Musicophilia, Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks
Published by: Knopf Publishing Group in October 2007; revised and expanded in 2008
Summary: Already having written nine books focusing mainly on the brain and its amazing capacities, deficits and methods of coping, Sacks once again examines the many mysteries of this fascinating subject. Musicophilia consists of 29 essays, or tales of how music is perceived in our brains. He mainly focuses on people with different neurological conditions. Sacks describe his cases with little clinical detail, instead concentrating on the experience of the patient (which in one case was himself). Many of the cases are incurable but patients are able to adapt to their own situation in different ways. Sacks wonders such things as why do some people associate certain colors or tastes with specific notes? Why do larger proportions of people who speak Asian languages or who became blind at a young age have absolute pitch? Why do certain brain lesions leave some persons utterly indifferent to music? Yet for others, music temporarily frees them from their conditions’ constraints. The book is divided up into four sections: Part I – Haunted by Music, including tales of musical seizures, brainworms and musical hallucinations, Part II – A Range of Musicality, including tales of Amusia, Dysharmonia, Synesthesia and Absolute Pitch, Part III – Memory, Movement and Music, including tales of Aphasia, Tourettes Syndrome and Parkinsons Disease and Part IV – Emotion, Identity and Music, including tales of musical dreams, music and depression and Williams Syndrome.
Reflections: I enjoyed this book because he leaves readers in a sense of wonder and amazement about the endless and unexplainable possibilities of music and the power it has on humans. I believe that Musicophilia is important because it brings awareness to the significance of music for people, whether they are healthy, or are suffering from a neurological condition. Despite the fact that the author does not take a scientific approach, the tales that Sacks describes in this book will inevitably help the scientific world because of the light it sheds on the relationship between music and the brain, thus creating interest for neurologists and scientists to do further research in this area.