Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Musicophilia - a tractate on musical brain

Olivier Sacks, professor of neurology and psychiatry, the author of famous book "The Man who mistook His Wife for a Hat" wrote another incredible tractate. Musicophilia is the book that should shake our views about musical perception and the role of music for the understanding of human mind.

The book is written in the form of reports and accounts and conclusions about cases of severe mental illnesses and their relation to music or musical perception.

He analyses many forms of strange mental behaviour, from certain types of seizures that can be called "musical seizures", musical hallucinations through haunting musical "brainworms" to deep analysis of relation between music and blindness, musical savantisms or Williams syndrome.

Olivier Sacks does not attempt to paint the big picture of relation between music and brain. He is modest and shows a lot of moderation and scientific discipline when it comes to interpretation of these facts. However, we, his readers could indulge in comments, conclusions and judgments. One conclusions is almost certain - the musicality - the perception of music can not be reduced to the quality of hearing or simple audition. There are indirect proofs that music is much more deeply rooted in our brains - in the biological and physical foundations of our minds. As he writes: "There are undoubtedly particular areas of the cortex subserving musical intelligence and sensibility (...) The emotional response to the music it would seem is widespread and probably not only cortical but subcortical..."

After reading this book there is no doubt the music is much more important and more fundamental to our life than we ever expected.

Some of us had already knew that, other had some vague gut feeling of this truth - but Sacks shows how deeply true are all these hunches...

This review has been written in Paris. I finished listening to the book in this city full of music at 6 AM in the morning of sleepless night. It is incredible, how listening to this book interwoven for me with reading of "The Soloist". Both say the same, but from different perspective...

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