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Publisher's Summary

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' 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.

©2007 Oliver Sacks (P)2007 Books on Tape

Critic Reviews

"[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) "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)

What members say

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  • Overall
  • Shimon
  • HashmonaimIsrael
  • 11-19-07

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.

18 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

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!

15 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

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...

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

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.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Abigail
  • arlington, VA, United States
  • 05-25-11

One of my favorites by Sacks

Even my fiction only friends found this book fascinating. I've actually listened to this book several times I found it so captivating. I had no trouble with the reader and Sacks deals with far more than tinnitus, all sorts of fascinating disorders and just what music means to we humans. I can't think of one flaw to this book except that it ends. Highly recommended!

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


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.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Great Entertainment

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 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • David
  • Charlottesville, VA, USA
  • 01-01-08

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 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

Fascinating stuff in a sonorous british voice

What's not to love?

The book is basically a compendium of case studies of various people and patients with interesting music-related disorders and/or abilities, with Oliver Sacks's commentary sprinkled in, but it's written with a narrative trail connecting the stories, so it's easy to follow, and it is densely packed with interesting neurological science tidbits to keep any layman with the faintest interest in neurology happy.

John Lee's performance also did not disappoint. I did not notice any irregularities in the recording, and Lee's voice is very pleasant to listen to.

I would highly recommend this audiobook to anyone with an interest in music or neurology.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Roland
  • SAN ANTONIO, TX, United States
  • 11-15-12

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful