Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, Revised and Expanded Edition

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, Revised and Expanded Edition

Oliver Sacks

Language: English

Pages: 425

ISBN: 1400033535

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Revised and Expanded

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 are hypermusical from birth; people with “amusia,” to whom a symphony sounds like the clattering of pots and pans; and a man whose memory spans only seven seconds-for everything but music. Illuminating, inspiring, and utterly unforgettable, Musicophilia is Oliver Sacks' latest masterpiece.

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seventy tunes on it that were constantly recycled—these were all familiar tunes which she recognized from her youth. Now, he wrote, “She listens on headphones so no one else is disturbed. The stories just stop, and every time a new tune comes on, she will say something like, ‘Isn’t that marvelous?,’ gets animated and sometimes sings along.” Music can also evoke worlds very different from the personal, remembered worlds of events, people, places we have known. This was brought out in a letter

from a heart attack, kept hearing a dreadful transformation of the words (but not the music) of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”—she called this “The Heart Attack Song.” Return to text. 24.Tinnitus sometimes precedes or accompanies musical hallucinations but often occurs on its own. Sometimes it has a tonal quality, as with Gordon B.’s high F-natural; often it resembles a hissing or ringing sound. The ringing or whistling or hissing of tinnitus, like musical hallucinations, seems to come from

that saying this was in any way unusual; but of the millions of people with tinnitus, probably not one in ten thousand could say what pitch their tinnitus has. The precision of absolute pitch varies, but it is estimated that most people with it can identify upwards of seventy tones in the middle region of the auditory range, and each of these seventy tones has, for them, a unique and characteristic quality that distinguishes it absolutely from any other note. The Oxford Companion to Music was a

stopped, vanished like the bursting of a bubble.142 During the same period, I had another musical dream, and this too continued into the waking state. Here, in contrast to the Mozart, I found something deeply disturbing and unpleasant about the music, and longed for it to stop. I had a shower, a cup of coffee, went for a walk, shook my head, played a mazurka on the piano—to no avail. The hateful hallucinatory music continued unabated. Finally I phoned a friend, Orlan Fox, and said that I was

a strong taste for music, and used very often to time my walks so as to hear on week days the anthem in King’s College Chapel. This gave me intense pleasure, so that my backbone would sometimes shiver…. Nevertheless I am so utterly destitute of an ear, that I cannot perceive a discord, or keep time and hum a tune correctly; and it is a mystery how I could possibly have derived pleasure from music. My musical friends soon perceived my state, and sometimes amused themselves by making me pass an

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