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Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain (2007)

by Oliver Sacks

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4,8331071,817 (3.65)166
Music can move us to the heights or depths of emotion. It can persuade us to buy something, or remind us of our first date. It can lift us out of depression when nothing else can. It can get us dancing to its beat. But the power of music goes much, much further. Indeed, music occupies more areas of our brain than language does--humans are a musical species. Oliver Sacks's compassionate, compelling tales of people struggling to adapt to different neurological conditions have fundamentally changed the way we think of our own brains, and of the human experience. Here, he examines the powers of music through the individual experiences of patients, musicians, and everyday people. Music is irresistible, haunting, and unforgettable, and Oliver Sacks tells us why.--From publisher description.… (more)
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» See also 166 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 97 (next | show all)
Very fascinating subject matter in a poorly executed book. If you enjoy learning about how the brain processes music, especially in people with various mental disorders, this book is worth reading. There are a few things about it that I did not like:
1. Though the stories are about interesting people, the writing is mostly dry and lifeless.
2. There is no logical flow of narrative throughout the book. It just seems like a bunch of related essays thrown together.
3. In these stories about people with uncommon conditions, Sacks insists on referring to those without the condition as "normal." This seems like insensitive language for a professional to be using.
4. Sacks constantly plugs his other books. Constantly.
These complaints aside, I was happy to read this book if only to be introduced to the story of Clive Wearing. There is a great video on Youtube about him that I found because of this book. So I am grateful for that. I don't think I'll be reading any other books by Sacks, even though I now know all their titles by heart. ( )
  JosephVanBuren | May 17, 2022 |
Fascinating look at the complexity that is music and its effects on and from the complexity that is the human brain. I wish I would actually remember the various brain locations he mentions, but just seeing the variety of symptoms and how music therapy of various types can mitigate some gives you hope that someday even more can be understood and helped. ( )
  ehousewright | Jan 14, 2022 |
I think I liked the concept of this book more than the execution. Sachs is a great teller of tales, but after 300 some pages of tales, I fear we are no closer to a deep understanding of exactly how the musical brain functions, misfunctions, fires or misfires and that is profoundly unsatisfying. Reading about the brain has been a sort of hobby of mine for years, so I can place this is a continuum of literature on the subject. It almost seems brain-lite, if you will. Stories, many tragic, some amusing, not all illuminating. But what I want is to understand the "why." For a much better, deeper, more encompassing book on the same subject, try Levitin's This is your Brain on Music. ( )
  PattyLee | Dec 14, 2021 |
not sure if this just wasn't my cup of tea or if it was the narration, but it read way too much like a list to me. The brain is weird, and does weird stuff.
  readingjag | Nov 29, 2021 |
I never got into this book. Neurologist Oliver Sacks describes unusual case histories of people who, due to some tansforming event, changed from music indifferent to musicly obsessed. Never really grabbed me. ( )
  rsutto22 | Jul 15, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 97 (next | show all)
The gentle doctor turns his pen to another set of mental anomalies that can be viewed as either affliction or gift.

If we could prescribe what our physicians would be like, a good number of us would probably choose somebody like Sacks (Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood, 2001, etc.). Learned, endlessly inquisitive and seemingly possessed of a bottomless store of human compassion, the neurologist’s authorial personality both reassures and arouses curiosity. Here, Sacks tackles the whole spectrum of the human body’s experience of music by studying it from the aesthetic as well as medical viewpoint. Fantastical case studies include a young boy assaulted by musical hallucinations who would shout “Take it out of my head! Take it away!” when music only he could hear became unbearably loud. Less frightening are stories about people like Martin, a severely disabled man who committed some 2,000 operas to memory, or ruminations on the linkage between perfect pitch and language: Young children learning music are vastly more likely to have perfect pitch if they speak Mandarin than almost any other language. ..
added by MsMixte | editKirkus Reviews (Aug 15, 2007)
 

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Oliver Sacksprimary authorall editionscalculated
Kidd, ChipCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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What an odd thing it is to see an 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."
Tony Cicoria was forty-two, very fit and robust, a former college football player who had become a well-regarded orthopedic surgeon in a small city in upstate New York.
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Music can move us to the heights or depths of emotion. It can persuade us to buy something, or remind us of our first date. It can lift us out of depression when nothing else can. It can get us dancing to its beat. But the power of music goes much, much further. Indeed, music occupies more areas of our brain than language does--humans are a musical species. Oliver Sacks's compassionate, compelling tales of people struggling to adapt to different neurological conditions have fundamentally changed the way we think of our own brains, and of the human experience. Here, he examines the powers of music through the individual experiences of patients, musicians, and everyday people. Music is irresistible, haunting, and unforgettable, and Oliver Sacks tells us why.--From publisher description.

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