Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks

Title: Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain
Author: Oliver Sacks
Narrator: Simon Prebble
Series: N/A
Publisher: Random House Audio
Release Date: 10/17/2007
Length: 6 hours
Format: Abridged Audio CDs
Genres: Nonfiction, Music, Science
Challenges: 2011 Audiobook Challenge
Source: Library
Purchase: Audio CD
Rating: ★★★★★

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’s 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—from a man who is struck by lightning and suddenly inspired to become a pianist at the age of forty-two, to an entire group of children with Williams syndrome, who are hypermusical from birth; from people with “amusia,” to whom a symphony sounds like the clattering of pots and pans, to a man whose memory spans only seven seconds—for everything but music.

Our exquisite sensitivity to music can sometimes go wrong: Sacks 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.

This book was brilliant! I adored every second of it. Sometimes I forget how much I love to learn new things until I read or listen to educational nonfiction. The way in which Dr. Sacks explores music and its effects on the brain is extremely engaging. I was never bored, as I sometimes get when listening to nonfiction. Most of the time, I sat with my mouth hanging open at some of the incredible stories.

From someone who has always had a place in my heart for music, this book opened my eyes to some possibilities I had never considered. I never realized how therapeutic listening to and playing music really can be. It’s not just about therapy though. Dr. Sacks also explores the subject musical savants and people who suffer from musical hallucinations. Music truly is an amazing thing! This book really

The book is structured to entertain, explain, and educate. Dr. Sacks starts out with the most entertaining and amazing stories. It did its job. It got my attention. I was glued to this audiobook every time I got in my car, much to my mother’s dismay. She wasn’t very partial to Simon Prebble’s narration. But, she’s not much for audiobooks in general. As the book went on, Dr Sacks explained some of what goes on in the brain when we listen to music, and told some stories about people with disorders that impair their listening. I was horrified by the woman who heard all music as noise. I couldn’t imagine a life with no music! How sad! The last portion of the book focuses on music as a sort of therapy for various conditions. It was all very fascinating.

Simon Prebble, according to the back cover of this audiobook, has won many awards for his narrations. I thought he did a perfectly good job. He was perfectly fluent and engaging. His voice is really suited to this kind of material.

I highly recommend this for big music fans/nerds. It’s awesome. I did notice right before I returned this copy to my library that it was abridged. I think I’ll have to buy a print copy and read it to make sure I didn’t miss anything good.

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1 Comment

  1. I've seen this book floating around my mother's house for a while… might have to borrow it next time I do!


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