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Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain Paperback – 3 Oct 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Main Market Ed. edition (3 Oct. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330418386
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330418386
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 193,970 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Oliver Sacks was born in London and educated in London, Oxford, California and New York. He now lives in America and practices neurology in New York, where he is also a professor of clinical neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He is the author of ten books, including the bestselling The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Awakenings. His most recent book, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain was an international bestseller. He has received numerous awards for his writing, including the Hawthornden Prize and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He is also a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Product Description

Review

'An elegantly outlined series of case studies...which reveal the depth to which music grips so many people' -- Observer

'Fascinating' -- Guardian

'He uses a device in which he has almost cornered the market - the elegantly-written case study.'
-- The Independent

'He's incapable of writing a dull book, and consistently evokes a sense of real wonder.' -- Glasgow Herald

'It's easily digestible chapter-by-chapter, and demonstrates Sacks' principal strength: his understanding of the 'richness of the human context'.' -- The Music Teacher

'Through anecdote, argument and science, Musicophilia makes a passionate case for music as a way to discover ourselves' -- Daily Telegraph

'a special art that springs from deeper wells than any other' -- Sunday Times

Review

'Through anecdote, argument and science, Musicophilia makes a passionate case for music as a way to discover ourselves'

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By tiggrie AKA Sarah on 15 Aug. 2009
Format: Paperback
I think whether one enjoys this book or not probably depends on the things one is interested in - other reviewers have complained about everything from the book being too introspective to being too much a list of Sacks' patients.

In part, it is both these things - as a book of case studies it cannot help being the latter, as a book written by someone who is himself an amateur musician as well as being knowledgeable about and intrigued by the neuroscience behind our musical brain, it is necessarily the former. However, neither of these things, for me, detracts in any way from the book.

If you have an interest in both science and music and enjoy books that are absorbing, sometimes densely written, very informative, and written by someone with both a wide knowledge of the subject and a keen curiosity about the whys and wherefores then you will probably enjoy this book just as much as I have, which is a great deal.

Not all of the cases have explanations, which sometimes makes them more intriguing - other, apparently stranger, cases, turn out to have fairly logical reasons. Sacks explores everything from the healing power of music to its capability of irritating or even tormenting those whose brains cannot control it, and the whole thing is intensely interesting for a musician with any interest in the science behind music.
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58 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Guardian of the Scales on 10 Nov. 2008
Format: Paperback
This is a pretty good book, of interest to anyone who feels themselves somewhat musicophiliac and wants to know more about how music has the effect it does. Musicophilia isn't particularly focused and doesn't really go too deep into how music works on the brain, it's mostly just a string of case studies of people and conditions involving strange and intense relationships with music. It's well-written and accessible, and worth a read, though it doesn't attempt to give any major insights into why music is so important to people in general.

"Musicophilia" is preferable to "This is your Brain on Music" by Daniel Levitin, which was released around the same time and deals with somewhat similar themes, though Levitin's book includes much more technical info on music and neurology. This info is presented in a style that is dry, unengaging and lacking in clarity. Sacks on the other hand is an effortlessly good writer. For that reason, this book is worth reading, though it would have benefitted from greater cohesion, a more focused approach and some general theorizing along with the case studies.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ed J on 2 Dec. 2010
Format: Paperback
This book had sat on my shelf, waiting to be read for a couple of years before I decided to pick it up. I was eventually persuaded to give it a go having read a memoir of the musician Edwyn Collins' struggle back to health following two near fatal strokes. (Falling and Laughing, Grace Maxwell) I had felt a bit intimidated by the density of the book, indeed it took me a month to read. But I need not have worried. It is accessible with truly remarkable stories of human strength and dignity and the awesome power of music. He writes movingly and with clarity, about his patients and correspondents. Many suffering from dementia or temporary conditions including musical halucinations. It made me feel justified in my spending too much time listening to and buying music - it is bolstering my brain! It has also made me reflect on the sophistication of the brain and perhaps how much we are yet to discover about our grey cells.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on 9 July 2008
Format: Hardcover
By now, it's a given that an Oliver Sacks' book is worth your time and close attention. His particular talent lies in making the science interesting without becoming a "pop-science" writer. This is not an easy achievement, but Sacks manages it with facility. He can explain the science in terms of case studies - many of which have claimed his medical attention. He does this while mixing in experiences of his own and some personal reflections which are anything but intrusions. While some of his books are essays on selected individuals ["An Anthropologist on Mars" is an example], this one has a very special focus: the minds that make music unbidden.

Music arising in the mind without prompting may seem a common enough occurence. The advertising industry has demonstated fully music as an uncontrollable meme. The cases Sacks portrays here are of another sort. In some cases the music has taken over - sometimes supplanting other thinking processes and reducing the victim to near helplessness. The chief problem is often a lack of variety. More than the adverts' jingles, particular tunes may emerge from the distant past to occupy the sufferer's waking hours. A well-disciplined mind, such as Doctor P's, may be able to use the uncalled for music in ways that get them through daily tasks. Others don't have that ability and the music proves a terrible distraction. The music renders them "incapable of hearing themselves think".

Therapy for such conditions is in its infancy and may actually be subverted by the deluge of music impinging our ears daily. Sacks notes the proliferation of the iPod devices bringing music to listeners who seem to pass the day in another realm. This, however, is not relieving a condition, but may be generating a new one.
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