Nate U.'s Reviews > Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain

Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks
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Dec 07, 2010

really liked it

Musicophilia:

Fascinating Tales of Music's Place in Human Life

Have you ever really thought of what music exactly is? What a strange concept, nothing but a sequence of tones, yet this “music” can create feelings within us that written word could never evoke. In Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, author Oliver Sacks writes of this and of how music has affected people's lives. This compelling nonfiction read is set in modern day Earth. It tells the story of author Oliver Sacks' extensive research into music and how it affects the human brain. The book includes people's stories of how music plays a role in their life, even more than just the superficial “liking” of music. It also speaks of Sacks' perspective on what music is, and why it is so important to us. This book is impossible to put down because it causes the reader to think greatly about the meaning of music, it is full of many enthralling stories, and talks about how music is a large part of both the human conscious and subconscious.

I literally could not stop reading this book because it showed me a new perspective to look at music with. I had always thought of music as something that brought me happiness, whether I was hearing it or making it. This book led me to question music's importance to people. Why is it that in engaging our minds within a series of notes, we can impart feelings upon ourselves that would otherwise only be aroused in times when we are affected by real-life situations? In the book, Oliver Sacks writes, “What an odd thing it is to see and entire species--billions of people—playing with, listening to, meaningless tonal patterns, occupied and preoccupied for much of their time by what they call 'music.' […] There are rare humans who […] may lack the neural apparatus for appreciating tones or melodies. But for virtually all of us, music has great power, whether or not we seek it out or think of ourselves as particularly 'musical.' This propensity to music--this 'musicophilia'--shows itself in infancy, is manifest and central in every culture, and probably goes back to the very beginnings of our species.” (ix). As a result of this quote, I came to think the same ideas that Oliver Sacks has thought, and this led me to have the utmost desire to read on.

Another reason why I absolutely could not put this book down is that it is full of captivating stories. This is one of the first nonfiction books I have read in a extended period of time. I was amazed by the fact that these fascinating stories were real, and that they were not just something an author had dreamed up! One of the most intriguing stories in the book is the tale of Tony Cicoria. Tony was a forty-two year-old, healthy man. He was at a lakeside pavilion for a family gathering on one afternoon in autumn. He decided to call his mother, so he went to a pay phone and spoke with her. Following the call, he heard thunder in the distance and hung up the phone. Tony started to step away from the phone. All of a sudden, a flash of light came out of the phone and directly hit him in the face. He felt himself flying backwards, and saw his own body lying on the ground. He had been struck by lightning. Sacks describes what follows this unfortunate accident: “What then happened still fills Cicoria with amazement, even now, a dozen years later. Life had returned to normal, seemingly, when 'suddenly, over two or three days, there was this insatiable desire to listen to piano music.' This was completely out of keeping with anything in his past. He had had a few piano lessons as a boy, he said, 'but no real interest.' He did not have a piano in his house.” (5) This quote is one of the many odd occurrences in this book that make it so irresistible. The book goes on to tell how Tony gets a piano and begins to compose this music that has all of a sudden started coming into his head. In conclusion, I couldn't put this book down because it had many captivating stories like this.

Finally, I couldn't atop reading this book because it talks about how music is a large part of both the human conscious and subconscious. Music can give a glimpse into the mishmash of emotions that occur inside each of our subconsciousnesses. This book quotes another book, The Haunting Melody: Psychoanalytic Experiences in Life and Music by Theodore Reik: “Melodies which run through your mind... may give the analyst a clue to the secret life of emotions that every one of us lives...” (40) This illustrates that songs that seem to come from nowhere in our brains can tell a lot about what is going on inside of our subconscious brain. This is why music is a large part of the subconscious. Music is also very relevant in our conscious mind, for, as stated at the beginning of the book, we fixate on it and spend countless hours listening to it. Thus, music is relevant in both the subconscious and conscious brain. I found this to be a riveting point, and it is another reason why I couldn't stop reading this book.
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message 1: by Wilson (new)

Wilson this book sounds really intersting, and I liked how you explained how music is a part the conscious and subconscious.


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