Musicophilia : Tales of Music and the Brain

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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--from a man who is struck by lightning and suddenly inspired to become a pianist at the age of forty-two, to an entire group of children with Williams syndrome, who are hypermusical from birth; from people with "amusia," to whom a symphony sounds like the clattering of pots and pans, to a man whose memory spans only seven seconds--for everything but music. Our exquisite sensitivity to music can sometimes go wrong: Sacks 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.
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Product details

  • CD-Audio
  • 140 x 158 x 26mm | 158.76g
  • Random House USA Inc
  • Random House Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Abridged
  • Abridged edition
  • 0739357395
  • 9780739357392
  • 703,049

About Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks is a physician and the author of nine previous books, including The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Awakenings (which inspired the Oscar-nominated film). He lives in New York City, where he is Professor of Clinical Neurology and Psychiatry at Columbia University. Visit his website at
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Review quote

"Powerful and compassionate . . . Dr. Sacks has written a book that not only contributes to our understanding of the elusive magic of music but also illuminates the strange workings, and misfirings, of the human mind...He is able in these pages to convey both the fathomless mysteries of the human brain and the equally profound mysteries of music."-"The New York Times" "Curious, cultured, caring, in his person Sacks justifies the medical profession and, one is tempted to say, the human race . . . Sacks is, in short, the ideal exponent of the view that responsiveness to music is intrinsic to our makeup. He is also the ideal guide to the territory he covers. "Musicophilia" allows readers to join Sacks where he is most alive, amid melodies and with his patients."-Peter D. Kramer, "The Washington Post" "Readers will be grateful that Sacks . . . is happy to revel in phenomena that he cannot yet explain."-"The New York Times Book Review ""The persuasive essays about composers, patients, savants, and ordinary people . . . offer captivating variations on the central premise that human beings are 'exquisitely tuned' to the illuminating yet ultimately mysterious powers of music."-"Elle" "The underlying authority of "Musicophilia" lies in the warmth and easy command of the author's voice. Sacks has an expert bedside manner: informed but humble, self-questioning, literary without being self-conscious . . . his prose [is] passionate and informative."-"The Los Angeles Times" "With the exception of Lewis Thomas, no physician has ever written better about his trade."-"Salon""A gifted writer and a neurologist, Sacks spins one fascinating tale afteranother to show what happens when music and the brain mix it up.""-Newsweek" "Luminous, original, and indispensable . . . "Musicophilia" is like a concert of Mozart's mazurkas: fast, inventive and weirdly beautiful . . . yet what is most inspiring is his empathy."-"American Scholar" "Like the case studies that informed and appeared in his previous books, "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" and "Awakenings" (which inspired the Oscar-nominated film by the same name), [in "Musicophilia"] Dr. Sacks guides readers through the fascinating, disturbing, inspiring stories of clinical dilemmas he encounters . . . Evocative, thought-provoking and compassionate beyond measure, this is a book to cherish." -"The Washington Times" "In "Musicophilia," Sacks. . . shares the extraordinary stories of people whose personal worlds have been transformed by music."-"The Toronto Star" "Sacks is the consummate storyteller . . . his great gift-as a physician as well as a writer-is to see the whole person, rather than just the brain or the disease. "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 . . . This book leaves one a little more attuned to the remarkable complexity of human beings, and a bit more conscious of the role of music in our lives.""-Publishers Weekly""Neurologist Sacks, one of the foremost physician-essayists of the day, charmingly argues that music is essential to being human in ways that have only begun to be understood. . . His customary erudition and fellow-feeling ensure that, no matterhow clinical the discussion becomes, it remains, like the music of Mozart, accessible and congenial.""-Booklist""If we could prescribe what our physicians would be like, a good number of us would probably choose somebody like Sacks. Learned, endlessly inquisitive and seemingly possessed of a bottomless store of human compassion, the neurologist's authorial personality both reassures and arouses curiosity . . . Sacks is as good a guide to this mysterious and barely understood world as one could ask for, mixing serious case studies with personal takes on music and what its ultimate uses could possibly be.""-Kirkus" "From the Hardcover edition."
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Rating details

43,407 ratings
3.89 out of 5 stars
5 35% (15,020)
4 33% (14,419)
3 22% (9,701)
2 6% (2,710)
1 4% (1,557)
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