About Musicophilia

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks


Musicophilia explores the uniquely human phenomenon of music, from its various roles in human lives to its therapeutic power. Neurologist Oliver Sacks, famed for his entertaining books about the brain and its disorders, shares stories about the unusual symptoms and recoveries of his patients and correspondents. His characteristic compassion and curiosity engage the reader's interest in an exploration of music's power, the place it occupies in the brain, and how it affects human lives.

Sacks not only examines perfect pitch and synesthesia, but some extremely unusual developments in musical skill, as well as musical hallucinations, dreams, and disorders. Brain activity related to music provides some hints, but its complexity leaves us with more mysteries than certainties.  The individual experiences of patients, musicians, and ordinary people provide insights and Sacks's tales prove music's power to lift depression, move our bodies, stimulate memories, or torment us with repetition and dysharmonia.

Music therapy offers more certainty through practice than theory, offering tremendous comfort to patients with brain damage and degenerative neuropathies. Expressive aphasia (a loss of spoken language), when not accompanied by amusia (the inability to produce or comprehend music), is generally treatable with music therapy. Similarly, for young children, music lessons correlate with early development of reading skills. Sacks illustrates the role of music therapy in treating Tourette's Syndrome, Parkinson's Disease, and various forms of dementia with engaging stories of real people and their experiences, while his extensive bibliography expands on the science that supports his observations.

More about the book at Outside Linkhttp://musicophilia.com/index.htm

Discussion questions are on the Outside Linkpublisher’s site here.

Visit RIC's Outside LinkLibguide on Musicophilia including tips on Outside LinkFinding Library Resources and web resources about the author Oliver Sacks, Music and the Brain, and Music Education.

About the Author

Oliver Sacks, M.D. is a physician, a best-selling author, and a professor of neurology at the NYU School of Medicine.
He is best known for his collections of neurological case histories, including The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat (1985), Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain (2007) and The Mind’s Eye (2010). Awakenings (1973), his book about a group of patients who had survived the great encephalitis lethargica epidemic of the early-twentieth century, inspired the 1990 Academy Award-nominated feature film directed by Penny Marshall, and starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams. The New York Times has referred to him as “the poet laureate of medicine.”

Dr. Sacks is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters as well as the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Read Oliver Sacks’s Outside Linkfull biography here.

Visit Oliver Sacks's website Outside Linkhttp://www.oliversacks.com/



“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, November 20, 2007

“His work is luminous, original, and indispensable . . . Musicophilia is a Chopin mazurka recital of a book, fast, inventive and weirdly beautiful . . . Yet what is most awe-inspiring is his observational empathy . . .”

— Jennifer Michael Hecht, The American Scholar, Autumn 2007

“[Sacks] weaves neuroscience through a fascinating personal story, allowing us to think about brain functions and music in a bracing new light . . . Human context is what makes good journalism, medical and otherwise. That’s the art of Sacks’ best essays . . .” 

— Kevin Berger, Salon, October 12, 2007

“Sacks' reporting on all of this makes for quite an omnium-gatherum on the main contention that, in essence, musicality is humanity. His customary erudition and fellow-feeling ensure that, no matter how clinical the discussion becomes, it remains, like the music of Mozart, accessible and congenial.”

— Ray Olson, Booklist, September 1, 2007

“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. The subtitle aptly frames the book as a series of medical case studies — some in-depth, some abruptly short. The tales themselves range from the relatively mundane (a song that gets stuck on a continuing loop in one's mind) through the uncommon (Tourette's or Parkinson's patients whose symptoms are calmed by particular kinds of music) to the outright startling (a man struck by lightning subsequently developed a newfound passion and talent for the concert piano) . . . 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, October 1, 2007

Page last updated: September 10, 2014