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- Tales of Music and the Brain
- Narrated by: John Lee
- Length: 11 hrs and 6 mins
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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. In Musicophilia, he examines the powers of music through the individual experiences of patients, musicians, and everyday people. He explores how catchy tunes can subject us to hours of mental replay, and how a surprising number of people acquire nonstop musical hallucinations that assault them night and day.
Yet far more frequently, music goes right: Sacks describes how music can animate people with Parkinson’s disease who cannot otherwise move, give words to stroke patients who cannot otherwise speak, and calm and organize people whose memories are ravaged by Alzheimer’s or amnesia.Music is irresistible, haunting, and unforgettable, and in Musicophilia, Oliver Sacks tells us why.
What the critics say
"[Sacks'] customary erudition and fellow-feeling ensure that, no matter how clinical the discussion becomes, it remains, like the music of Mozart, accessible and congenial." (Booklist)
“Dr. Sacks writes not just as a doctor and a scientist but also as a humanist with a philosophical and literary bent...[his] book not only contributes to our understanding of the elusive magic of music but also illuminates the strange workings, and misfirings, of the human mind.” (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times)
"Sacks is an unparalleled chronicler of modern medicine, and fans of his work will find much to enjoy when he turns his prodigious talent for observation to music and its relationship to the brain." (Publishers Weekly)
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What listeners say about MusicophiliaAverage Customer Ratings
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- CATHERINE D.
This book was so touching. I enjoyed it deeply, and remembered my Nana, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, but who would come back to herself with music.
More about pathology than true musical love
I struggled to finish this, hoping it would get to something besides people with musically related pathologies. I liked "Your brain on music" a lot better and it was often referenced. I'm glad this was a free trial, I'd be really disappointed if I payed for it. I wouldn't recommend it unless you're really interested in dementia or pathology related to music.
The Best Of Sacks...
is when he removes himself (and his ego) from the narratives and simply brings neurological science to the laymen in clear, easy-to-understand terms and still does not dumb things down or oversimplify. This book is the best of Sacks. He explores all the things that can go right, and wrong, in the brain in regard to music, demonstrating that there are numerous areas of the brain dedicated to understanding and processing music, and thus, I believe, shows Pinker to be wrong when he said, "music is simply 'cheesecake for the brain' and has no evolutionary value..." He does this latter best when he demonstrates the direct link between language and music and how one probably evolved from the other--that is, that music serves as a very real form of communication, even without words.
I almost never comment on narrators--but this one was very good!
27 people found this helpful
A must for music lovers
This book is a must for all music lovers. Readers of Sacks' previous works will recognize his wonderful style that has managed to popularize neurology. This book covers both normal and pathological reactions to music.
My only grumble is that he provides far too many examples of musical hallucinations which caused the book to drag a little. The other topics (and there are many of them) are covered in just the right detail.
The narrator is superb and does justice to this marvelous work.
23 people found this helpful
Musicophilia - a tractate on musical brain
Olivier Sacks, professor of neurology and psychiatry, the author of famous book "The Man who mistook His Wife for a Hat" wrote another incredible tractate. Musicophilia is the book that should shake our views about musical perception and the role of music for the understanding of human mind.
The book is written in the form of reports and accounts and conclusions about cases of severe mental illnesses and their relation to music or musical perception.
He analyses many forms of strange mental behaviour, from certain types of seizures that can be called "musical seizures", musical hallucinations through haunting musical "brainworms" to deep analysis of relation between music and blindness, musical savantisms or Williams syndrome.
Olivier Sacks does not attempt to paint the big picture of relation between music and brain. He is modest and shows a lot of moderation and scientific discipline when it comes to interpretation of these facts.
However, we, his readers could indulge in comments, conclusions and judgments. One conclusions is almost certain - the musicality - the perception of music can not be reduced to the quality of hearing or simple audition. There are indirect proofs that music is much more deeply rooted in our brains - in the biological and physical foundations of our minds. As he writes: "There are undoubtedly particular areas of the cortex subserving musical intelligence and sensibility (...) The emotional response to the music it would seem is widespread and probably not only cortical but subcortical..."
After reading this book there is no doubt the music is much more important and more fundamental to our life than we ever expected.
Some of us had already knew that, other had some vague gut feeling of this truth - but Sacks shows how deeply true are all these hunches...
16 people found this helpful
some repetition but great subject
I'm already a big fan of his take on the world, so accepted the following two issues you might need to be aware of: 1)There are occasional repetitions. 2)The scientific citations, easy to gloss over while reading a paper page, aren't served that well by the listen-only format--not that gripping... But what interesting material!! The style is overwhelmingly anecdotal,so it's not that challenging to follow. He explores the interplay of brain anatomy/function and the musical ability or appreciation--how they influence each other.His fondness for the people whose stories he tells is clear. The narrator is quite good, I thought.
15 people found this helpful
- Amazon Customer
Well, entertainment is only one of many reasons to get this book. I have been sharing the inspirational and just flat-out amazing stories with friends, colleagues, students and family. Sacks is a good writer who does not overwhelm or, at the other end, trivialize his material. Also, the reader of this book has a fantastic voice, rich and well-modulated. You will be well-rewarded with this book.
14 people found this helpful
extremely interesting, some of it almost unbelievable. makes one rethink what music is all about and how humane a quality it is.
the missing star of my rating is due to the annoying mentioning throughout the book of other books by Mr. Sacks. after a while this becomes too much of an annoying sales pitch. a regular bookmarked bibliographical list should have been enough.
the narration gets a 4 star too. it's very OK but not outstanding.
11 people found this helpful
Not Sacks' Best, and Reader Ruins It
Sacks chronicles some bizarre and interesting auditory aberrations, many of which I could not even have imagined. This I expected, but there just wasn't enough meat and insight to hold my attention through the whole thing.
With his British accent, the reader sounded wrong for Sacks's first-person narrative. Even aside from that, his voice was nearly intolerable to my ears. How to describe it...not an Oxbridge accent exactly. Maybe like an upperclass English twit trying to conceal drunkenness by being extra precise with his diction.
Just curious: does Sacks ever actually cure anyone, or is he, like most neurology specialists, "diagnose, adios"?
11 people found this helpful
Can't Beat Sacks
I've been an Oliver Sacks fan for a long time, and this latest work is as good as the rest. I've been inspired to train myself to develop absolute pitch. There are parts of the book that are very technical, and develop as text for medical journals. But, as usual, his science is balanced with great humanity.
10 people found this helpful
Expected more "Why?" and less "How?"
What did you like best about this story?
It provides tons of anecdotal evidence that music is innate human nature.
Any additional comments?
I heard this book after Steven Pinker's "Blank Slate", so I expected a similar style of "theory, anecdotal evidence, scientific explanation". Musicophilia provides "theory, anecdotal evidence, little or no explanation". Despite this perceived shortfall, I'm glad that I listened to it. Dr. Sacks has broadened and deepened my appreciation for music, and added perspective to my self--perception. I love to listen to a great variety of music genres, but I'm not able to sing or play instruments very well. After his book, I no longer feel insecure about it.
7 people found this helpful
- Carol Parker
Tough going - hope it improves
What disappointed you about Musicophilia?
I usually love books by Oliver Sacks. This one has really dragged and I am only two hours into it. He spends too much time telling us about ear worms he has had. I'm sure they were interesting to him but...really?
Would you ever listen to anything by Oliver Sacks again?
Yes, I usually love books by Oliver Sacks.
Would you be willing to try another one of John Lee’s performances?
Maybe - he voice is a bit sonorous and that may have affected my impression. I couldn't listen to it for too long because it made me sleepy.
If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Musicophilia?
Ear worm stories
5 people found this helpful