Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Musicophilia – A Review

No one can say that Oliver Sacks doesn’t have an extensive collection of strange stories. As interesting as these stories can be though, I find his narrative to be redundant. While the anecdotes may drone on, there is interesting information in his tangents and footnotes.

The book discusses the effects and involvement of music in many psychiatric and neurological cases. A chapter is devoted to music therapy for speech and movement, especially with autism, and the importance of a connection between the musical therapist and the patient.

Sacks at one point cites Nietzsche and his philosophy on physiological and psychological effects of music (other notable people discussed include Darwin and Freud).

There is mention of an interesting use of botulinum toxin in the treatment of musical dystonia, a condition which appears to affect a particular body part, most often the fingers, only when an instrument is being played. The effects of the treatment are limited though:

“Such injections-though not always effective-have enabled some musicians to resume playing their instruments, [but] it may be unwise…to attempt a return to performance.”

The book discusses both the loss of music, in either functionality or appreciation, and the gain of music, as in the composition of large works while dreaming.

Final Rating: A good afternoon book of which you don’t necessarily have to read every page and which is a good source for further research into the areas of music and neurology.

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