Review: Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks

Review: Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks
Sacks explores our peculiar susceptibility to music and its ability to make us 'experience pain and grief more intensely'

Apparently, Che Guevara was rhythm-deaf, whereas Freud and Nabokov were incapable of receiving any pleasure from music at all. Yet, as Oliver Sacks observes, "music is an essential part of being human" and "there is no human culture in which it is not highly developed and esteemed". Sacks first started to think and write about the neurological significance of music in 1966, when he saw its profound effects on the deeply Parkinsonian patients he later wrote about in Awakenings. In Musicophilia, he explores our peculiar susceptibility to music and its ability to make us "experience pain and grief more intensely" while bringing "solace and consolation at the same time". Starting with the tale of a surgeon who became obsessed with Chopin after being struck by lightning, he takes us through individual patient case studies as well as exploring the experiences of musicians and other "normal" people. Ultimately this book is a catalogue of oddities that sheds little scientific light on the exact workings of music on the mind, but its foray into "musical misalignments" is still fascinating.


Aimee Shalan

The GuardianTramp

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