aweys.
Author 5 books1,310 followers
Currently reading
July 26, 2015
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 الموسيقية (وحتى للهلوسات السمعية أحيانا) ، هناك ظاهرة مشابهة في أولئك الذين يفقدون بصرهم فبعض الناس الذين يصابون بالعمى ، قد يملكون على نحو متناقض ، تخيلات بصرية مضاعفة


****************************************

أريد أن أقول إنها تأتي من السماء ، كما قال موزارت ...

و عودة الى الكتاب .. ، في حالة سيكوريا ، هو رجل اقترب جدا من الموت ، و ذاك الاقتراب هو ما كان العامل المشترك فيما بينه و بين هؤلاء ممن لم يصعقهم البرق ! او يعانوا من امراض فيزيائية او سيكولوجية ، و الذي اشار الكاتب الى كونهم شعروا بالتحول الى الموسيقى في عقدهم الخامس و السادس و السابع .. وحتى التاسع ، ففي تلك السن يهدأ الانسان عن ذي قبل .. و يركز على جوهر الحياة اكثر من ذي قبل كذلك .. فهي سن منبهه للموت كالأمراض و الصواعق و التجارب الروحانية تماما
!
Profile Image for Joshua Nomen-Mutatio.
333 reviews871 followers
April 4, 2010
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 music began to play. And then the depressing opposite of this, a woman who hated all music because it all literally sounded like pots and pans clanking around. Her brain simply couldn't sort out the frequencies properly.

Full Lecture by Oliver Sacks on Musicophilia:

http://fora.tv/2007/10/21/Oliver_Sack...

Shorter clips on the same subject:

Amusia - total inability to hear music as "music"

Music Therapy and Parkinson's

The Power of Rhythm

Strokes, Language, and Music - overcoming aphasia through music

Bright Blue Music - synesthesia and music

Earworms - the neurology of catchy tunes

Amnesia and Music

Bolt From The Blue - the one I mentioned about the guy being struck by lightning and so forth...
Profile Image for Isabel.
312 reviews40 followers
November 29, 2019
P. 210- "Um trecho musical não é uma simples sucessão de notas, mas um todo orgânico consistentemente organizado. Cada compasso, cada frase, emerge organicamente do que vem antes e aponta para o que vem depois. O dinamismo está incorporado na natureza da melodia. E há ainda, e sobretudo, a intencionalidade do compositor, o estilo, a ordem e a lógica que o compositor criou para exprimir as suas ideias e sentimentos musicais. Também estes estão presentes em cada compasso e em cada frase. (...) Um trecho de música atrai-nos para o seu interior, ensina-nos a sua estrutura e os seus segredos, quer tenhamos consciência de o escutar ou não. Continua a ser assim ainda que nunca tenhamos ouvido antes um trecho de música. Ouvir música não é um processo passivo, mas intensamente activo, implicando um fluxo de inferências, hipóteses, expectativas e antecipações (...)"
Profile Image for Matt.
82 reviews24 followers
March 3, 2008
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've enjoyed his other books that I've read, but his lost something since he wrote Man..". His subjects in that book were all his patients at one point - and that kind of clinical closeness gave a depth to his analysis that is slightly lacking in some of his later writing. The sense of amazement is still there, but it seems slightly shallower.

Musicophilia may have the same problem, but it more than compensates with the sheer enthusiasm that Sacks brings to the project. His love of music permeates the whole book, and his obsessiveness regarding the subject brings back the depth that he lost with clinical distance.

Certain chapters, such as the one on Synesthesia, rank as some of the best Sacks has written. He gives scientific backing to an idea often dismissed as myth, while at the same time bringing his usual humanistic bent - I was particular enchanted by a description by a synesthete of a conversation in his first grade class, in which he said he was "counting the colors until friday." Really fantastic stuff.
Profile Image for Bobby.
377 reviews13 followers
November 23, 2007
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 was also disappointed that specific discussion of music was usually about classical music. No mention of the effects of more popular musical genres was made in the portion I read.

Other than a few interesting accounts and facts, I obtained little enjoyment or education from this book that seemed so promising.
Profile Image for Don Gagnon.
36 reviews30 followers
March 20, 2018
Discovering Music’s Depth and Power . . .

In “Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain,” neurologist Oliver Sacks demonstrated the healing power of music. Through a series of fascinating narratives, the author--dubbed “poet laureate of medicine” by The New York Times--explored a variety of unique musical phenomena. Sharing observations and insights, Sachs revealed the nature of music and the roles music plays in the lives of individuals struggling with medical, psychological, and social issues. Delving into diverse case histories, the author told moving stories of how music helped and healed people with amnesia and aphasia, anxiety and depression, disease and dementia, seizures and strokes, in dramatic and unexpected ways.
Profile Image for Ghada.
291 reviews135 followers
September 21, 2012
!....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 علشان أفهم الكتاب أكتر
E حاجات زي ...مفتاح
مش عارفه ده معناه إيه بالضبط :S

حبيت شوبان أكتر ما كنت بحبه بسبب الكتاب ده

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCysEt...

C Sharp Minor نفسي أفهم يعنى إيه
Profile Image for Pierre Menard.
137 reviews232 followers
August 9, 2016
Leggendo questo bellissimo saggio di Sacks, rimango ancora una volta stupito dalla complessità del cervello umano, che si rende palpabile in questo lungo e dettagliato esame delle patologie neurologiche legate all'ampia sfera musicale. Proprio il fatto che esistano così tanti e così vari disturbi associati alla percezione e alla produzione musicale testimonia quanto profondo e articolato sia il rapporto tra la mente umana e la musica, che come anche le altre arti sembra essere quasi superflua da un punto di vista evolutivo e nel contempo gioca un ruolo fondamentale nell'esistenza individuale e nel tessuto connettivo delle società umane (in particolare per la sua relazione con la matematica e con la linguistica).

Per “musicofilia” Sacks intende l'attitudine quasi esclusivamente umana per la musica (il canto degli uccelli nasce da un'esigenza chiaramente adattativa e non risulta quasi mai realmente creativo). La musica si distingue in modo netto dalle arti figurative perché è connessa all'udito anziché alla vista (ma ciò non è del tutto vero) e induce un coinvolgimento più profondo e intimo nell'essere umano. Su come ciò avvenga le neuroscienze riescono a dare risposte ancora incomplete, ma oggi, dice Sacks, sono disponibili molti strumenti d'indagine scientifica che una volta non esistevano.

Il testo è diviso in quattro parti. La prima è dedicata all'acquisizione, eventualmente traumatica, della musicofilia: si parla di allucinazioni musicali, di canzoncine che rimangono in testa per periodi di tempo anche lunghissimi, di disturbi musicali legati all'epilessia. La seconda riguarda le caratteristiche della musicofilia legate a quelle del suono (timbro, altezza, armonia etc.): si discute dell'orecchio assoluto e di quello relativo, della stereofonia, dell'amusia (l'antitesi della musicofilia, da cui sembra fosse affetto Nabokov). Il capitolo più affascinante è quello dedicata alle sinestesie, le corrispondenze tra suoni, note, melodie e colori o sapori, che sono più frequenti nei musicisti di quanto si possa pensare. La terza parte racconta del rapporto tra musica e memoria e tra musica e movimento: le principali malattie associate a questi rapporti sono rispettivamente il morbo di Alzheimer e il morbo di Parkinson (e qui Sacks riprende molti casi clinici già affrontati in Risvegli), ma c'è spazio anche per la sindrome di Tourette, per le varie forme di amnesia, e per raccontare i traguardi della musicoterapia. L'ultima parte si spinge nelle profondità della mente umana: il legame tra musica ed emozioni, la seduzione esercitata dalla musica sulla mente, il ruolo della musica nel conservare frammenti di identità in persone affette da demenza o amnesia.

Sacks cita più volte il saggio Music and the Mind (1982) dello psichiatra inglese Anthony Storr: secondo Storr, la musica ha un ruolo adattativo molto particolare, perché serve ad alleviare la noia, a ridurre la fatica e a rendere più gratificante la mera esistenza. Ciò riguarderebbe sia la musica “esterna”, ossia ascoltata, sia quella “interna”, prodotta dal cervello stesso. I sistemi neurali che presiedono alla produzione di musica “interna” hanno una tendenza all'attività spontanea e alla ripetizione che non ha riscontro nei sistemi dedicati alla percezione visiva. Dice Sacks che quando si ricorda una poesia o un'immagine visiva non c'è lo stesso profondo coinvolgimento che si verifica quando si immagina e si ricrea della musica nella nostra mente. Nel capitolo dedicato alle dimensioni della musicalità, Sacks racconta degli studi neuroscientifici che hanno evidenziato un ruolo fondamentale dell'educazione musicale nel plasmare il cervello: “le modificazioni anatomiche osservate nel cervello dei musicisti erano fortemente correlate con l'età dell'inizio della loro formazione musicale e con l'intensità dello studio e dell'esercizio”.

Altro elemento ricorrente nel libro è l'orecchio assoluto, che sembra non essere particolarmente correlato con l'educazione musicale, anche se è certamente il prodotto dell'interazione tra genetica ed esperienza. Tra le malattie più curiose di cui parla Sacks, mi ha colpito molto la sindrome di Williams, a cui è dedicato un capitolo nella quarta parte e che per certi versi risulta antitetica all'autismo: chi ne soffre, oltre ad avere una particolare conformazione del volto, ha un basso Q.I., difficoltà con la matematica, con la percezione spaziale e temporale; per contro manifesta un talento descrittivo orale molto sviluppato, facilità nell'instaurare relazioni sociali e una vera e propria musicofilia. Oltre a riconoscere e ricordare centinaia di melodie e canzoni, i malati di questa sindrome provano grande piacere nel far musica insieme con altre persone.

L'edizione che ho potuto leggere è la seconda (del 2008), considerevolmente rivista e ampliata dall'autore attraverso l'interazione con i lettori della prima (del 2007) che hanno contattato Sacks per metterlo a parte dei propri disturbi e delle proprie esperienza, arricchendo ulteriormente la già ampia casistica della prima edizione. Come sempre con Sacks, le note a piè di pagina e a fine capitolo si sprecano, e questo nuoce un po' alla leggibilità del testo: molte note potrebbero convenientemente essere inserite nel testo senza frammentarlo troppo.

I riferimenti bibliografici sono sempre abbondanti e utili, e in questo saggio Sacks ha citato molti casi già affrontati nei libri precedenti (oltre a Risvegli, L'uomo che scambiò sua moglie per un cappello e Un antropologo su Marte). Ho letto alcune recensioni qui su GR che lamentano un po' il fatto che Sacks esageri nel riutilizzare quei casi e che ecceda nell'aneddotica a scapito dell'approfondimento neuroscientifico. Non condivido affatto queste critiche: i casi precedentemente affrontati vengono comunque presentati in una luce nuova, inerente esclusivamente agli aspetti musicali, e dal confronto con casi non discussi in precedenza si possono trarre nuove informazioni. Per quanto riguarda la critica sulla dimensione aneddotica del libro, credo che manchi il bersaglio: Sacks non vuole scrivere un trattato di neurologia, ma raccontare con rispetto e grandissima umanità disturbi e malattie legate alla sfera musicale e i loro effetti sugli esseri umani che ne sono afflitti e su chi è loro vicino (genitori, coniugi, amici, figli etc.). Le spiegazioni tecniche e l'analisi scientifica, semplice e rigorosa, mai eccessiva, sono finalizzate a caratterizzare meglio la situazione di queste persone, ma ciò che interessa è il rapporto tra individuo e malattia. Sacks è un neurologo, ossia un medico, non un neuroscienziato. La grande umanità di Sacks si nota anche nel suo porsi sempre nei panni del malato oltreché in quelli del medico, quando racconta delle proprie esperienze di disturbi “musicali” senza inutili pudori, ma con grande attenzione ai particolari.

Consigliato a chi si sveglia con un motivetto nella testa.

Sconsigliato a chi ascolta solo musica da discoteca.
Profile Image for A.G. Stranger.
Author 1 book97 followers
February 13, 2019
" All arts aspire to the condition of Music". Now, it's scientifically proven.( Not that it needed to.)
6 reviews
March 22, 2016
Davvero un bel libro. lo consiglio quindi a ciascuno tenendo presente però che il filo della storia non sempre scorre veloce ed alcune parti potrebbero risultare un po' tediose. Ad ogni modo Sacks ha fatto un lavoro meticoloso e molto molto apprezzabile mettendo insieme gli innumerevoli aspetti che intrecciano la musica alla neurologia e alla patologia umana. ad esempio il rapporto della musica in soggetti con la sindrome di williams, in soggetti con demenza, parkinsoniani, i savants e quelli con amusie. stupefacente poi la capacità dell' autore di fare mille associazioni diverse, mostrandoci la realtà a 360°.
Ho dato 4 stelle per la scorrevolezza, qualche volta minore, dell' esposizione.
Merita 5 e più stelle per il lavoro che ha fatto nella ricerca delle fonti, per la sua esperienza e per la dedizione al suo mestiere
Profile Image for Audrey.
997 reviews152 followers
March 7, 2020
Sacks is a well-known neuroscientist, and I had previously read Seeing Voices by him, which was fascinating. As a musician and music teacher, I was interesting in this topic.

The book covers a variety of cases involving music’s effects on the brain. There’s the man who was struck by lightning and suddenly became obsessed with music. There are people with perfect pitch while others are tone deaf. But mostly music can be used as therapy for a variety of disorders. People with Tourette’s and Parkinson’s often find relief with music. People with amnesia and Alzheimer’s can remember music when they’ve forgotten everything else. And those with aphasia can use music to recover speech skills. Those with mood disorders tend to “self-medicate” with music. Often it has to be the right kind of music.

Performing music is the only activity (I’m told) that uses both hemispheres of the brain equally. So even with brain damage, the ability to enjoy music is rarely lost. Those with right-hemisphere damage can still appreciate the forms and structures of music. Those with left-hemisphere damage, unable to carry a tune, still have an emotional reaction to music.

There are a lot of unanswered questions and some cases that are still a puzzle. Why are we such a musical species? What makes us like some music and not other kinds?





Music is part of being human, and there is no human culture in which it is not highly developed and esteemed. Its very ubiquity may cause it to be trivialized in daily life: we switch on a radio, switch it off. hum a tune, tap our feet, find the words of an old song going through our minds, and think nothing of it. But to those who are lost in dementia, the situation is different. Music is no luxury to them, but a necessity, and can have a power beyond anything else to restore to themselves, and to others, at least for a while.

Book Blog
Profile Image for mai.
95 reviews
December 9, 2011
part i: holy crap, this book so far is so fucking boring. let's give 500 examples that describe the exact same thing. zzzzZZZzzzZzZzZZ...i really hope it gets better. so far, the author is just introducing us to several different patients who exhibit the same or similar symptoms, doesn't discuss further and then just leaves us hanging. there's no in-depth explanation as to why these things are happening, we don't get to know the patients. it's interesting for a minute, and then after the 10th, 20th, 30th patient example, it's fucking dull. i had very high hopes for this book since i love music so much and find science and neuroscience so interesting, but so far, a total letdown.

12/09/2011 - i couldn't finish this book. it's been a long time since i've given up on a book, but i just found it so redundant, repetitive, and boring. i don't enjoy the author's writing style at all. once i started to find the book or an anecdote interesting, he'd jump to something new and lose my interest.
Profile Image for Faye.
266 reviews57 followers
December 22, 2014
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 repetitive. I even ended up skimming some of these chapters.

But I did learn some new things. I wasn't anymore convinced that music is amazing, because I already knew that, but I did learn some new things neurologically speaking about music.

But this book really was so repetitive and boring.
Profile Image for Alina Vasylchyk.
45 reviews8 followers
May 16, 2021
місцями класно і цікаво, місцями (більше) хотілось нецензурно виражатись читаючи 8-9ту абсолютно ідентичну історію хвороби для ілюстрації конкретного розділу. важко будо зосередитись, мій мозок намагався будь яким способом відволікти мене від читання, але декілька годин насилля над ним і я її дочитала :)

цікаво було про синестезію, абсолютний слух і музичні галюцинації.
Profile Image for brian tanabe.
387 reviews28 followers
March 6, 2008
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 of background knowledge on mr sacks and his previous works, but it seems as if in part this book is a culmination of much of his previous works and observations.

A peripheral discussion that continued to dance through my head while reading this book is what is the "best" music to listen to? I kind of got the impression that classical music was most close to the primal drummings of the soul, but perhaps not. I mean mr sacks is an older fellow, and much of his observations were of patients from his earlier days practising, so is it fair to assume that classical music had a more august position in those days and was thus more clearly regarded as the truest form of music? Would any music do, any beat and rhythm that strikes a cord with the individual?

I came away from this book wanting to listen to less podcasts and more music. I came away yet again regretting that I've never tried to play an instrument in my life. Ultimately, though, I came away with much more reverance for the power of music, more convinced that music just might be the surest and most direct path to self and the soul.
Profile Image for Andrew Howdle.
457 reviews1 follower
January 30, 2020
Sacks writes (as ever) from the margins in an attempt to shed light on the centre of human existence. He infuses his case studies with empathy and humour. Starting from the scientific claim that music plays no part in human evolution, he raises the question of exaptation and a possibility that human health covers more than a forward looking sense of fitness . Music is not an aspect of survival, yet it plays a vital role in our mental survival. Sacks investigates the value of rhythm to humans with Parkinson's and how melody can awake comatose patients. He builds from a neuropsychology of music towards an understanding of how and why music influences the human mind. He is well aware that this is only half the story -- the other half would be a study of music itself. Even so, this is a truly emotional and insightful book.

Musicophiia swells with speculations and anecdotes. For example, a day came when Sacks himself felt a continuous strain of music inside his head, a pull that became a mental strain. An endless song. He sang the tune to a friend who asked him a question. Have you ended an emotional job or destroyed some of your essays, your literary children? Sacks explained that he had done both a few days before. His friend identified the melody as Mahler's Songs for Dead Children . Though Sacks disliked Mahler, the brain had gone into mourning by selecting an appropriate musical theme for his conscious actions.

In this book, as elsewhere, Sacks demonstrates why he was one of the greatest of our humanitarian thinkers and writers.
Profile Image for liz.
276 reviews27 followers
January 24, 2008
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, since some of his best work consists of describing individuals' conditions and then working out what might be causing them. He also borrowed heavily from cases described in his other works. It made me wonder, what would motivate someone to write a book if he didn't have the necessary new material?

...infants at six months can readily detect all rhythmic variations, but by twelve months their range has narrowed, albeit sharpened. They can now more easily detect the types of rhythms to which they have previously been exposed; they learn and internalize a set of rhythms for their culture. Adults find it harder still to perceive "foreign" rhythmic distinctions.
Profile Image for Benjamin.
78 reviews22 followers
January 31, 2016
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.
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