Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks


With the same trademark compassion and erudition he brought to The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Oliver Sacks explores the place music occupies in the brain and how it affects the human condition. In Musicophilia, he shows us a variety of what he calls “musical misalignments.” Among them: a man struck by lightning who suddenly desires to become a pianist at the age of forty-two; an entire group of children with Williams syndrome, who ar...

Details Musicophilia

Release DateOct 16th, 2007
PublisherKnopf Canada
GenreNonfiction, Music, Science, Psychology, Biology, Neuroscience

Reviews Musicophilia

  • Glenn Sumi
    Have you ever experienced an “ear worm” – i.e., a melody “stuck” in your head? Have you ever found yourself humming or whistling a tune for no reason, then thought back to the lyrics or theme of that song and realized it had something to do with what’s on your mind? Have you ever tried to remember what letter comes after another in the alphabet and found yourself singing that “ABC” song from childhood?Check, check and check.All of...
  • Sarah
    Sacks is, for me, a perfect meeting of a science writer and a writer of creative non-fiction. He has an equal interest in telling an affecting, human story and with exploring how (and why) the brain works. While lots of science writing is dry and objective (as it should be) and while mainstream feature writing often ignores the more complicated science stuff, Sacks is a rare talent who has a penchant for story telling and for explaining the newes...
  • India Clamp
    Sacks relives the pathologies of musical response in his patients while working at Beth Abraham Hospital. He describes music as a panacea and says, “they were liberated by music.” This applies to patients with dementia and those suffering from Williams Syndrome. Despite low IQ, he honors them in kind descriptive terms: having wide mouths, upturned noses and a true adoration of music. “We humans are a musical species no less than a linguisti...
  • Jafar
    This book was interesting, I guess. Lots of anecdotes about the effect of music on behavior and personality, but not enough analysis. Sacks usually is more of a story teller than a hardcore neuroscientist in his popular book – at least in the other two that I’ve read by him – but in this book he fails to be a good story teller too. Too many tidbits and little stories. I definitely recommend This Is Your Brain on Music over this book if you...
  • Jason
    It’s not a common characteristic, but I recommend this book for all environments where you read. Coffee shop, living room, park bench, subway, or to ignore your spouse--it receives my seal of 4+ stars. Musicophilia is a lurid, but respectable, look into the brains and lives of people that appear normal on the outside, but have strong, strange and intractable relationships to music. The relationship is sometimes harmful, often incomprehensible, ...
  • Kelly
    This was unexpectedly touching. I'm glad I finally read it. Review to come.
  • Lynne King
    I was flying forwards. Bewildered. I looked around. I saw my own body on the ground. I said to myself, ‘Oh shit, I’m dead.’ I saw people converging on the body. I saw a woman – she had been standing waiting to use the phone right behind me - position herself over my body, give it CPR … I floated up the stairs – my consciousness came with me. I saw my kids, had the realization that they would be okay. Then I was surrounded by a bluish-...
  • Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
    The neurologist Oliver Sacks has a great book called Musicophilia (and a series of talks available on YouTube) which goes into some really interesting descriptions of the brain's relationship to music. One story involves a man getting hit by lightning and afterward having a newly acquired and deeply profound love of music (almost any music, too), profound to the point that he would feel a euphoria akin to religio-mystical rapture or an extremely ...
  • Keith Putnam
    I am a huge sucker for pop science about human consciousness. Sacks, unfortunately, has the habit of boring me with far too many anecdotes which he fails to link in any progression of Greater Understanding.
  • Matt
    Oliver Sacks has been one of my favorite authors ever since I first read The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat. I still completely amazed, and a little bit disturbed, when I think back to his account of the woman who lost her sense of proprioception - the internal body sense that lets you know your body is there, even when you have your eyes closed. No other author (since Proust) has explored the nuances of consciousness so carefully, nor pointe...
  • A.G. Stranger
    " All arts aspire to the condition of Music". Now, it's scientifically proven.( Not that it needed to.)
  • Bobby
    I really tried to perservere with this book, but after 100 pages I had to put it down. First, although marketed to a popular audience (even making it to the best sellers list), there are massive amounts of musical jargon and a background of musical knowledge would be extrememly helpful. Second, the books seemed to lack cohesive threads or narritive. I found it extremely disjointed with every few paragraphs changing to a different patient with ver...
  • brian tanabe
    This is my first oliver sacks -- I always meant to read the Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat but alas never got around to it.I love mr. sacks' delightful anecdotal storytelling and his intellect that makes fresh and accessible the study of the brain. It *almost* makes the issues dealt with in the book pleasant.In a nutshell, this book is about the power of music, backed by many accounts from the medical perspective of the interaction between mu...
  • liz
    I wasn't hugely impressed with this. Sacks's writing sometimes gets extremely dry as he goes into the technicalities of how the brain functions. I found his other books, with chapters each covering a variety of conditions ("Anthropologist on Mars," "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat"), to be much stronger, even though they were less consistent thematically. It seemed that at times Sacks had to stretch to find patients with some of the musica...
  • Alex
    Musicophelia is an enchanting read, though one is struck more by the phenomena depicted—amusias, musical hallucinations, comatose patients suddenly "awakened" by nothing more than a familiar melody—than the manner of their depiction. Sacks has always been lauded for his fluid, personable style, and for good reason, but in the wake of classics such as The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Uncle Tungsten, his writing seems excessively flor...
  • Faye
    2.5 starsI am a music geek. I play piano and I'm also taking a Music Theory Class right now. So I was really pumped to read a book about how music affects you.But the thing is, all these concept aren't explored. I feel like too many topics were squeezed into one book. Even more, some of them are very repetitive. In this book, I've read in so many chapters about how people with certain disorders and illnesses have a special reaction to music. Yes,...
  • Benjamin
    I get the feeling Oliver Sacks likes to reuse material. He retells the stories of his clients throughout his books, always with references to his other work. This isn't entirely bad, but I had to speed through some parts that were a tad bit repetitive. The subject matter is fascinating, and perfectly delivered for the layman(Which I happen to be). I have a newfound respect for the power of music therapy and music itself.
  • Malbadeen
    Woooooooa!!! Heeeeeeey!!!! Look at me I'm Oliver Sacks and I'm tellin you some more wacky stuff about brains.oh-la-la. I'm so fancy.(interesting topic but I prefer the podcast interview to the book - which I was able to stick with through apx. chapter 6 before throwing in the towell.
  • Aaron
    Starts off with a fairly unsatisfying collection of anecdotes around loss or gain of musical ability. The real heft arrives halfway as Sacks starts pulling together the real research and making implications.The message here is that music is not some frivolous side effect of our neurology. Rather, music is processed by dedicated machinery in our brains and can affect us in profound and surprising ways.There are tantalising implications that humans...
  • Syed Ashrafulla
    I know this book is cute to its readers because it makes them feel intelligent. "Hey look at me now I understand music from a brain perspective." This book is far far too narrow to pull that off. It's actually a terrible message to send to readers that music is inherently related to brain damage. The obvious question to ask is whether every good musician is mentally damaged, a question to which Sacks would answer yes apparently. He continually in...
  • mai
    part i: holy crap, this book so far is so fucking boring. let's give 500 examples that describe the exact same thing. zzzzZZZzzzZzZzZZ...i really hope it gets better. so far, the author is just introducing us to several different patients who exhibit the same or similar symptoms, doesn't discuss further and then just leaves us hanging. there's no in-depth explanation as to why these things are happening, we don't get to know the patients. it's in...
  • Donna
    This is nonfiction neuroscience.....about the brain and music and how each of them can effect the other. Some of the science was fascinating. I also enjoyed the plethora of (case studies) stories the author cited. All the examples were different. I really felt for some of these patients because some of this sounded like awful afflictions, not a gift.
  • Bob
    Summary: Renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks chronicles the neuroscience of music–the various ways music affects the brain, and the unusual effects of various neurological conditions on our perception, performance, and experience of music.Oliver Sacks died on August 30 of this year. A few months earlier, my son gave me this book, and it seemed especially appropriate to pull it off the “to be read” pile and acquaint myself with the work of thi...
  • rachel
    In his characteristic compassion and curiosity Oliver Sacks looks at what seems to be the infinite ways that music interacts with our brains- from the worms that play maddeningly in our heads to the power of music as an aid in communication with people who either from birth or from stroke or other life altering situation have lost the ability to vocalize. And okay, this blows my mind, that people who otherwise cannot remember the sequence of basi...
  • Cathy
    This book caught my attention mostly because it explores the relation between music and neurological disorders. The premise seemed interesting and I’ve never read anything by this author, so I thought it would be an excellent opportunity. This is essentially a compilation of stories that Sacks explains with very little scientific basis. The author reports several cases that he had observed or read in articles. It becomes quite repetitive and bo...
  • Brandon
    Books by Oliver Sacks usually contain gems of insight drawn from his encyclopedic knowledge and keen powers of synthesis, but this volume is a just a collection of anecdotes of neurological and neuro-biological conditions in relation to music and the mind.Not much to learn here -just another book contract fulfilled for the publishing gristmill.Disappointment, in b-flat minor.
  • Amirography
    It was a great book. Though it does not seem to follow a very hierarchical structure which I like, it is a great read. I loved how Dr. Sacks covered many different items relating to clinical aspects of music on different kinds of people. Indeed this book is for those who love brains and neuroscience, yet I think it stresses on the importance of music for everybody.
  • Sandi Biltoo
    This book was not the lightest of reading material; There is a lot of technical jargon and medical terminologies that will go completely over the head of the layman reader, but as an avid lover of music, I consumed this book with a deep desire to have a better technical understanding of how music affects me, other than just how it makes me feel.As a neurologist and naturalist, Dr. Sacks writes first and foremost as doctor and a scientist, but wit...
  • Richard
    I'm reading this slowly and between other books. I have it on my electronic reader and so usually focus on it when I'm traveling. I always feel I learn something from Sacks, and this book is no different in that respect. Now finished. I love Sacks. I always learn something. His 'stories' or examples are terrific. And there is an underlying humanity to him that always seems to understand what is good about someone, no matter how serious the neurol...