The Music Goes ‘Round and Around (Reblog Review of Oliver Sacks’ “Musicophilia”)

A very nice review of Oliver Sack’s “Musicophilia,” in which I’m currently immersed. Take a swim through the ebb and flow of music playing in your mind.

This book has been sitting on my shelf for years and I finally picked it up after finishing Oliver Sack’s autobiography.

Why do we make music? Why do we listen to it? What goes on in the mind when we listen to it, or create it, or when our ability to make sense of it breaks down? Sacks explores these and many other questions in his never-boring typical fashion–by presenting the case study of one of his patients or correspondents who has a condition related to music. In the first, a doctor who was hit in the face by lightning, has a near death experience and awakes with a passion for classical piano music, which he begins hearing. He believes it’s a gift, so he learns to play piano and read music so he can perform the music he is channeling and write it down.

We proceed to learn that music sometimes is heard before the onset of a stroke, after an accident, on being exposed to certain persistent sounds, as one goes deaf, and even for no particular reason. We learn of people who hallucinate music either at will or uncontrollably, some of whom are nearly driven mad by it, or others who find solace in it as their years dwindle and they become more and more isolated from friends or family. He also discusses the what’s of “earworms” and why we can’t sticky melodies out of our head.

The book resonates with me, not because I am plagued like some of his poor, or lucky patients, but because the enjoyment of music has played such a large role in my life. For example, as I’ve written elsewhere, while swimming countless laps in practice on my high school team, I would listen to overtures to Rossini operas in their entirety or passages from Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto Number 1. Why even today, at the pool, I couldn’t get the song, “Stranger to Himself” by the 1970s group, Traffic, out of my head.

Another interesting fact Sacks explains is that music “is constructed” from its constituent parts–rhythm, tone, harmony, melody, etc.–in different parts of the brain. A stroke in one hemisphere of the brain might make one tone deaf, while a stroke in the other hemisphere might destroy our ability to perceive rhythm.

How about you? Do you hear music all the time? Do melodies or tunes you’ve never heard before pop into your head? Are you a musician or not musically trained at all? Do you suddenly remember musical songs from childhood, and does anything trigger it, like Proust’s “Remembrance of Things Past?” Please let me know in the comment section.

In the mean time, I hope you enjoy Tim’s review below and click on the link below to listen to a performance of the lightning-induced music of Dr. Tony Cicoria.

Tony Cicoria performs his “Lightning-Sonata” at Mozart House in Vienna

An Honest Con

MusicophiliaMusicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain
Oliver Sacks

Earlier this year, at the age of 82, Oliver Sacks passed away.  Along with Lewis Thomas (and, arguably, Benjamin Spock) he broke down the doors between the high priesthood of medicine and the poor supplicants who require medical help.

Sacks was a neurologist whose notoriety grew over the last 4 decades or so as he published case studies of his most interesting patients. If the old saw is that medicine is as much an art as a science, Sacks did his best to live up to that. His writing was never fussy and while he never

View original post 907 more words

%d bloggers like this: